A 98-year-old hero of Dunkirk has revealed how he later became a WOMAN – one of Britain’s oldest transgenders.
Brave Louise Jennings was a 26-year-old when she fought in the Second World War as Robert Jennings.
The then- male soldier collapsed in exhaustion against a massive boulder before having to row out to a British destroyer warship waiting to pick up the troops.
Years later in her 70s she underwent gender transformation surgery to become a woman.
The Christopher Nolan film Dunkirk has brought back memories for the veteran who can still remember the chaos of the beach evacuation in France.
Louise said: “When we got to France we were lined up and started to walk inland.
“But when we got a few miles from the sea, it was ‘halt-turn about and march back’.
“We had to get back to Dunkirk. I was extremely tired and extremely hungry.”
“There was no use being scared. I was very lucky – I could have been involved in all sorts of things, but I wasn’t.”
Louise lived as a man for 70 years of her life and was happily married to wartime sweetheart Edith for more than four decades.
But Robert knew something wasn’t quite right and after Edith sadly died of cancer in 1989, he decided to act on feelings he had kept secret for years.
Louise said: “I have always regarded women as superior.As a man I considered myself inferior to women.
“I took the decision not long after Edith died – I don’t think I spent a long time thinking about it. I rather felt that I was wrong anyway.”
Robert underwent full gender reassignment surgery and adapted his middle name, Louis, to become Louise.
Louise’s personality has been influenced and encouraged by her talent as an artist, working with paint and sculpture in a range of styles.
Her home is full of sketches and models for bigger pieces, and many of the originals are on display around her home city of Sheffield, South Yorks.
Among that number is a painting of Dunkirk, which hangs in the Graves Gallery in the city.
The piece captures the sheer mass of people on the French coast, with the boats in the water lit up by gunfire in the sky.
Despite being called up to the Army in 1939 aged 20, Louise was part of the intelligence team in the Durham Light Infantry 10th Battalion.
She spent the bulk of the war up to that point helping frontline troops from a base at Walworth Castle near Darlington.
Louise has fond memories of her marriage, describing Edith as ‘a very sweet person indeed’.
Although it was after Edith’s death that she took the decision to become a woman, Louise is hopeful her late wife would have some understanding.
“Edith knew that whatever I did, it would be honest,” she said.