Day 4 – Sunday 3rd June
Tilly sur Seulles Salon du Livre
We tried to be up early for breakfast as we were aiming to be at the “Tilly Book Fair” run at the museum by our friend Stéphane Jacquet from the start; unfortunately, Glyn’s alarm clock was still set to UK time so whilst he thought that he had “a good half an hour” before needing to be at breakfast, I’d already finished & loaded my stuff in the car. Having said that, we actually set off not much later than planned.
Even though it was early, it was already very hot & set to get even hotter – fortunately, my car has air conditioning! Though after a while, it still seemed to be warm inside the car & it was only when we stopped at the services just outside of Caen & got outside that we realised just how hard it was working!
We had a quick check with Tom regarding where to meet as the book fair can be very busy & we set off again.
Through David Mabbutt, I’d been introduced to Ros Westwood – the widow of David Westwood, owner of the Military Library Research Service – who was needing to pass on what was left of her husband’s book collection. I’d been over to collect a large number of these that I was then selling to help raise funds to use with the Manchester Military History Society which I’m treasurer of. I’d selected a number of these which, with the agreement of Stéphane, were being sold on the Museum’s stand with them receiving some of the proceeds.
Having dropped these off, we met up with Tom & then had an enjoyable chat in the sunshine 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 of the museum which is now enjoying a new lease of life (having had some “ups and downs” since David left) under the curatorship of Mark Kentell.
1 Glyn, Stephane, M & Mme Menard, Tom
2 Colin, Stephane, M & Mme Menard, Tom
Whilst having our chat, where 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 his 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!) 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. Their first day in action was at the start of Operation BLUECOAT where, on reaching their objective (Hill 226), they were attacked by a unit of German JagdPanther self-propelled guns. 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 – especially 1st Hampshire & 2nd Devonshire Regiments which were the units that a number of “our” chaps fought with (Bird, Brunt, Blunt, Chapman & Lawrence).
Based upon the research that I’d done before the trip, looking through the battalion war diaries which we’d photographed last year & marking up locations on our maps, the first area we needed to look for was just to the north of Hottot where Operation Maori II (the objective of which was to capture the village of Hottot) was fought over. 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 as we’d seen an aerial photograph with the Hampshire’s positions marked on them, but we’d not had the opportunity at that point to read the war diary in detail.
So, this year, one of the places that we were looking for at the eastern end of the village was a house known as “The Lone House” in the Devon’s war diary. We worked out a possible “candidate” for this place & so turned down a track just before the village
As we reached the end of the 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 – both ones that had visited them & also who they had chatted to across Normandy… including our old friend Albert Figg who they’d met the previous year on Hill 112!!
M & Mme Cosnefroy then showed us around their property, pointing out the marks made by bullet holes in the walls of the building.
They also showed us some rusty wire cutters that they’d found in their grounds as well as a rifle bullet & the tail fin from a British 3″ mortar shell!
And then, following a quick return visit to their house, they brought out a small box & when they opened it, there was a large piece of the original inside wall of the barn that was attached to the house…
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 theft 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, at the end of the lane to the “Lone House”, we stopped 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 which was where the 2nd Hampshire Regiment had fought but with 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
By this time, although there were still plenty of places that we wanted to visit to take photos, the heat was incredible – even getting out of the car briefly to take the photos was a struggle, so we decided to head back to Tilly & see how the book fair had gone.
With sales at the book fair & elsewhere later in the week, we raised enough to be able to donate €45 to each of the museums/associations that I’m involved with – the museums at Tilly sur Seulles & St Martin des Besaces & the Hill 112 Association
Back at Tilly, we had a final beer with Tom & then left him to head off in his campervan & we 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 & found a small restaurant tucked away on one of the streets leading towards the cathedral the Creperie L’Insolite which 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 (it turned out to be 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 asked us for advice as to some of the places that they should see whilst in the area which we were able to help them with.
Finally, Glyn & I decided to treat ourselves to pudding!!!