Normandy Jeep Raid [Part 2]

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Normandy Jeep Raid [Part 2]

Post  Gina_Costina on Wed Jun 09, 2010 11:18 pm

Between 2nd and 7th June 2010 thirteen members of various Belgian and UK Living History groups came together. Our aim was to re-trace the footsteps of the 314th Infantry Regiment of the 79th Infantry Division, following the route that the unit took in June and July of 1944 from Utah Beach, up to Cherbourg and down to Le Hayes De Puits and finally Lessay. Our mode of transport was three Jeeps and a Harley Davidson.

The following is my record of our time there, and suffice to say, it was an experience of a lifetime, I took 400 or so photos, “tab” on any of the images below to take you to the whole album on webshots.

On the evening of June 1st myself, Ian “Murph” Brophy, Adi “Rizla” Marsden and James “Tex” Morris, made our way to Portsmouth, that evening we had a chance to socialise with members of Normandy44. Early(ish) to bed that night, we had an early start to the Ferry Port with a 0730 Ferry departure.

Wednesday 4th June
We arrived at the Ferry terminal and were joined by some members from Normandy44, the weather was slightly overcast and I was hoping this would not be the weather we would experience for the whole trip.



Arriving in Cherbourg it was still overcast and cloudy, but as we made our way to St Mere Eglise to meet up with Manny Trainor, Davey Aerts, Vincent Kennes and Stijn Steegen, the weather got better and better.



Having visited the iconic places of ST Mere Eglise, (which was a lot quieter than last year), St Marie Du Mont, and Dead Mans Corner, we then made our way to stay at Utah Beach, where Manny was kind enough to let us bed down where they were staying.

Thursday 5th June
The Footsteps trip was officially started, we got news that Glen Mallen, Jon ”Fingers” Moore, Buster, Lloyd Richards and Dave Grover had arrived safely and were on their way to Utah Beach. On arrival, the helmet nets unique to the 79th were issued and then I set about stencilling the jeeps in 79th markings.

This took some time, and whilst just about to set off, local Gendarme decided to visit , and asked to inspect all weapons, de-activation certificates and permits. Despite seeing our written permission from the French authorities , with our itinery attached, I have to say that the two Gendarme were extremely petty, decreeing what we could and could not do. I’ll say no more on that , other than it’s a warning that you need to ensure that you are completely legal when in Normandy!!!
Being a Police officer myself, it was apparent that they had been told to go and find some re-enactors and to take details. On sight of us they obviously saw benefit in dealing with 13 people, 3 jeeps and a trailer all in one go, and could report back that they had done as asked.!!!
A decision was made to officially record our start at Utah Beach, and then head inland to our follow the footsteps of the 79th.

We made our way to Picauville, stopping briefly when our planned route was barred.



Stopping briefly in the town we then made our way to Bineville to pick up some supplies and have a brief comfort break. The woman in the only store in the town must have thought all her Christmases had come together as 13 GI’s began to buy her stock of bread, Cheese and wine. With hindsight , it was apparent that the French in this region are extremely friendly, and it would seem that Living historians/re-enactors do not venture this far inland, she even asked us if we were heading for St Mere Eglise, and it would not be the only time I was the same question by the French throughout our time there.


We continued north our destination being Tollevast, on route we stopped at the crash-site of a C47.




We then made our way to Brix and to find the nearby V1 launch sites. We parked up in the town square to get our bearings and whilst there I was approached by a woman who asked in French what we were doing. After explaining , she informed me that was an American from New York, who had lived in France for 25 years. Her name was Patricia Alexandre and she told us that her father had served in the area in a US Armoured Division. Fate seemed to be smiling on us as this encounter later proved to be a significant moment in our trip. I explained that we were looking for the V1 launch sites but in addition we were also looking for an area to stay that night, ideally in the area that the 314th were in June 1944. She gave us information on both.


We then made our way to a nearby site with the farmer giving us permission to actually inspect them closely.




We were at the site for some time, and then made our way back to the jeeps.


I could see that “Murph” was chatting to a woman, and it turned out to Be Patricia Alexandre, she had spent over an hour trying to find us as she wanted us to bivouac in the Orchard at the rear of her house, that night. She explained her son Patrick was returning home from Paris that night, he had an interest in militaria and it would be a great surprise for him. As it turned out her home was also exactly in the area occupied by the 314th in June 1944. She gave us directions and then we made our way to the second launch site. On arrival, the farmer again, gave us free reign to inspect the site..




