Louise Jennings: Funeral for 'incredible life' of transgender veteran

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Media caption,

The BBC interviewed Louise Jennings at her nursing home in October

Mourners have attended a funeral marking the "incredible life" of a 99-year-old transgender painter who fought in Dunkirk during World War Two.

Louise Jennings was 26 when she served in the battle and was evacuated from France in 1940.

The veteran underwent gender reassignment surgery in her early 70s, following the death of her wife.

Ms Jennings died at a Sheffield nursing home in December, with a service held on Friday morning at Beauchief Abbey.

Speaking in 2017, Ms Jennings told BBC Radio Sheffield about her experiences at the Battle of Dunkirk.

"They said we had to march to the coast, it took something like a week and we slept in the fields at night on the grass," she said.

"They sent over some destroyer ships to take us back to England and onboard they very hospitably gave us cups of English tea, very nice it was too."

After returning from France, she was drafted to County Durham and once stopped in front of a house for a rest along with six other soldiers.

"A lady came out and invited us all in and gave us a good meal," she said.

"Eventually, I married her daughter, Edith, who proved to be a good, nice wife."

Image source, Louise Jennings/Museums Sheffield
Image caption,
One of her paintings, belonging to Museums Sheffield, depicts the Lyceum Theatre in the city on Christmas Eve 1932

She was married to Edith, who died in 1989, for more than four decades, and decided to have gender reassignment surgery not long after she passed away.

When asked if she knew she wished to be a woman earlier in her life, she answered: "I think the answer to that is probably yes, I felt like the women were superior to the men."

Ms Jennings added: "I didn't live a life of wanting to be a woman, yet it came out that perhaps I did want to be a woman."

Her paintings have been exhibited in multiple places including the Graves Gallery in her home city.

She died on 7 December at the Glenn Nursing Home, with a funeral notice published in the Sheffield Star newspaper calling her an "incredible, creative person, who has painted a picture in everyone's lives".

An image of Ms Jennings on the front of the funeral order of service was captioned, "what an incredible life!"

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