The men who volunteered their services and their boats to evacuate Dunkirk were rightly hailed as heroes. However, they were not the only heroes of Operation Dynamo. Though the evacuation was a huge success and dubbed a miracle, it was not without cost. Over 200 ships were sunk during the operation and 126 merchant seamen were killed. Many others were wounded or had been wounded during the fighting that led up to the evacuation. These men were tended by the nurses who stayed with them throughout the treacherous journey across the English Channel - through the mine-filled waters and under constant bombardment.
What does this have to do with Rochester? In a quiet corner of Mount Avon Cemetery lies a hero of the Dunkirk evacuation. Her name is Blodwen Morris Falconer, and she was a Canadian citizen and registered nurse who served with the English Civil Defense Corps during the war. She was present at the Dunkirk evacuation to tend to the wounded and was decorated for her service. After the war, she and her husband came to Michigan, and eventually to Rochester, where she died in 1953. Her obituary in the Rochester Clarion said in part:
This Memorial Day, when I visit Mount Avon Cemetery, I think I'll leave some flowers at the grave of Blodwen Morris Falconer, to remember her service. I invite you to do the same.World War II Dunkirk Heroine is Dead; Received Bronze MedalOne of the highly honored veterans of World War II passed away last Wednesday afternoon when Blodwen Faulconer [sic], 3380 John R., died at Pontiac General Hospital shortly after admittance.
Mrs. Faulconer, born at Edmonton, Ontario [sic], was a member of the first contingent of nurses on hand to give aid to the wounded survivors of the Dunkirk evacuation in World War II. She was a graduate of Grey's Hospital, the oldest and largest hospital of its kind in the world.
Wearing the cap of a registered nurse, and as a member of the English Civil Defense during the Dunkirk evacuation, she was awarded a Bronze Medal for her heroic and outstanding services at that time.
Born on April 1, 1915, Mrs. Faulconer moved to Detroit from Toronto in June 1949. She came to Rochester in 1950.
In the meantime, if you'd like to know more about the evacuation of Dunkirk, watch this British Pathé newsreel footage: