On Hill 112
Today was spent, in many ways, with our usual routine for the 5th June: a return visit to Hill112 in the company of veteran Albert Figg (who fought there) & his daughter Annette before adjourning to the restaurant in Evrecy for an enjoyable meal.
This year, however, was slightly different…
First of all, Albert was excited about the installation of the Statue of an Infantryman & a 25pdr field gun (of the type that he used to fire) – the statue had been donated to Albert last year during our meal on the 5th by Michael Whiteley and since then Albert had been able to recently acquire the field gun. Whilst we were waiting on the hill, we were joined by Gilles Osmont who is the President of the Cote 112 Association – a group of locals who maintain & look after the memorials on Hill 112 – & we joined in the (sometimes heated) discussions as to where each of the pieces should be displayed. Albert wanted the infantryman near to the tank, advancing towards the German lines & the artillery piece in the background in its true supporting role. However, Gilles & his colleagues thought that they should all be grouped together as this would make a more impressive series of memorials. It all needed resolving in plenty of time for 12th July when the Earl of Wessex would be arriving to unveil them! Here’s a video of that – ‘though at the moment, Martin’s video has a problem on the sound at the start, but he’s working on it!
Unfortunately, work commitments meant that I was unable to attend the ceremony on the 12th , but Martin who runs the Hill112 Documentary Facebook page was able to be there & there are some excellent videos on his pages; together with additional films about the fighting for Hill 112
Muir Findlay takes charge
We were also joined by Muir & Eain Findlay and Mary & Jack Treadgold who was researching her Uncle, Sergeant Andrew Hay 2698812 of the. Readers of this blog will recall that (Peter) Muir Findlay was the main gunner in the tank SKYE one of the tanks in 3rd tank Bn. Scots Guards; part of the plan was for us to do a Battlefield Tour from Caumont to Hill 226 following a similar route to last year when we were with the Fleming family. This year, whilst we were there, Muir was approached by a couple of re-enactors & explained to them how the tank worked & his role as main gunner- the Churchill tank on Hill 112 being of a type that his unit received as replacements following their first battle in Operation BLUECOAT.
Before we headed off for lunch, I managed to get a brilliant photo of Muir & me in front of the Churchill tank – awesome!
And so to lunch
So to lunch & slight confusion as I’d phoned in advance to book which they both accepted & understood (which was amazing in its own right) but when we arrived, we realised that the restaurant had new owners which is why they’d seemed slightly confused when I had spoken about our “usual meal with a veteran from Hill 112”… as, for them, it was the first time that they’d met us.
Fortunately, the quality of the meal was up to past standards & I really enjoyed mine.
We sat next to Muir & Eain & opposite Mary & Jack & we started talking about the BLUECOAT tour that we were planning to do & Muir asked Mary if she’d read the booklet that I’d put together about the Scots Guards she said that she hadn’t done so, yet, & so Muir told her that she needed to do as it was really well written & exactly as things had happened.
I immediately said that all that I’d done was pull together the various accounts & put them into a chronological order – Muir just gave me one of his “looks” & reaffirmed what he’d said before.
On the hunt for Ray Elledge
Anyway, lunch over, we stood wondering what to do next… we had discussed doing the BLUECOAT tour that afternoon, however, Muir was feeling tired & in the heat, we were all flagging to be fair, & so we agreed that we’d leave the tour until the next day. We said that we’d consider meeting up in the evening when there was the opportunity to meet up with another couple of veterans, too – an American Paratrooper & a German who had served with 12th SS – so on that we agreed to part & either see each other later that day, or in the morning.
As it was only early afternoon, Glyn & I then set off to see if we could find any further clues to Major Ray Elledge’s crash site as the one that we’d previously thought was the place had turned out to be nothing more than a red herring – despite so many features matching the description that we had.
Before our trip, I’d been able to download some wartime (& just before) maps & checked the grid reference shown on the MACR that was completed regarding Ray Elledge’s crash & had identified a second large area of woodland which was now much smaller than back then, so off we went.
Unfortunately, of the people that we were able to talk to, none were aware of events during the war, so, as a final option, we headed down to the Mairie at Chappelle en Juger. Although the offices were technically shut, the secretary was working & she remembered us from our first visit a number of years ago when we were trying to track down Ray Elledge – unfortunately, back then we had Benoit around to help with translation; now it was just me! However, we made ourselves understood & she told us of an elderly lady that had lived there during the war & may have remembered the crash. She gave us her name & a map showing where she lived & we decided to visit.
However, given the time & our possible veterans’ meetup, we decided to wait until we had a better French speaker with us, or to write a letter when back in England & so we headed off to meet the guys.
Having taken a wrong turning or three, we ended up at the place where Marcus – a German that we’d met a couple of years before – was staying with the 12th SS veteran & where everyone was supposed to meet up. He’d tried to contact Eain & Muir at their hotel, but the hotel staff seemed reticent to pass on his details, so he decided that we should go & see how far we could get.
So, off we went & soon arrived at their hotel – which took us far less time to get to than when Glyn & I had tried a short time before. The lady in reception was polite, but firm, so I went into “Stroppy Englishman Abroad” mode & explained that I wasn’t leaving until she had at least agreed to pass on a message to Eain when they arrived as it would appear that they weren’t in. After much persuasion (or rather her realisation that I wasn’t going anywhere until she’d agreed), she said that she’d pass the message on.
So, back to the car & Marcus had phoned his wife & their party & they were all on their way to the hotel for something to eat!
Given that this was a 4* hotel & not cheap, it’s cuisine was less than impressive – I appeared to have ordered chopped pieces of lamb & some mushy peas!! Interesting!!
As we were finishing our meal, Eain appeared as he & his dad had been out for the afternoon & just arrived back & got the various messages, so we soon joined them in the bar.
Unfortunately, as Glyn & I hadn’t yet booked in with Tony & Jill, we had to leave as we had an hour’s travel ahead of us, but not before I got a photo of Muir & the German veteran.