German Military Cemetery at Marigny
Initially, we’d planned to use this day checking out again Ray Elledge’s crash site where we would have dug up some of the metal. However, as this had now been confirmed as not a crash site, we decided to do something different and decided to head off to Coutances as we’d only ever been there once before in an evening looking for some food and accommodation.
We had a look around the cathedral (which was plain, but all the better for that in my view, ‘though oddly, all of the tombs had been opened to show that there was nothing inside – unless they’d been removed during a restoration process… unfortunately, there was no one to ask).
Just outside of the cathedral, there are some large 4 foot by 3 foot boards of wartime photographs of the damage that Coutances suffered during the war. These have been placed in the position from where the photograph had been taken and enable you to appreciate the damage that had been done and the restoration work that had been completed after the war.
On the trail of Francis Gillespie…
Having done this, we then headed off to the village of La Fieulle that had been identified by my contact with ANSA as where Francis Gillespie parachuted into when he had baled out of his P47. Unfortunately, there was no one there that we could talk to to be able to discuss this with (again, I need to follow this up with my contact from ANSA. So we turned “touristy” and took a number of photographs as it is a very picturesque village.
… and Ray Elledge
We then reviewed the map and spotted what appeared to be another large wooded area that may have been one that Ray Elledge referred to in his manuscript so we decided to head over there and investigate even though the chances of spotting something on the ground without any aerial photography to help was probably quite slim, however it was worth trying.
We didn’t spot anything but as we were driving through one village nearby, we noticed people setting up in the Marie an exhibition for the celebration of D Day, so we went and asked if any of them had any knowledge of where Ray Elledge crashed. Unfortunately, they didn’t and one gentleman said that his father had been living in the area during the war and he had never mentioned an airplane crashing in the woods near the village, so again it looks like this will be something for further investigation .
And so to a refreshing beer!
So we then headed off towards St Lo to visit a wholesaler of beer and wine who also served beer on draught brewed by a local brewery. As you’re aware, this is all necessary additional research and as someone has to do it, it might as well be Glyn and me!
We then headed over to St Mere Eglise which has been totally transformed with new roads and all of the trees in the main square being cut down. Apparently this act of vandalism was by the previous mayor before he was deposed. Unfortunately these trees will have seen hundreds of years of history including, I suspect, having American 82nd airborne paratroopers hanging in their branches being shot by Germans; they were a living memorial to the soldiers and for them to be cut down is somewhat annoying!
Meeting up with “the Sullivan’s”
Having dropped our bags at our accommodations the Ferme de Riou we headed into St Mere Eglise to meet up with the family of Bill Sullivan who we would be taking on a tour the following day. This would be a repeat of last year’s trip, however on this occasion it was to be with Bill’s son and grandson and daughter and their families.
I outlined the route that we would be following and explained how I had become aware of Bill through the letters & photographs that he had sent the son of Morris Sheppard who had kindly forwarded copies to me as many of the places mentioned, both Bill and Morris encountered together.
Having had a few beers and a brief chat with some of the American soldiers that were there for the mass parachute drop later in the week, we headed back to our B&B ready for an early start the next day