In June 1994 veterans of the British 11th Armoured Division went to Normandy to mark the 50th Anniversary of the 1944 landings, and to be presented with the French Goverment Battle for Normandy Medals, and following that, Lisette Mahy also received the same decoration, the only woman to be so recognised!
The following article appeared in the Welwyn Garden City local newspaper – the “Herald” on
Friday, September 6th, 1996
OLD soldier Iolo Lewis has told the touching story of how he was inspired by
a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust and his sadness at not being able to find her.
Mr Lewis, 73, who is president of the Welwyn Garden City branch of the Royal British Legion,
has written several poems over the years to commemorate his dead colleagues and exorcise his
experiences of the horrors of war.
Those horrors included the sights that greeted him when his World War Two
tank division liberated the Nazi concentration camp Belsen. In June 1994 he
travelled to France with other veterans to visit the war cemeteries there
Near the town of Flers in Normandy, the veterans were filing into a small
village hall for refreshments after a morning service when something
remarkable happened. Mr Lewis said: "As we all gently jostled in the foyer,
lined with many local folk, a little frail lady pushed a note <click here> into my hand
and because I was moving with the crowd tide, I folded the piece of paper
and stuck it into my pocket.
"It was not until late that night that I found the note. In the note she
explained how she had been liberated from Belsen in April 1945, and stated
simply that she wanted to thank the men of the 11th Armoured Division who had
"I must admit I was quite moved by this simple gesture and angry with myself
for folding this precious little piece of paper so abruptly without even
reading it first."
He was inspired to write his poem, Lisette Mahy - Ex Resistance Fighter -.
The name Lisette Mahy was that which was on the little piece of paper.
"I tried to find out who this lady was and failed," said Mr. Lewis. "Because
she had given her concentration camp number I sent this poem to Yad Vashem
(the Holocaust Museum) in Jerusalem and they now have it in their archives.
So I did the best I could for Lisette Mahy - a very gallant survivor of the Holocaust."
Lisette Mahy - Ex Resistance Fighter
Silent and dignified she stood.
Face framed in home-made Norman lace
Watching the ex-old soldiers shuffle past
In the shadow of the Gallic Wood.
Then a tear trickled unashamedly
Down the noble age-lined face.
Nigh 50 years she'd waited
To see again these men of old.
When they were young and here before
She was exiled, a prisoner hated.
Far from home and doomed,
Lying in filth, no hope, and cold.
Now as the tears welled, to flow,
She pondered again the hell that was.
Brutalised for resisting
Invaders these men were soon to know
As they battled from the beaches,
In a crucial, special cause.
That April day in Belsen,
These men then broke the chains,
Brought freedom for the wretched,
Broken children, women, men,
And now stands to thank
These frail old men, who too knew pains.
Her grandson gently whispers, sighs,
As they stand beside the door,
And gazes up with puzzled pride
Into the sad and tear stained eyes;
Whilst tattooed along the arm that holds him,
A number three-eight-eight-six-four.