Presentations and P47s in Normandy
With Peter Findlay
So, as is usual on these trips, we got up in the morning & immediately amended the plans that we had for the day! The reason for this was that Peter Findlay, one of our hosts, was being honoured with the presentation of a medal from the French Senate in recognition of the work that he has done in Anglo-French relationships during his many returns to Normandy.
rival, we were met by Tansy and Mike who are the owners of the property where we were staying with Peter and Eain; following a quick chat in the warm, we headed off to the village square where we were met by the local mayor and the rest of the villagers.
Just as we were getting ready for the presentation, lots of bicycle riders arrived – many dressed as Resistance fighters as they were on a local tour & had agreed to join in the celebration.
In spite of the cold and biting wind, when the time came for the ceremony to begin, Peter insisted on being “on Parade” in just his suit… I had shirt, two fleeces and a windproof coat & I still felt cold!! They obviously built them differently back then!
On completion of the ceremony, warm coats were re-donned, hand were shaken, wine was drunk and the cyclists waved off on to their next stage.
We then returned to Tansy and Mike’s for a warming cuppa… at which point, Peter pulled rank & ensured that he had an extra-large “tot” in his drink… but deservedly so.
So, now back to the initial plan… and off to where, a couple of years ago, we discovered what we believe to be Major Ray Elledge’s crash site. We had decided to revisit the site to have a more detailed look around to see if we could discover any further evidence that would support the 90% certainty that we were in the right place… a piece of wreckage with a serial number would have been brilliant…
Unfortunately, when we arrived, in the place of the small pond that we’d found on our first visit, was a completely overgrown jungle! In fact, having struggled through to where we thought the edge of the pond was, I was so disappointed with how overgrown it had become that I threw a sulk & didn’t even take a photograph…
On a slightly more positive note, as we were walking back towards the car, we met a group of woodcutters (yes, I know that sounds like a scene from a fairy story, but we really did!) & I started to explain (with bad French & lots of arm-waving) what we were doing & why we were there… they seemed to understand! But, the big positive that came from this encounter was the fact that they
were able to explain who actually owned the land – they just worked it, so another contact to follow up!
More P47 Hunting
By now, the weather had really improved and we set off towards the hamlet of “Le Bocage” which had been identified in the MACR report of Francis Gillespie as being the place where his P47 had crashed, with him parachuting nearby.
Given that this whole part of Normandy is known as “Bocage”, I’d not been particularly hopeful that we’d be able to identify it, however, a further search on Google Maps (or perhaps a slightly different wording had allowed me to spot where it was in time for this year’s trip.
So having eaten a well-balanced lunch of pastries, we head off to find “Le Bocage”
It was smaller than we thought! And, being typically French, very poorly signposted! However, what it did allow us to do was see some lovely French hamlets & also experience some further Bocage “terrain” to get some idea of what the area might have been like 69 years ago… ‘though, of course, the banks to the roads wouldn’t have been as well kept & “manicured” as some of the ones that we saw.
Unfortunately, when we did find anyone to ask, they had no knowledge of Gillespie’s crash…. This may have been explained by the fact that they hadn’t been there at the time, however, as I found out later (when back in the UK), one of my French contacts has identified Gillespie’s crash site near to the village of LA FEUILLIE approximately 3.5km away… irritatingly, Glyn & I drove through this village on our way to Le Bocage!
It was now time to leave & head back to Peter and Eain for some beer, food and a good “blether”…
However, rather than heading directly back, we decided to detour via Carentan… a lovely town, taken over by re-enactors & people watching them. Mind you, there was a great band playing & some fantastic girl singers…
What’s more, I managed to pick up a couple of books on the Battle of Normandy in the Heimdal series & had them signed by M. George Bernage… the only downside was that they were in French… but more of that, tomorrow…