Normandy 2017 Day 5 – Normandy Museums, models, veterans and pizza

Day 5 – Saturday 3rd June

Lost errand boys

Today would see us running errands for various people.

We set off from Rouen through some light rain and worked out a schedule to meet up with Albert Figg to pick up some of his books to take to the museum at Saint Martin de Besaces

Unfortunately rather than typing Colleville Sur Mer into the Satnav, I typed Colleville-Montgomery, names about 70 miles away from each other. So, having arrived at Colleville-Montgomery, we decided to go down by the beach. We then agreed where we’re going to meet Albert we set off along the motorway eventually stopping off for a quick snack before arriving at the Overlord museum (our first of three Normandy Museums of the day) to see Albert and Annette

Whilst there, we had a brief look around the outer tents and met Gilles Osmont, the president of the Hill 112 Association, who was being soundly beaten (even though he denied it) in a table top “Bolt Action” war game run by French representatives of Warlord Games

There was also a fantastic display of dioramas using Action Man 12-inch high models together with the relevant vehicles

Picking up some scrap metal

Having collected the books from Albert we left the museum to visit Dominique Bidart, who lives near Hill 112 and had a good chat with him. Colin came away with a piece of a 4.2 inch Allied mortar shell for his wargaming building. Dominique did offer Colin a Panzerfaust tube also. Unfortunately, as the propellant charge was still in the tube, Colin didn’t feel it was suitable to take through UK and French Customs especially with the current heightened security even though this would have been a fantastic addition to his wargaming and military history building

At the “Bluecoat” Normandy museum

Leaving Dominique we planned to head directly down to the museum at San Martin des Besaces (the second of the three Normandy Museums in the  day)  to hand over Albert’s books and also some that David Mabbutt had asked to be dropped off: “The Search for Sidney” – the search for the exact location where Sidney Bates won his VC during the Normandy campaign. Unfortunately we missed the turning off the motorway (French motorways don’t appear to be well signposted!) and ended up having to travel through a series of side streets with Colin getting more and more frustrated until we eventually got back onto the motorway to head down to St Martin where we met Mark the new President of the museum.

Although we felt a little embarrassed about arriving much later than planned, Mark was quite relaxed about this as four visitors had turned up and although the museum should have been shut had decided to pay their entrance fee and walk round as Mark was waiting for us.

Having handed over the books, we went for a beer (you would expect nothing else!) with Mark and have a chat about his plans for the Museum and how to increase visitor numbers all of which sounded good

Pizzas and Bren Carriers

We then headed to our accommodation at St Pierre, a little village across the river from the town of Tilly sur Seulles and on the way I spoke to our friend Stéphane Jacquet who told us he was in the local bar and as soon as we had dumped our bags to come down for a beer which we did as he was with some owners of restored military vehicles (they had a Bren Carrier and a Daimler Dingo Scout car). So, following the beer, Stéphane bought everyone pizzas which we ate outside of the museum in Tilly sur Seulles (the final one of the Normandy Museums that we visited today) which was already set up for the following day’s Book Fair.

We then made our way back to our accommodation and had a relatively early night

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Normandy 2017 Day 4 – Mixing history and beers; a heady cocktail

Day 4 – Friday 2nd June

Mixing history

An early start saw us arrive at the Eurotunnel terminal with the ability of catching the train prior to our scheduled one. This enabled us, once in France, to spend an hour walking around Cap Griz Nez, taking photographs of both the later German installations but also the earlier fort built by Henry VIII which apparently was never used

A revisit for the first time

We then drove down to the town of Samer where last year we had spotted the Le Clos des Brasseurs restaurant that looked very interesting as it appeared that it had beer brewed for it or brewed at it

Having eaten a most enjoyable meal, we headed south to Rouen and the Chant du Loup Brewery where we stayed as we have done over on many occasions. Patrick, as usual, was an excellent host providing beer for us on our arrival

Frustrations with a manuscript

We took some bread, cheese, ham and butter so we had this with Patrick’s beers and then proceeded to try to work out the route taken by Messrs Willen, Shepherd, Elledge and Gillespie from the narrative in Elledge’s manuscript written just after the war. Unfortunately we got very frustrated in not being able to clearly identify many of the places; partly with Colin being tired and so we ended up having to agree to differ as to where the various places were for the evening

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Normandy 2017 Day 3 – Hop Fuzz Micro brewery, canalside food and sailors

Day 3 – Thursday 1st June

Back to the Archives

We returned to the National Archives to do further research, not only for ourselves but for other people and after lunch we headed out to Hythe for our last day in England. Unfortunately, this took longer than we had planned as we got caught in quite a bit of traffic trying to get out of London

Hop Fuzz takes over the SatNav

Eventually, we managed to get onto the motorway and headed out to Hythe. We have a new car and I am still practicing with its onboard sat nav. So, I tried to type in Hythe, unfortunately it picked up West Hythe (close enough, I thought) but it took us about 3 or 4 mile away from where we really wanted to be. However, as we went down the hill into the centre of West Hythe, we nearly passed a small sign saying “come in for beer”. This was the Hop Fuzz micro brewery which was not scheduled to be open that night and so we’d not planned to go however, our SatNav obviously knew better!

Arresting food!

A quick beer and then we went off to our accommodation: The Swan Hotel and then went out for something to eat. Unfortunately, by this time, everywhere was shut as far as food was concerned, so we ended up visiting the local Aldi where we picked up a packaged sandwich and a pork pie, having these on the bank of the Military Canal. Then we headed to the Mariners’ Arms for a couple of locally brewed beers before walking back to our hotel for the night where we found some policeman arresting people; fortunately it was nothing to do with us!!

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Normandy 2017 Day 2 – National Archives, Brewpubs and history

Day 2 – Wednesday 31st May

At the National Archives

An early start saw us arriving at the National Archives in time to get new Readers Cards and spend the day researching the war diaries of the Battalions of some of the Men as well as doing some additional research for others

Expensive beer

In the evening on the way back from the Archives, we drove past the Ealing Park Tavern brew pub but unfortunately there was no car parking nearby. Fortunately, we noticed that the 65 bus went past both our hotel and the pub so, having booked in and had a little rest, we set out for a beer. We spent the rest of evening recovering from the shock of paying London prices of £11 for two pints of beer (back home this would be nearer £5!)

We then caught the bus back to the Express Tavern at Kew Bridge which is a really unusual pub that’s been going for many years (and again of historical significance) where we had some food as well as a couple of beers before walking back to the hotel

So, two days and two pubs of historical significance! As you can see, it’s not just the beer with us, there’s history & culture, too!!

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Normandy 2017 Day 1- Using the Good Beer Guide to the full

Day 1 – Tuesday 30th May

Using the Good Beer Guide in non traditional ways

We started by heading towards Aylesbury where we used the CamRA Good Beer Guide to find a pub that was not in the guide! It was called The Plough. Unfortunately, the beer that we wanted (one brewed locally) was not available but then the barmaid had to replace one of the beers as it had gone off, so a National brew was replaced with a local one which suited us as it was what we had intended to try

… and more traditionally

Then it was off to the 6 Bells pub where we were able to use the Good Beer Guide in a more traditional way to find a pub that was in it. We used this pub for our lunchtime meal, though Colin’s chips were large in size but small in quantity and not particularly nice! It looked as though the potatoes had suffered frost damage as the chips were quite black in parts; fortunately the beer wasn’t too bad.

We then headed (finally) to Aylesbury to the Wetherspoon’s pub The Black Bull where we were staying overnight. Unfortunately, it did not have any car parking and so we had to walk about half a mile from where we had to leave the car. Exercise this early in the holiday was definitely NOT planned!!

