Wartime nurse awarded France's highest honour

Norfolk nurse receives Légion d’honneur for saving hundreds of soldiers in second world war

A 95-year-old former nurse has received France’s highest honour for her bravery and dedication caring for hundreds of seriously injured soldiers during the second world war. 

Yvonne Lees

Yvonne Lees has been awarded the Légion d’honneur 71 years after the end of the conflict for her role running a field hospital supporting British forces.

Ms Lees, from Norfolk, said it was ‘absolutely amazing after all these years’ to be decorated by the French government, but she didn’t feel she deserved ‘all the fuss’.

The hospital followed advancing Allied soldiers east across France and the Low Countries between 1944 and 1945.

It was the first medical unit to cross the border into Germany. 

The majority of injured servicemen were cared for and then sent home for treatment but the worst casualties were operated on behind the front line. 

Ms Lees said: ‘I can remember hearing gunfire and getting under a hedge to hide but you do forget those times and remember the more rewarding ones.’

She grew up in Yorkshire, trained as a nurse in Manchester and went off to war aged 23 in 1944.  

After the war, she went to work as a nurse in India and Egypt before returning to live in England with her husband Roy, who died nine years ago.  

On average, just ten British nationals receive the Légion d’honneur each year.