Normandy 2017 Day 8 – Chasing Ray Elledge and other Americans

Day 8 – Tuesday 6th June

A late start!

We had a late start today. Partly as we’d decided on a leisurely lie-in, but more to do with the previous night’s socialising!

Chasing Ray Elledge and other Americans (again!)

Our plan for the day was to use the narrative in Ray Elledge’s manuscript to try to finally confirm, on the ground, various locations mentioned.  One was the farm where they were able to get a carriage with help of some French people – which we believed to be just outside of Villers Bocage. Another was the location of the building which they were taken to having been re-captured the night before they ended up in the Shed. This was the building where John Harder joined the other four Americans (Elledge, Sheppard, Willen & Gillespie).

Having checked contemporary aerial photographs & re-read the narrative, we realised that one of the locations that we had found last year doesn’t appear on a 1947 aerial photograph. Therefore it could not have been there in 1944 and so we could count it out. The second place, just to the North of Villers Bocage, didn’t quite match. However, in the background there was an “itch”, as near to that latter place (on the opposite side of the road, in fact), was another property that we’d discounted as it was hidden behind a screen of trees.

A successful find

So, on arriving at that hidden property today, we realised that access was through a formal gateway and then up a driveway. At the end of  the driveway there was an imposing house on the right & storage barns on the left. This was exactly as described in Ray Elledge’s manuscript…

 

 

We were now reasonably confident with the location of the farm where the carriage was obtained from. The person we spoke to at the farm confirmed that Germans had been billeted there during the war but did not know the position in July 1944. He said that he knew people within his family were researching their history and the history of the house. So, hopefully, they will be able to provide confirmation.

The start of the hunt for the farm where they were joined by John Harder

The next location that we looked for was the large storage barn where the 4 Americans were held having been recaptured. It was here that John Harder had joined them.  We had estimated the distance likely to be travelled on foot given the timings mentioned.  Applying this to the maps suggested that we should focus our efforts on an area south of Aunay Sur Odon. Using aerial photographs we identified several possible “targets”. We visited the first of these promising “targets” . However, in a number of ways it did not match the description in the manuscript.

Off to St Charles de Percy

So, given the time, we decided to check again the following day. We couldn’t spend more time looking now. We needed to be at the service at St Charles de Percy. A tradition for us on the 6th of June each year.

Following the main service there is another  small ceremony at the Guard’s Memorial in St Charles itself. This is followed by a vin d’honeur (it would be churlish not to partake).

After this had ended we went off to Beny Bocage for a meal. On returning to Tony and Jill’s  we were invited into their lounge to watch some classic TV programmes about D Day, and to sample a little cider. A pleasant end to the day.

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