An early dip into history

We popped out to the Farmers’ Bar at the King’s Head which is the brewery tap for the Chiltern brewery and of historical significance dating from 1455, it is now owned by the National Trust & is the oldest remaining courtyard inn in England. Then, having returned to the hotel for a brief rest, we met up with Stuart Hadaway and had another beer in the Wetherspoons, before heading back to the Farmer’s Bar for the rest of the evening

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Normandy 2016 Day 14 – SatNavs and dirt tracks

Day 14 – Wednesday 9th June

Up early in order to get back to the Chunnel.

As we’d never been to the village of Esquelbecq, before, it was on with the SatNav to find the way back… most of the journey seemed to be relatively straightforward (if twisting) apart from the shortcut that we were taken along a dirt track between two of the more major roads! At one point, we did wonder whether we would find our way back!


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Normandy 2016 Day 13 – A final French brewery

Day 13 – Wednesday 8th June

A new brewery for our final day

Following breakfast on our last full day in France, we headed off into a somewhat cloudy & misty morning for our drive up to our final brewery in France on this trip – the Brasserie Thiriez. This is a small craft brewery located in Esquelbecq, a town in the Arrondissement of Dunkirk in the Nord département, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais région of France, quite close to the Belgian border.

We had a fairly uneventful drive up through the rolling French countryside, ‘though going past a sign indicating the Greenwich Meridian that we’d not seen before seemed to be quite odd!

We arrived at the brewery on a very warm afternoon & so being invited to have a sample of beer by Marielle, the wife of brewer Daniel (who was busy brewing), was very welcome… as was the second…

Having taken our bags up to our very spacious & comfortable rooms, we returned to the bar to find a brewery tour about to start which we joined; unfortunately, my language skills weren’t up to the detail of the talk, however, having been on some of these in the UK, we picked up the basics!

And then, of course, it would have been rude not to have joined in with some further sampling of the beer! The upshot of all of this was that we then bought some to bring back to the UK with us!

Massacre at Wormhoudt

During my earlier WW2 researches and reading, I’d become aware of an incident during the British & French retreat to Dunkirk when a group of soldiers were captured, put into a barn by SS troops & then shot. There are a number of such incidents, but the one at Wormhoudt is relatively well known being the subject of a number of books. As this was not far away, we decided to go & see it as it was still light.

Unfortunately, I found it very disappointing as, whilst there is a memorial & some explanatory markers around the site, it had not been looked after at all well & the central mound, atop which was a place where you could overlook the whole site had suffered particularly badly. All in all, it was nowhere near as well looked after as other sites that we had visited & a poor tribute to those soldiers that had lost their lives here.

This left me somewhat depressed as we headed back to town for a meal & final beer.

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Normandy 2016 Day 12 – Following 50th TT Division

Day 12 – Tuesday 7th June

The benefits of local B&Bs

Breakfast was awesome! In 2014 we couldn’t find many hotels in Normandy that weren’t already full (or charging the earth) as it was the 70th Anniversary of D Day & so we were forced to use B&B’s, Farmhouses (on a couple of occasions, Chateaux) & what a delight they were (and continue to be) with excellent value for money, superb food & a feeling of being “In France”, rather than somewhere that could almost be anywhere.

On this occasion, we also met a Dutch chap who was also a battlefield guide & over breakfast we were able to increase his knowledge by telling him about Hills 112 & 226 that we have spent a lot of time over but which he’d been completely unaware of previously… but I guess that’s how it is… you focus on a specific area & get to know & understand that well as otherwise, there’s far too much to cover – unless you live there permanently or have the opportunity to spend a lot of time there (I still buy Lottery tickets “just in case”!)

Battlefield tour following 50th TT Division

We then set off to follow our own battlefield tour – led by the guide in one of my Battlezone Normandy books – as previous readers of this blog will be aware, these are a fantastic resource for anyone researching the Normandy fighting – it’s just a pity that a couple of key battles aren’t included in the series – but you can’t have everything, I suppose!

