Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

She Was So Brave and Her Medal Is One of Our Family's Treasured Possessions

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

She Was So Brave and Her Medal Is One of Our Family's Treasured Possessions

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Morgan

Tributes were paid today following the death of a fearless resistance heroine who helped save hundreds of lives with her wartime bravery.

Belgian-born Irene Ward, 85, of St Leonard's Road, Guisborough, died just after midnight on Tuesday after a long illness.

Today her husband Barny praised her courage saying: "She was an incredibly brave woman and her Resistance Medal is one of our family's treasured possessions.

"But she was always so modest about her own role."

Irene has lived on Teesside for almost 60 years, but before coming to England, during World War Two, she operated as a courier for a Resistance group in a town near Brussels.

She was a fearless real life heroine, who put her own life on the line to save others, as similarly portrayed by Hollywood actress Cate Blanchett in the film Charlotte Gray.

Working under the Gestapo's nose, using the codename Suzanne Louise, she was involved in plots including one which saw a German ammunition train destroyed.

In 1995, Irene returned to her native Belgium to be presented with a coveted Resistance Medal awarded to her by a grateful Government in 1948 for her courage fighting the Nazis.

Her worst memory involved the death of 40 fellow Belgians, but her actions saved countless more lives as a German ammo train was blown up.

She said: "The Resistance group asked me to hide a bundle in my money bag. I had no idea it was a bomb.

"Josef Lobb, our group leader, and I moved around on missions pretending to be lovers and that night, we hid in a newly-dug grave until the time was right.

"He took the bomb and went off telling me to stay still. Then I saw the train blow up.

"In retaliation, the Gestapo rounded up 40 local men and boys to be killed."

Irene was horrified and tried to give herself up to save them, but her Resistance comrades forbade her, to protect the group. …

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