Breakfast in BLUECOAT
So, an early start saw us at the museum at St Martin des Besaces as we’d been invited to join in with the celebrations commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of the village during Operation BLUECOAT.
We missed the breakfast, but saw the band who played & marched from the Salle des Fetes to the museum where we were waiting.
We’d been invited (in part) by our good friend David Mabbutt who used to be the curator of the museum & a fantastic job he used to do in that role; not only passing on information, but showing a genuine interest in people visiting the museum & always trying to ensure that he tailored their visit to meet their interests whether general, or as a result of, for example, a relative having fought in the area.
One of the special guests during this visit was Veteran Colin Yates who used to be in 131st Ayrshire Yeomanry who were an artillery unit using Sexton Self-propelled 25 pounder guns and supporting the Guards Armoured Division; it was great to see David back in “full curator mode” as he gave Colin & his family (& us “hangers-on”) a personal tour of the museum pointing out key artefacts within its collection.
From the museum, we returned to our cars & drove a couple of miles to Hill 309 or “Coldstream Hill” (named after the Coldstream Guards who captured it during Operation BLUECOAT – this had been 3rd Bn Scots Guards objective once they’d taken Hill 226, but as regular readers of this blog will know, the Scots were ambushed by 3 JagdPanthers & lost 11 tanks in a very short period of time & so the Coldstream were waved through & tasked with taking Hill 309 or “Quarry Hill”.
The reason for the diversion, was the unveiling & dedication of a new memorial to the Coldstream Guardsmen that lost their lives in that battle & Colin Yates was asked to officially “unveil” it.
An interesting item was the “ladder” behind the memorial up to the road which was a section of Churchill tank track (all battalions of the 6th Guards Tank Brigade – Coldstream, Grenadier & Scots Guards – used the Churchill tank rather than the more widely available Sherman or Cromwell)
Resistance in Le Tourneur
From here, our journey then took us to the village of Le Tourneur where there was an unveiling of another memorial – this time to some local Resistance fighters who used to hide escaping Allied airmen. Interestingly, we all parked our cars in the local orchard… 70 years ago, the cars would have been replaced by tanks & other armoured vehicles.
Presentation of medal & painting
As part of this ceremony, Colin Yates was presented with a commemorative medal & I was invited to pass over the painting that Eain Findlay had commissioned & that we’d collected on our way out. This was presented to M Didier Duchemin the president of the Museum at St Martin.
Churches & memorials
Following on from this, Glyn & I returned to Hill 309 & took some photos of it looking back to Caumont where Operation BLUECOAT had commenced to get some perspective of the distances covered.
We then took a detour back further in time & visited the small church of St Sulpice in Livry, a beautiful church undergoing restoration.
We then returned to near Caumont to visit the memorial to Captain George Grey of the Grenadier Guards – the first casualty of Operation BLUECOAT – shot by a sniper & who was, at the time, the youngest Member of Parliament in the UK. Interestingly, some of the stone for the memorial actually came from the House of Commons.
A further orientation photo for Hill 226 and then we were off back to Tony & Jill’s for a well-earned meal