Concluding our site visit we then made our way to the Alexandres’ home. The site was perfect for our needs.



Soon we were to sample even more hospitality when her husband brought us out a bottle of 15 year old Calvados made by his father. We were in our own way experiencing the same hospitality that the GI’s of the 79th must have experienced in the area some 66 years earlier, in fact her husband who was only a child at the time had fond memories of the GI’s he had met. The bottle was passed around, and all had a chance to sample a glass of friendship with ours hosts. “Tex” later consumed the remainder of the bottle, and no doubt his hangover replicated that also experienced by GI’s throughout Normandy all those years ago!!!

Patrick arrived home that evening, his mum had told him he was in for a surprise; he thought it was his favourite meal, his jaw dropped when he walked into the orchard to find us all!

With Patrick being bi-lingual, it was agreed that he would join us as in additional Normandy Crew member the next day as a passenger in my jeep as we had enough extra uniform to kit him out. He would be our pathfinder as he had a good local knowledge of the area.


We then made our way north to La Loge, visiting another blockhouse on the way.




Leaving the blockhouse, we headed north to La Loge. La Loge was/is a tiny hamlet that one platoon of the 314th managed to get to in June 1944 ahead of all the other advancing troops. La loge offered them a chance to look directly into Cherbourg for the first time and we were soon to get the same chance. Whilst the other two Jeeps and the Harley made their way I spent a good time trying to reverse a bend with my Jeep and trailer. When I arrived the crew were in conversation with a resident, Marcel Lecordier, a retired French Police officer. Yet again he also allowed us to use his garden as a vantage point to view Cherbourg and Fort Du Roule. Not only did he allow us this, but I was overwhelmed by his generosity when he brought out a number of bottles of home-made Normandy Cider!!



Being Police officers, it was only natural that we would want to share a glass of friendship with Marcel.


We then made our way to Cherbourg, finding that Fort du Roule was shut, it still gave us the opportunity to recreate some images from June 1944.



Whilst Fingers looks on, Private “Tex” Morris Dashes forward with a bottle of Cider! We discovered that the reason the Gi’s were dashing across the road was that a German pill-box was built into the rock face with Fort Du Roule with direct line of sight of GI’s running across the junction.

After this we began to head south towards Bricquebec (Brickbat), saying our good-byes to Patrick.


Brickbat is a lovely small town, and as usual the French were extremely welcoming. Some of us briefly visited the small castle there and I had chance to give out some GI candy that I had replicated, to some local school-children.

Some of the crew took time to view a concrete pyramid, a memorial to distance wars. Encased within it were various items- helmet shells, ammo boxes and ordnance.


Later as we enjoyed a glass of Pepsi, a man drove by shouting out “Welcome back!” and it was now becoming apparent how people in the area still felt towards the liberators of 1944.


We took time to use the castle as a backdrop for a photo and then headed south towards La Picoterie.


On route, I had a worrying sound, and thought the gearbox had gone, it turned out to be one of the six bottles of Cider Marcel had given us as a gift. The heat of the sun was causing too much pressure on the contents. Fortunately Rizla was on hand to deal with the situation and with scant regard for his own safety he grabbed hold of the bottle with the liquid contents suddenly exploding all over him...


I shouted to the other crews, ”Stop!! Stop”” The ciders exploding!!” and all quickly pulled over and assisted in ensuring that we had no further problems but drinking some of the contents of the remaining bottles


With the cider safely dealt with we continued south travelling through St Saveaur De Pierrepoint. We stopped at the hamlet briefly, and whilst there saw a number of elderly people eating their lunch with their window opened out onto the street. They waved excitedly at us and I gave “Murph” some more GI candy to give to them. In return, out came to local home brew, more Calvados I believe, and we all again toasted a glass of friendship, “Vive Le France!” with our new friends.




It transpired that the man was Roger Angot, a former mayor of the town for 45 years, and prior to this he served in the Free French Army in 1944. He produced a photo of himself at that time and chatted by the use of gestures and our translator Vincent Kennes. I really enjoyed the encounter and I have to say I was becoming quite overwhelmed by the generosity of the local people.



We then said our goodbyes and headed further south to La Picoterie, where a defensive line was formed in June 1944, relieving the 90th Infantry Division. On route we had to stop briefly whilst a herd of cows blocked our path!


