Day 10 – Sunday 5th June
Hill 112 with Albert Figg
An awesome breakfast restored our good humour (as did my increasing fluency in French – this time unaided by Calvados & wine!). Mme Baratte explained that she sometimes enjoyed doing some silly & unusual things… such as making jam from Earl Grey tea or beetroot!! I have to say that, whilst they had a slightly unusual taste, they were absolutely enjoyable!
It was then off in the direction of Evrecy as we were scheduled to meet Albert Figg & his family, friends & other veterans on top of Hill 112 (where Albert had fought as a Sergeant in the 112th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery firing 25pdr guns in support of the infantry trying to take the hill as part of Operation JUPITER).
This year was a special one for Albert, as he had recently finished writing his autobiography – The Ups and Downs of a Gunner (if someone wants a copy & doesn’t want to pay the £50 that Amazon are charging let me know & I’ll get a copy directly from Albert or visit his website where you can order it – and he was hoping to sell some copies the proceeds of which, once costs were covered, are going to the “Hill 112 Fund” to help finance the various memorials that he’s been instrumental in arranging to be placed at the top of the hill. Readers of previous tours will already be aware of Albert’s efforts through these pages.
In addition to Albert, again, as is usual, there were a number of other veterans in attendance as we hold a brief service to say thanks for all that fought on Hill 112 – whether on the Allied or German side. It was a great honour to meet some of these & hear their stories – in particular another ex-Sgt, Joseph Mark, who served with the 110 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment in the fighting for the hill. It was also good to be able to say “Thanks” to them for what they achieved “back then”.
Service of Thanksgiving
We then had the Service of Thanksgiving – a brief but poignant ceremony attended by a lot of people & I was pleased to take a small part in being able to remind everyone that whilst, quite understandably, a lot of the focus was on Albert due to the work that he has done in getting the various memorials in place, it was vitally important to remember the other veterans that were there & their contributions during the Normandy fighting – it was great to be part of the huge round of applause that they all received; very moving.
What was also touching, was when a couple of family members of those veterans came up to me afterwards & thanked me for my words.
Following the brief service, Albert’s books went like the proverbial “hot cakes” & it was all that he could do to keep up with signing copies for people! Whilst this was going on, we had a further chat with ex-Sgt Mark & his two sons & heard of some of his exploits during the war!
Just before heading off for some food, it was heartening to see two veterans chatting … not unusual you may think… however, one of these was our friend Albert Figg; the other Erich Bissoir – a veteran of 12th SS (whom we’d met last year). 71 years ago, these would have been trying to kill each other, now they were shaking hands in friendship.
The it was off to the restaurant. Sundays are difficult for food in France & our usual restaurant in Evrecy had new owners who weren’t able to open up for us. However, M Gilles Osmond – President of the Association Cote 112 (Hill 112) – had had words with the owner of a new restaurant who had been prepared to open up especially for us & we filled the restaurant with good-natured chatter & friendship and, as is usual, divided up the bill in a way that paid for the veterans and raised some funds for the Hill 112 fund.
Photoshoot with a 25pdr Field Gun
Following the meal, Glyn & I joined Gilles, Albert & his family to visit a secret location where the 25pdr field gun that Albert had raised the funds for & had been placed on the hill last year is stored. It’s not kept on the hill as, unfortunately, it would be too easy a target for thieves.
The gun was out in the open & after a “photoshoot” of Albert, he gave us a detailed explanation of the procedure required to sight, load & fire the gun. It was fantastic to see him rolling back the years as he gave us instruction in gunnery procedure (including some wartime insults when we did things wrong!!)
Then the gun needed putting back into storage & so rather than us manhandling it, I moved my Landrover into place & made use of the tow bar! Fortunately, I resisted the temptation to simply drive off with it!!
Tilly sur Seulles Book fair and battlefield tour
Farewells said, Glyn & I then headed off to meet Stéphane at the annual Tilly Book Fair & to spend some money.
We then went on one of our self-guided Battlefield tours covering the fighting that took place to liberate St Pierre, an outlying village of Tilly sur Seulles, where we were staying, making use of the detailed instructions in the Battlezone Normandy book on GOLD Beach.
Then it was back to Les Tilleuls for some food, beer & a shot of Calvados from his own stock that Tony had given us as we left his B&B. A wonderful end to the day.