Our tour started at GOLD Beach where the British 50th TT Division (the TT standing for Tyne Tees – the area where the majority of the Division was recruited from) started their invasion from. This is important in the Men in the Shed tale as, with a couple of exceptions, most of the infantrymen that were held there (with the exception of Scott & Caldwell) were members of that Division & would certainly have come ashore on GOLD Beach. Whether they would have landed as part of the D Day landing, I’ve not yet been able to ascertain.

So we followed the route starting from near the old railway halt at le Paisty Vert where 6th Bn Green Howards (Clifford Wellings’ unit) landed in the early hours of D Day. Amongst them were CSM Stan Hollis the winner of the only VC on D Day. We then followed the track (now named in honour of the 50th TT Division) up the rise heading towards the Mont Fleury Gun Battery where CSM Hollis took out a German position single handedly & was, in part, the reason for his winning the VC.

As can be seen from the photos, the Gun Battery wasn’t completed in time for the invasion as the Germans were late in realising that Normandy needed defending & only started building Gun Emplacements in 1944 – too little, too late. And, of course, one has now been reused by an enterprising Frenchman!

We then headed back towards the beach to visit the enticingly-named “Lavatory Pan Villa”; so called because of the circular shape of its driveway, viewed from the air.

On returning to le Paisty Vert, we met a trio of Royal Engineers’ Veterans. They had all served post-war, but were there to remember one of their friends who had landed there on D Day; a quick chat & photo & we were off again, passing the chateau at Ver sur Mer, through narrow & winding roads with high walls & up to le Pavillion farm on the outskirts of Crépon, where CSM Hollis undertook the second action of the day that was to result in his Victoria Cross.

As we’d visited the Green Howards’ Memorial last year, we headed off to Tilly sur Seulles to meet up with Stéphane Jacquet who we were hoping would have some additional information for us.

Driving along, we passed a memorial to Advanced Landing Ground B2 at Bazenville & stopped for a quick photo.

Stéphane Jacquet: multi-tasker extraordinaire!

As usual, Stéphane was trying to fit days’ worth of activity into a few hours – but we managed to share some information (with a promise of more (and contacts) to come!) together with – most importantly – a beer (or two…)!

Part of the reason for Stéphane’s urgency was that he needed to get changed into suit & ceremonial sash in time for two Veterans’ services – one at St Pierre (the village just outside of Tilly where we’d stayed) – & a second one at the museum in Tilly that Stéphane is curator of. As it was a hot day & the beer was cool, we decided that we would attend the service at the museum.

I have to say that it came as a huge shock to see Stéphane “Spruced up” in his official capacity & without his rucksack which previously we had presumed was some sort of life support mechanism as we’d never seen him without it!

Unfortunately, the heat was too much for the Standard Bearer & he collapsed – I was one of a number that came to his aid & ended up using my bottle of water which I poured over my white hat & put it on the Veteran’s head to help cool him down. Stéphane then made the call to the ambulance service who arrived & took the veteran away to hospital for checking; we understand that it was just the effects of the heat & that he was soon back on his feet which is great.

The remainder of the service passed uneventfully & afterwards we saw Squadron Leader Peter Roper – a Canadian Hawker Typhoon pilot who was shot down on D+1 (7th June 1944) just south of Tilly where he was captured soon afterwards. The museum at Tilly has the engine from his aeroplane as one of its key exhibits & it was good to see him chatting away to another veteran – David Woodroffe – near his engine.

Reunited with Albert Figg

So another day drew to a close & we headed off to Arromanches for a quick look around before deciding on food – only to be spotted by Annette  & Albert Figg who’d just finished eating in a small restaurant, so we joined them & ate whilst Albert signed more copies of his autobiography that he’d had published just in time for this years’ commemorations.

Having eaten & taken our leave of Albert & Annette, we headed down the coast a short way to park near the 360o Cinema to take some photos of the sun setting over the remains of the Mulberry Harbour as well as a few of the remnants of the German radar station that used to be here.

