Before we could set off from Bayeux to meet Bill & Elizabeth Sullivan, we’d arranged to meet up with Stéphane Jacquet who is the curator of the museum at Tilly sur Seulles, just South of Bayeux. Stéphane and I had made contact through a Facebook group interested in the 6th Guards Tank Brigade – a unit of Churchill tanks that were heavily involved in Operation BLUECOAT.
Stéphane is interested in both this operation and the Guards & as I’d pulled together a booklet covering their part in BLUECOAT (or at rather specifically 3rd Battalion Scots Guards part in it & their taking of Hill 226), I’d agreed to share this information with him.
Unfortunately, as we were both then heading up into the “American Sector”, we only had time for a relatively brief chat before both heading off on our journeys.
With Bill Sullivan at Éroudeville
Taking full advantage of the slightly more relaxed speed limits in France than the UK, we arrived at Eroudeville just as the ceremony to name the road after Bill and to also present him with a local award was about to happen & we managed to take a few photos before the rain (which had been threatening) began to fall; as it soon became obvious that this was going to be more than a brief shower, it was decided to move it inside into the Village Hall.
We were able to have a great chat with both Bill and his wife, Elizabeth & I explained to her how I knew Bill (via the link through Jim Sheppard). She was unaware of this, or the other places that we were able to talk to her about that Bill had visited on past trips to Normandy. We did plan for a possible visit to one of these on the following day, unfortunately, Bill wasn’t up to it, so this is something that we’re planning for in 2013.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay until the end of the meal that was held in Bill’s honour as we had to return to St Charles de Percy for the Remembrance ceremony there. So, passing on our thanks to Bill & Elizabeth for the invitation & to M. Le Maire, we left to head through torrential rain to our next event.
St Charles de Percy
St Charles de Percy is a Commonwealth Wargraves Cemetery containing 809 2nd World War Burials, of which 703 have been identified. It is the southernmost of the Normandy cemeteries. The majority of those buried here died in late July and early August 1944 in the major thrust made from Caumont l’Evente towards Vire, to drive a wedge between the German 7th Army and Panzer Group West.
Each year on 6th June, there is a ceremony, led by the local Mairie, which is attended by veterans, locals & their friends and families to commemorate those that lost their lives & are buried in the cemetery; this is the second year that we have attended.
Unfortunately, this year, the weather decided not to play ball & rained almost continually through the service with some exceptionally heavy bursts; in fact it delayed the start of the service for a while. Glyn & I took cover behind the thick hedges that surround the cemetery whilst waiting for the service to start & it was amazing how much of the rain that they cut out!
Before the start of the ceremony, we once again said “hi” to Eain Findlay & his father, Peter who is a Veteran of 3rd Battalion Scots Guards who we met for the first time, last year & who we would be meeting up with, again, later at the evening meal following the ceremonies.
The Vin d’Honneur
This is held at the Guards Memorial in the village of St Charles de Percy & follows the short ceremony of remembrance at the memorial; needless to say, with free wine available, it is well attended!
Following this, we paid a very brief visit to my friend, Barrie for a quick chat before going on to our final event of the day…
For the past several years (‘though we’ve only attended two) there has been a celebratory meal at the village hall in nearby Montchamp. This is well attended & a great time had by all!
For me, this year was slightly special… in addition to the research that I’ve been doing on “The Men in the Shed”, I’ve also been looking into the activities of 3rd Battalion Scots Guards who were part of 6th Guards Tank Brigade and fought alongside 11th Armoured Division in Operation BLUECOAT. This culminated in my delivering a talk on the subject to our local Military History Group: The South Manchester Tactical Society.
As part of this, I had produced a booklet which covered the actions of 3rd Bn SG in BLUECOAT and I was enormously proud to be able to present a copy to Peter Findlay, a former Colour Sergeant and Tank Gunner (SKYE tank) in that unit. What was even better was the reaction that Peter gave to it… having skimmed through it himself and approved what was there, he then passed it out to others to read
After a long and tiring day (with much wine!), we headed off to stay at Tony & Jill Stansfield’s wonderful B&B. We had planned a chat with Tony & Jill (together with a sharing of some locally made Calvados), unfortunately, by the time that we’d arrived, we thought they’d gone to bed! Hey, ho, something to savour for next year!