La Picoterie is a very, very small hamlet. Blink, and you have driven through it. We stopped a chatted with a woman called Therese AUBERT, she recalled the time as a four year old when the Americans arrived in the area. In words and gestured she explained how she had her first encounter with a GI who had came up to her with rifle present shouting ,in her words, ”Allemand!? Allemand?” she recalled that she had been extremely frightened but replied that she was French and his attitude warmed. Her house had been used as an aid station, and she recounted her experiences helping the medics with wounded GI’s, it must have been an awful experience for a four year old.




After a time we decided to head off, I gave her some more GI candy, and then we said goodbye, our destination was going to be Hill 121 east of Bolleville.

As we made our way through the wooded slopes, the track became harder and harder to drive through, and we had to dis-connect the trailers at one point. However the journey was well worth it, and arriving at the top it gave us a fantastic view of the whole are, the distant D-Day beaches in the east and La Hayes Du Puits in the south. No wonder it was a target of the 79th as they headed south.



After setting up camp all the crews began to relax in the heat of the sun, s darkness set in some participated in “Living the dream Poker” a speciality of GI44-45. A game, where Rizla controls the light emitting from the Coleman lantern, and the use of rules which are simple-we make them up as we go along!


In the morning we set off for Bolleville and Le Haye Des Puits.



On route “Fingers” received a battlefield commission and was promoted to Lt, improvisation was required when marking his helmet.



After this we made our way into Le Hayes Des Puits and the chance to pay our respects at the 79th Memorial.


Whilst in the area, we found a memorial to Lt Kelso Horne of the 82nd A/B, this is where his remains are now located.

It gave us time to ponder and reflect, and for those that are not aware Kelso Horne was featured on the front of Life Magazine in June 1944.



After grabbing some food in Le Hayes Des Puits we set off for Montgardon, where the 79th engaged in some bloody fighting, whilst there more residents showed keen interest in our presence and one brought out some ice-cooled water- I was getting used to this level of generosity!!!


Moving off we headed for the site of Hill 84, and took the opportunity to give Lt “Fingers” some Bastogne Cookies to celebrate his recent promotion.



Manny Trainor had to leave the crew at this stage and head back to Utah Beach, and whilst he headed east, we continued south to Lessay .



We decided that night we would spend sleeping in foxholes occupied by the Germans near to Hill 121, in their defence against the 82nd Airborne.
This gave is the chance to head back through Le Haye Des Puits and recreate another photo with a little bit of Detective work and the help of a locale!



We then set off for a night in some fox-holes, on arrival it gave us chance for digging in to the foxholes which revealed a few finds. The Germans must have had some time to dig in, with quite an extensive trench along a ridge set into the woods, I have to say it was quite an eerie place. The finds did not just include the relics of war, but also the tracks of wild boar...

With darkness setting in, and in two man teams we set off for our chosen foxholes..



Murph and I were the last two to head up to the ridge line- I have to say I was not looking forward to the night in the foxhole. It was a sacred place, and the evidence of the bloody fighting was evident through the shards of shrapnel we found littering the area. What made matters worse were the talk of wild boar tracks in the wood, which left me feeling extremely unnerved.

At about 0030 Murph made us a coffee, the dark had settled in by this time and it was hard to see beyond our fox-hole. I can only imagine how those German soldiers must have felt. Lloyd came over and did a welfare check and told us Fingers and Dave Grover was in the adjacent fox-hole, although we could not see them I felt a little bit better.

Every so often we could hear a rustling nearby which turned out to be a frog! I still felt nervous but enjoyed my coffee. Suddenly a screech, came from within the words, it sounded like a man screaming angrily, then came another, and then another, Murph said, “What the F*** was that!??” and I called out to Dave and fingers to see if they had heard the same. I have to say by this point, with limited vision and not knowing what it was out in that darkness, because in 46 years I have never heard the like of it, I was feeling pretty nervous. I’m guessing it was the wild boar, but not knowing where they were did not make me feel too good. Murph, Dave , Fingers and myself put contingencies in place should a Boar charge our foxhole.

I managed to get two hours sleep, Murph did not sleep a wink. About 0500 we heard similar shriek, but it got louder and louder, and closer and closer. From the darkness suddenly emerged a small wild boar running at speed towards our foxhole, absolutely terrifying especially at that time of the day and with complete lack of knowledge of what to do. It had been suggested earlier that to dies-orientate a Wild Boar one should stick a finger up its bum, but I’ll feely admit that this did not occur to me at that time. As it came towards us we kicked out and it detoured pass our foxhole, over the bank and down into the field below. After that I did not sleep at all, of all the foxholes it had to run through it was ours!!!!! After that I and set about capturing images of the other crew members at rest.

