The story of Louise Jennings, a 99-year-old transgender World War 2 veteran

Louise Jennings passed away in December, 2018. Her incredible story of fighting in the war and transitioning later on in life still resonates to this day.

Louise Jennings holding a photo of her time during World War 2 with other soldiers.

Louise Jennings fought in the Battle of Dunkirk during World War Two and created phenomenal pieces of art during her lifetime. At 99 years of age, she was one of Britain’s oldest transgender women. 

Speaking to BBC News, Jennings looked back on fighting during the battle as a man and transitioning after the passing of her wife. She said, “Turns out, in the long run, that I was right, I did want to be a woman but I didn’t know it.”

Jennings described the reality many faced during the second War, “I knew that at any time I could be involved in fighting or shooting and all that sort of caper. But somehow I survived.”

The veteran further stated, “Everybody’s a hero at some time or other. I’m just number 4458062.”

For more than 40 years, Jennings was married to her wife, Edith. Jennings said, “I was very fortunate to have her as my wife.”

The couple met after Jennings was drafted to County Durham, where she stopped in front of a house for a rest along with six other soldiers. She recalls, “A lady came out and invited us all in and gave us a good meal. Eventually, I married her daughter, Edith, who proved to be a good, nice wife.”

After the death of her partner, Jennings underwent gender reassignment surgery in her early 70’s. Sadly, she never got the chance to tell Edith about her transition. In response to whether she knew she wanted to be a woman, she said, “I think the answer to that is probably yes, I felt like the women were superior to the men. I didn’t live a life of wanting to be a woman. Yet it eventually came out that perhaps I did want to be a woman.”

Throughout her life, Jennings has painted exceptional pieces, including a painting of the Battle of Dunkirk. Her work has been displayed in numerous places, such as the Graves Gallery in her home city.

In December 2018, Jennings passed away at a Sheffield nursing home and a service was held at Beauchief Abbey. The Sheffield Star newspaper published a funeral notice calling her an “incredible, creative person, who has painted a picture in everyone’s lives.”

On the order of service, Louise Jennings’ photo was captioned with, “What an incredible life!”

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