Change of plans to look for Ray Elledge
We had planned to take a gentle meander through the French countryside and take our time in driving to our accommodation for the evening at Hebecrevon.
However just outside of Abbeville, we received a phone call. My initial thought was to panic as it was obviously a French telephone number and I was expecting another cancellation of a hotel room. Fortunately, this was not to be the case. Instead it was the son of the family that we had identified as being the owners of the small wood where we believed that Major Ray Elledge had crashed his P47.
He explained that his parents had received my letter explaining about our visit this and that they had no knowledge of Ray’s crash but were interested to hear more so we agreed to head out to them more quickly and hit the motorway. However the first thing that I did was to insure that I had a full tank of diesel as I was not wanting a repeat of the same mistake that happened 2 years ago when we nearly ran out!
We stopped off to drop our bags at our hotel which turned out to be a small chateau: The Chateau de la Rocque which was a wonderful peaceful place at the end of its own private drive just off the motorway outside of St Lo.
We got our gear, rang the owners of the woodlands and arranged to go and see them
Investigating a crash site… in bad French
Unfortunately my French was still a little rusty from lack of practice, and the gentleman’s English was almost non-existent. His wife spoke a little English, but she spent much of the time out of the room. We explained what our knowledge (of Ray) was but he told us that the pond that we had found was in fact man-made after the war. In addition, the pieces of metal that we have spotted sticking out of the pond were in fact some apparatus to do with pigs. Unfortunately, our French was not good enough to understand what this machinery did put pigs were definitely involved!
During the conversation he explained that his uncle had been an archivist or historical librarian during the war (I think at St Lo) and when the Germans arrived having defeated France in the Second World War they started throwing their weight around. However, his uncle had been awarded a special gold medal from the German
government many years before due to his work as an archivist (we believe that the only other Frenchman to receive this was Louis Pasteur) as a result when the German officer saw this medal on the office wall, he immediately became deferential and started saluting him!
We think that this same uncle also had an altercation with a party of Germans who were trying to take some of the animals from the farm and he ended up pulling the Sergeant off his horse and explaining that they could not take the animals but they could purchase them!
So it would appear that the location that we had identified for Elledge is, in fact, incorrect; which was a huge disappointment. However, I would prefer not to know rather than have a wrong place identified. Hopefully, one of my contacts in France will be able to help more with this search as he is part of an organisation that tracks down crashed Allied aircraft.
After discussing all of this, we then headed off to St Lo to have some food. Sundays are difficult in France as many places close. However we found a Buffalo Grill (a sort of steak bar) that was open and as these provide reasonably good food, we had something to eat, a beer, and then returned to the chateau.