As Lloyd has said, there are Orbs in one, make of it what you will...







In the morning, we then made our way to St Mere Eglise to meet up with Manny and Francine.
On route we went to Mont Castre and made another discovery, a 60mm mortar round sitting on the surface in the woods covered in leaves.


We stopped for Lunch at Carentan

And then decided to visit Omaha beach and Coleville cemetery.


At the cemetery the discovery of 79th graves was even more poignant have travelled the route they had taken, and it was only right we paid our respects.


After this we met Manny and Francine at St Mere Eglise, the trip was concluded and we toasted the event and the 79th with a bottle of Victory Beer.



That night we chilled out with Manny and Francine, and took the opportunity to have a shower after 5 days without- as most of us were beginning to hum a bit!!! I can imagine how it must have felt to GI’s having spent weeks in the field. That shower was wonderful, and was small luxury greatly appreciated!!!

That night my head hit the pillow, and apparently I was asleep within seconds of saying good night to Murph, it was the deepest and best sleep I had had in days!!!! Luxury!!!!

In the morning we headed back to Cherbourg a chance for us to recreate another photo, and for some of the crew to visit Fort Du Roule and for me to buy some gifts for Mrs Costino!!!





This trip gave me a chance to “Live history” in a small way, simple things like realising that GIs probably had chapped lips from driving the windscreen down, and how weird it feels to put jeans and a T shirt on after a week of wearing vintage clothing. How a small group of people can form a close bond, that the French have not forgotten events of 66 years ago and do appreciate our efforts. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of those we met, particularly Patricia Alexandre who spent an hour trying to track us down! And all those who waved at us enthusiastically, hooting their car horns and flashing their lights as our column approached. At times I said to Murph “This is 1944” as we drove through countryside unchanged. My favourite moments were the encounter with Roger Angot as he shared a glass of friendship with Murph and Vincent, plus the evening spent on hill 121 with a great group of people.

In conclusion the highs of the trip outweigh the lows (there were none!) and it was a great experience paying homage to a unit that probably has not been represented in Normandy for 66 years!!!

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Re: Normandy Jeep Raid [Part 2]

Post  Vic on Thu Jun 10, 2010 9:34 am

Lol I've just finished reading this on teh WWII forum - great stuff!
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Re: Normandy Jeep Raid [Part 2]

Post  Camel1815 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 12:39 pm

Wow!!!! What a time you had! I am not jealous at all...... No

It must have been such an experience, and to be welcomed by the locals in that manner, well what can I say.

I know how you feel about sleeping in a historical site. I remeber sending a few nights in the gardens at Hougoumont at Waterloo, where the Coldstream Guards camped. When Revallie was played one morning it sent shivers down my spine. I was getting kitted out for the re-enactment battle and it was most eerie and disturbing.
Definitely have to go next year!!

Top marks guys!!!

Cheers
Richard.
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Re: Normandy Jeep Raid [Part 2]

Post  Pat on Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:34 pm

Here are few pictures that can make nice screensavers; PM me if you want them in higher resolution.





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Re: Normandy Jeep Raid [Part 2]

Post  Guest on Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:58 pm

Well done guys it must have been a great experience. Great report and photos there Paul, I'm not at all jealous either No No

Cheers,
Chris.

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Re: Normandy Jeep Raid [Part 2]

Post  tex on Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:04 am

Great photos and report Paul, well documented.
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what a nice story

Post  bastogneboy on Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:18 pm


Thank you for this report, envious as hell, i hope, you will recreate trips like this again in the future.
It proves i am going to join a truely remarkable group, i hope I tread in the footsteps of heros,
and walk trough history as they had done before me. only mine is in peace time and theres was fighting
for my freedom and many others.
truely amazing Paul and the group well done

Andy Neutral
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Re: Normandy Jeep Raid [Part 2]

Post  murph on Sat Jan 08, 2011 11:10 am

The best thing about the trip Andy is that it was members of several groups working together, it really was an experience very tiring but certainly as close to real living history as I reckon you are going to get, minus the fear of being killed and the other stuff of course! We will be doing other trips of this nature in the next few years so you will get your chance, don't worry.

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Re: Normandy Jeep Raid [Part 2]

Post  Pat on Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:29 am

Hi guys.

I'm posting in this thread as most pics from the link can be related to this very trip when you (we Wink ) were portraying 79th Inf.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2219584/Ghosts-war-Artist-superimposes-World-War-II-photographs-modern-pictures-street-scenes.html

Cheers

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