Day 4 – Sunday 3rd June
Tilly sur Seulles Salon du Livre
We tried to be up early for breakfast. Aiming to be at the “Tilly Book Fair” run at the museum by our friend Stéphane Jacquet from the start. Unfortunately, Glyn had not re-set his alarm to French time. Whilst he lay thinking there was still “a good half hour” before breakfast, I’d already finished & loaded the car. Having said that, we actually set off not much later than planned.
Even this early it was already hot, & set to get even hotter – fortunately, my car has air conditioning! Even so, after a while, it still seemed to be warm inside the car. It was only when we stopped, and got out, that we realised just how hard the air conditioning was working!
Stopped at the services, we had a quick check-in with Tom. We confirmed where to meet as the Tilly book fair can be very busy. Then we set off again.
At the Tilly book fair
Through David Mabbutt, I’d been introduced to Ros Westwood. She was the widow of David Westwood, owner of the Military Library Research Service, and was disposing of what was left of her husband’s book collection. I’d been over to collect a large number of these. I was selling them to help raise funds for the Manchester Military History Society , of which I’m treasurer. I’d selected a number of these books to be sold on the Museum’s stand at the Tilly fair (with Stéphane’s agreement). Part of the proceeds were going to the Tilly Museum.
We dropped them off, then met up with Tom. We sat in the sunshine and chatted with him & M Jean Menard and his wife, Jeanette. Jean was founder of the 11th Armoured Division Museum at St Martin des Besaces. We had first been introduced to M Menard by David Mabbutt when he was curator there. Following a series of up & downs since David left, that museum is now enjoying a new lease of life under the curatorship of Mark Kentell.
1 Glyn, Stephane, M & Mme Menard, Tom
2 Colin, Stephane, M & Mme Menard, Tom
Whilst having our chat, we were joined by Stéphane who helped with my translations!
At the museum, Tom was able to purchase one of the books that Stéphane has written focusing on Operation BLUECOAT. Volume two of which includes a photograph of Tom’s father.
Before we got too settled, we decided that it was time to move on (and out of the heat & into the air-conditioned car!). We needed to take advantage of the weather & get some of our photographs taken.
Hottot les Bagues CWGC Cenetery
First stop was the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Hottot les Bagues on behalf of a friend of ours: Peter Muir Findlay. Muir was the main gunner in SKYE tank of 8 Troop, 3rd Battalion Scots Guards who fought through the Normandy campaign and beyond. On their first day in action (at the start of Operation BLUECOAT) they reached their objective (Hill 226). Then a unit of German JagdPanther self-propelled guns attacked them. Most of the Scots Guards’ tanks were destroyed & 18 men killed or missing (believed killed), two more were reported missing & 19 were wounded. All of the Guardsmen who lost their lives in this action are buried together in the Hottot-Les-Bagues War Cemetery.
Unfortunately, due to ill health, Muir was unable to travel to Normandy to pay his respects this year, so we were pleased to be able to do this & lay two “Poppy crosses” for him.
Guardsman JW Harvey, 3rd Battalion Scots Guards.
L/Sgt JM Louden, 3rd Battalion Scots Guards.
Hottot les Bagues: “The Lone House” and a surprise
We then turned our attention to tracking down some of the units that had been involved in the fighting for Hottot. We were especially interested in 1st Hampshire & 2nd Devonshire Regiments which were the units that a number of “our” chaps fought with (Bird, Brunt, Blunt, Chapman & Lawrence).Research I’d done before the trip took us an area just to the north of Hottot, where Operation Maori II was focused. The objective of that operation was to capture the village of Hottot. The chaps who were captured on 11th & 12th July were lost in the fighting in this area.
Last year, Glyn & I had taken some photos near the farm of La Bruyère. Guided by an aerial photograph with the Hampshire’s positions marked on them. However we’d not had the opportunity at that point to read the war diary in detail.
The Lone House
So, this year, “The Lone House”, as referred to in the Devon’s war diary, was the first target. It lay at the eastern end of the village. We worked out a possible “candidate” for this place down a track just before the village.
As we reached the end of that lane & were turning the car round, a young chap appeared. I confirmed with him where we were & asked if we could take a couple of photographs.
Whilst sorting ourselves out, his mother, father & younger brother appeared – the family Cosnefroy.
This was the start of one of those “surprise” moments…
First of all, the younger son had a t-shirt – of which he was rightly proud – covered with Normandy Veteran pin badges. Then they showed us a notebook that they had started with the signatures of the various veterans that they had met. This contained both ones that had visited them & also who they had chatted to across Normandy. Included was our old friend Albert Figg who they’d met the previous year on Hill 112!!
Evidence of war
M & Mme Cosnefroy then showed us around their property, pointing out the bullet holes in the walls of the building.
They also showed us some rusty wire cutters that they’d found in their grounds. Also a rifle bullet & the tail fin from a British 3″ mortar shell!
And then they brought out a small box. Inside we found a piece of the interior wall of what had been the barn.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a colour photo, but Mme Cosnefroy gave me a black & white photograph. It obviously wasn’t just “our” chaps that left their names everywhere!
As we were leaving, Mme Cosnefroy gave Tom a bottle of very cold water as we were very hot. Then she & M Cosnefroy kindly gave me the bullet & mortar tail for my collection. These are both in the cabinet at our wargaming & military history building.
231 Brigade Memorial
We then left & headed into Hottot.
But first we stopped at the end of the lane for a quick photo of the furthest advanced positions that 2nd Devonshire regiment reached. Was this where some of “our chaps” were captured?
In the village of Hottot les Bagues, opposite the Marie, is a memorial to the units of 231 Brigade of 50th Tyne Tees Division who fought across this ground
2nd Hampshire Regiment area
We then moved round to the area where we’d been last year where the 2nd Hampshire Regiment had fought. We had been there last year but now had new information following our reading of the War Diary.
1: 1st Hampshire 1st “phase line”
2: Looking across the fields, the 2nd Devons would have come out of the woods on the right, across the fields
3: One of the routes that the 1st Hampshire Regiment’s tank support followed
4: Here you can see some damage to the perimeter wall of Le Cordillon caused, I believe by “Petard” mortars from 79th Armoured Division Churchill tanks in support of 1st Hampshires
The map below shows the location of each of the above photos
Return to Tilly
By this time, the heat was incredible – even getting out of the car briefly for photographs was a struggle. So, we headed back to Tilly. Even though there still a number of places that we wanted to visit. We would look in to see how the book fair had gone.
Sales at the book fair, & elsewhere, had raised enough for donations to the museums/associations that I’m involved with. €45 each to the museums at Tilly sur Seulles & St Martin des Besaces & the Hill 112 Association.
We had a final beer with Tom & left him to head off in his campervan. We then headed to Bayeux for something to eat.
An interesting meal
Being a Sunday evening, Bayeux, even in the height of the tourist season, was quite empty. The restaurant that we’d been to before seemed to have increased its prices dramatically. So we hunted around. As a result we found a small restaurant tucked away on one of the streets leading towards the cathedral. The Creperie L’Insolite. This gave us the opportunity to try some traditional French quisine… ‘though my plate seemed fuller than Glyn’s!
Whilst we were eating, a family of two adults & a teenager (grandparents & grandson) sat next to us. When the waitress asked them what they wanted, the grandfather leaned over, pointed to Glyn’s meal & said “I’ll have that!”.
They’d been on a battlefield tour, but hadn’t seen what they’d hoped. So they asked us for advice as to some of the places that they should see whilst in the area. We gave them a number of suggestions.
Finally, Glyn & I decided to treat ourselves to pudding!!!