Two nurses will be the only women listed on a new memorial to people who lost their lives while under British command during the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy.
The names of Mollie Evershed and Dorothy Field will sit alongside those of over 20,000 men who were killed during the battle on the new British Normandy Memorial.
Prime minister Theresa May and French president Emmanuel Macron were in Ver-sur-Mer today to see the laying of the first stone of the memorial to those who died during the summer of 1944.
It formed part of the wider events to mark the 75th anniversary of the start of Operation Overlord, the codename for the invasion of Normandy – also known as D-Day – on 6 June 1944.
The memorial will overlook Arromanches – known as Gold Beach during the invasion – and is the result of fundraising by the Normandy Memorial Trust. It depicts three soldiers advancing across the sand and will eventually list 22,442 names.
Mollie Evershed trained in Norwich and lived in Soham, in Cambridgeshire, while Dorothy Field grew up in Lower Kingswood, Surrey, and qualified at King’s College Hospital in London.
In August 1944, the pair were serving on the hospital carrier ship Amsterdam, which was ferrying injured troops back to England from the ongoing fighting in Northern France.
But, as it was preparing to make its third journey home on 7 August, the ship struck a mine off Gold Beach in fog at around 7am.
It is understood that the two women made it into a lifeboat but then kept returning to the stricken vessel and going below to help the stretcher-bound wounded up to the waiting lifeboat.
It took just eight minutes for the Amsterdam to sink, but in that time the nurses helped to save 75 lives before losing their own along with 104 others, having left it too late to escape.
According to reports, their parents subsequently received letters of gratitude from some of the wounded servicemen who they had helped save.
At the time of their deaths, Ms Evershed was aged 27 and Ms Field was 32. Both were sisters serving with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service.
Their actions won them the King’s Commendation for Bravery and they are commemorated on the Bayeux Memorial to the Missing, as their bodies were never recovered.
Another nurse, Lily McNicholas, from Ireland, survived the sinking and was awarded an MBE for her heroism.
This time last year, a new memorial was unveiled to commemorate the service of all nurses during the First and Second World Wars.
- New memorial dedicated to nurses of First and Second World Wars
- New memorial to commemorate nurses from two world wars
The memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire carries the names of the nearly 1,300 nurses identified as having died during or as a direct result of their war service.
In November, a nurse who lost her life while caring for casualties of the First World War was among those commemorated in a series of sand portraits to mark 100 years since the end of the conflict.
Rachel Ferguson, of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, was one of 28 people to be honoured on Armistice Day as part of Pages of the Sea, curated by filmmaker Danny Boyle.