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Normandy 2016 Day 11 – A Day of Remembrance

Day 11 – Monday 6th June

As in past years, this was going to be a very busy day – including saving the Honour of the Welsh Guards! But more of that, later!

Honouring the fallen at Hottot Les Bagues

We started with a visit to Hottot Les Bagues Commonwealth War Cemetery and the first of our Remembrance activities. This is not only where a lot of the fallen from the fighting near Tilly & other villages were buried, but it’s also the resting place for most of the Guardsmen from 6th Guards Tank Brigade (& especially from “S” Squadron, 3rd Bn Scots Guards) who lost their lives at the start of Operation BLUECOAT where, on Hill 226 just northeast of St Martin des Besaces, their Churchill tanks were ambushed by German JagdPanthers losing 11 tanks in 5 minutes & where 25 Guardsmen were killed (or died of wounds)

It’s always an honour to visit such cemeteries, but this year, it was a special honour as we were there on behalf of Muir Findlay – a veteran of the battle – & someone who we’re very proud to call a friend… unfortunately, he’d not been too well & so this year, he was unable to travel to Normandy, so his son, Eain, had asked if we would mind visiting on their behalf which we were more than happy to do.

Eain had also asked that we take some photos of the grave of Private Alfred Worsdale, a soldier from 4th Bn Somerset Light Infantry who’d also been killed on 30th July 1944, on behalf of a friend of his

Following a period of quiet contemplation, we realised how quickly time had gone by & so called into Villers Bocage to grab some food for lunch.

On the trail of the American contingent of the Men in the Shed

We then decided to try to get back onto the trail of Raymond Elledge, Gerald Willen, Morris Sheppard & Francis Gillespie

First a brief recap… after they’d left “Chaimps de Champs (which we’d identified as Le Mesnil Clinchamps, they worked their way through Vire & headed north towards the Allied lines. They had just gone through Villiers Bocage… Raymond takes up the story…

On Willen’s return, we ate and resumed our journey. We had walked a kilometer and a half when a buggy with two German officers passed heading in the opposite direction. We did not pay any attention to them and they — we thought — were not paying any attention to us. We walked two or three minutes when the officers turned their buggy around, stopped, and summoned Willen and me.

The German officer on our side asked where we were going. Willen, speaking French, told the German officer that we were going up to the next village. The German officer asked Willen why we were going there. Willen, on the spur of the moment, told the officers we looking for our cow. In the meantime, Gillespie and Sheppard, who had been walking 100 yards behind us, saw the officers stop us and, to play safe, went into the woods along the side of the road.

The officer asked Willen the name of the next village. Willen told him Villers-Bocage, the name of the village we had just walked through. Willen, unfortunately, did not know the name of next village that could be seen over the rise of the trees. The German officer pulled out a map and said, “You must be mistaken, you have already passed through Villers-Bocage — only a kilometre back down the road”. He suspicioned that we were not Frenchmen living in the area. Locals would have known the names of two villages.

He began accusing us of being “Terrorists” — French people behind the lines who were sabotaging German equipment. Becoming more heated, he pulled out his gun and started waving it in our faces, cursing, and threatening to shoot us. When we thought he was going to shoot us, we produced our identification tags to prove we were American soldiers and not spies. He seemed astonished and surprised and ordered us into his buggy and we, again prisoners of war, were off to a nearby farmhouse.

Gillespie and Sheppard came out of the woods, looked down the road, and — not seeing us nor the German officers — assumed Willen and I had kept on going. They continued on until some German soldiers — with instructions from the officers — picked them up and brought them to the same farmhouse.

The four of us were corralled in a barnyard, surrounded by the house and a large barn with stables and harness rooms on both sides. We were searched and the sacks with food were taken away. The German soldiers thought it funny that we were carrying food in sacks and dressed as French peasants.

So, Glyn & I wondered whether we could find this farm from Raymond’s description. There are three routes north (or northish) out of Villers Bocage, of which two are more major routes, so, given the time that we had available, we decided to try the two major routes out of town & follow them for a couple of kilometres to see what we could find knowing the sort of building complex that we were looking for.

Midland Red Bus syndrome

So, there we were, hoping to find a nice suitable candidate… and we did… but there were three of them; and that was without looking at anything along the third route! A bit like the old saying about Midland Red busses: You wait ages for one and then three arrive at the same time!

However, I wonder whether, with hindsight, we could discount the one… for two reasons…

  • First the road is more east or north east rather than north
  • Secondly, this road is the one along which, earlier in June, the advanced elements of the British 7th Armoured Division had been ambushed by Tiger tanks commanded by Michael Wittman & tanks, halftracks & carriers completely destroyed… none of which is mentioned in Raymond’s manuscript & as they’d have been walking alongside the evidence of the carnage (I can’t see that it would have been cleared away at this point), I would have thought that it would have earned at least a passing comment.

So, some further research required including finding out when the wreckage from 7th Armoured Division was moved, applying a compass to some maps to estimate travel distances & a review of wartime aerial photos to try to identify places.

A quick visit to L’Odon Brewery (well it would be rude not to!)

So, we now headed south towards our regular 6th June afternoon appointment at St Charles de Percy Commonwealth Cemetery… and then stopped as, just outside of Villers Bocage, on a small industrial estate was a sign advertising the l’Odon Brewery… well, you wouldn’t expect us to drive past, would you.

A quick call in – the brewer was delivering some training, so couldn’t spare us much time – and 5 minutes in the shop & we were back on our way!

At St Charles de Percy and saving the Welsh Guards

When we arrived at St Charles de Percy cemetery for our second Remembrance activity, I went over to the mayor & passed on Muir Findlay’s apologies. Whilst M DESORMEAU was disappointed to hear this (especially as Muir was the only WW2 veteran that they were expecting), he fully understood that his health had to come first.

This year, we were joined by 4 Guardsmen from the Welsh Guards and two from the Irish Guards (the latter, unexpectedly). One of the Welsh Guards played Last Post on his bugle and, as ever, hearing the mournful notes sounding out across a quiet cemetery sent a shiver down the spine.

Following the ceremony, which was as “French” as ever, we set off into the village proper for the Vin d’honneur at the Guards Memorial… however, there was no sign of the Guards… well, the two Irish Guardsmen appeared, saw the crowd, turned round & walked off – I suspect that they thought that it was a private ceremony – meanwhile the villagers (including the Mayor) were beginning to look concerned as they were waiting for the Welsh Guards to arrive before starting. So, I jogged back to the car (yes, I know, hard to believe!!) and drove off in search of them… fortunately, they were at the top of the lane chatting to the son of an Irish Guards veteran – Major Tony Brady – who had unfortunately passed away last year & who was visiting in his memory. I explained that the mayor & villagers were awaiting their arrival before starting the ceremony & whilst I offered them a lift, they said that they would march… by the time that I’d turned the car around, they were half way there!

Ceremony over, the Lieutenant in charge of their party thanked me for coming to find them as they’d not been aware that they had been expected to attend the ceremony; they thought that there was just one – at the cemetery.

During the Vin d’honneur, I was introduced to a couple of locals that used to live in St Vigor & who had no idea about the Shed… so they were suitably introduced to Stuart & Barrie who were also attending the ceremony.

Off to Ryes

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay too long as we needed to head off to Ryes which was near the coast for our overnight accommodation.

We arrived at our accommodation in a converted barn that was part of a massive farm complex owned by Mme Emmanuelle Sébire – again, my budding French language skills were needed as Mme Sébire didn’t speak much English. The rooms had been converted in a simple way that was comfortable, but which preserved the fabric of the building.

We were then off, again, to grab a late meal in Asnelles at the Restaurant Dunes Zen

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Normandy 2016 Day 10 – On Hill 112 with a 25pdr photoshoot

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).

Albert’s book

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!

Food calls

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.

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