• Plage Bonaparte à Plouha (Côtes d'Armor) - Haut-lieu de la Résistance

  • Sacy-le-Grand (Oise) - Mémorial en souvenir du F/O H. H. MacKenzie (RCAF)

  • Supermarine LF Mk.Vb Spitfire EP120 - G-LFVB - (The Fighter Collection)

  • Le Cardonnois (Somme) - Stèle à la mémoire de l'équipage du Boeing B-17 #42-31325, 452nd Bomb Group

  • B-17G-85-VE 44-8846 - F-AZDX - (FTV)

 

8th July 2018

 

Cormeilles (Oise)

 

Ceremony in memory of the Lancaster JB486

RAF 57 Squadron

 

 

                                                                                                             Copyright © 2018 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs AlliésAll rights reserved -
                                                                                                             En français france

 

 

 

On 8th July 2018, at the initiative of the Communauté de Communes de l’Oise Picarde, a memorial was unveiled in memory of the sacrifice of the crew of a British bomber shot down on the night of 4th to 5th July 1944 in the vicinity from the village of Cormeilles (Oise).

Aboard the Lancaster JB486, RAF Squadron 57 the seven airmen, of English, Canadian and Australian origin, participated in a large-scale raid to destroy the V1 flying bomb storage centre located in Saint-Leu d’Esserent.

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For this tribute, the audience first gathered in front of the town hall...

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...before going, flag bearers of the Veterans Associations at the head of the procession,

to the place of the commemoration, at the entrance of the cemetery.

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The bands of Cormeilles and of Domeliers were associated with this tribute.

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The welcome speech by Jean-Marie Tallon, Mayor of Cormeilles ...

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...followed by the evocation of the events that occurred during this tragic night of 4th to 5th July 1944,

by Delphine Labeau, Deputy Mayor.

"... That night, the crews of the Royal Air Force had to be particularly vigilant: the Oise skies were full of combat aircraft: 246 bombers which left for Saint-Leu d'Esserent were to cross other RAF Squadrons composed of 242 other bombers returning from a bombing operation on the marshalling yards of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. On the night 4th to 5th July 1944, about 600 aircraft crossed in the skies of the Oise.

Of the 246 aircraft that took part in the raid on Saint-Leu d'Esserent that night, 13 did not return to their English bases. 7 of them crashed on the soil of the Oise.

A total of 77 airmen of the Royal Air Force lost their lives in what was the second bombing raid on the V1 flying bomb storage facility. Among them, the entire crew of Lancaster JB486: F/Lt Anthony Grubb, 21, Sergeant Harry Lees, 32, Sergeants George Osborne 23, Clifford Stalker, 31, Joseph Nixon, all British, as well as W/O² James Weyers, Canadian, and F/O Jack Hodges, Australian, respectively aged 32 and 22 ... "

Contact was established, on several occasions, with Steven Gascoigne, nephew of the pilot. Regretting that he could not be present, he asked Delphine Labeau to convey this message: "Let's pay tribute to Anthony, Harry, James, Jack, George, Clifford and Joseph. They paid the ultimate price to free Europe from Nazi tyranny and to restore France's democracy and liberty. Long live France! "

Although young children during the Second World War, some people have always remembered the horrible sight of the disaster at the edge of the Gantel wood and the bodies of young airmen found among the scattered debris of their aircraft. Their testimonies were mentioned.

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Marcel Lefèvre, now Honorary Mayor of Blancfossé, was a 10-year-old boy in 1944.

With a great emotion, he shared his memories of this tragic time.

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The unveiling of the stele by two young children of the village.

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The names of the seven airmen were read out and Mr Jacques Cotel,

President of the Communauté de Communes de l’Oise Picarde, then took the floor...

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... followed by Denis Pype, Regional Councilor

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... and Senator Olivier Paccaud.

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Laying of wreaths by the Association of Rescuers of Allied Airmen-Oise and the municipality of Cormeilles

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Tribute to the heroes. Minute of silence followed by the national anthems

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At Cormeilles, this memorial will henceforth perpetuate
the memory of these seven airmen fallen for our Freedom.

In the village hall, the Association of Rescuers of Allied Airmen-Oise, partner of this event, presented an exhibition with various materials and British uniforms of the time. The opportunity for the public to discover the equipment used by these liberators from the skies who brought to the inhabitants of our towns and villages, often at the price of the greatest sacrifice, the hope of a free world.

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23 June 2018

 

Velennes and Creil (Oise)

 

Ceremony in honour of Squadron Leader Eugeniusz HORBACZEWSKI

 315 Polish Fighter Squadron

                                                                                                         

                                                                                                           Copyright © 2018 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs AlliésAll rights reserved -
                                                                                                           En français france (and in Polish)

 

 

VELENNES

On 23 June 2018, 74 years after being gloriously shot down in aerial combat, a stele was unveiled in Velennes (Oise) in memory of Squadron Leader Eugeniusz Horbaczewski, an exceptional fighter pilot and great ace of the Polish Air Force during the Second World War.

In Poland, a street of the capital Warsaw, as well as the 41st Deblin Air School Base have borne his name, among others, for a long time but in France nothing has recalled the memory of his sacrifice on the place where he lost his life aboard his "Mustang III" on 18 August, 1944, at the age of only 26.

IMG 0325

Warsaw - Eugeniusz Horbaczewski Street

On the initiative of the Association of Rescuers of Allied Airmen-Oise which had revived the project initiated for many years by veterans of Polish aviation, a stele was finally inaugurated in Velennes, in the presence of Polish and French high authorities, in memory of this great hero.

During this tribute, we had the immense honour of welcoming among us the pilot's grandnephew, Leszek Horbaczewski, accompanied by his wife Irena and Radoslawa Szadkowska, his distant cousin.

vueavion.

Under a summer sun, many people came to pay tribute to Squadron Leader Eugeniusz Horbaczewski.

avantinauguration

The flag bearers get into position...

Piquet

... just like the military contingent from the Air Base 110 from Creil...

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... and the members of the Association "N'Oublie Pas 44".

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Presentation of the authorities by the master of the ceremony,
Mr. Philippe Soudé, assisted by Mrs Beata Jeśko,

Vice Consul of the Polish Embassy in Paris.

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 The high Polish and French civil and military authorities honoured us by their presence.

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Mr. Jean Paul Ternisien, Mayor of Velennes, pronounced a few words of welcome
before giving the floor to Mr. Marcel Mavré, Vice-president of the Association of Rescuers of Allied Airmen - Oise, for an evocation of the prestigious and exceptional course of Squadron Leader Eugeniusz Horbaczewski throughout the Second World War.

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Colonel Slawomir Pawlikowski, Defence Attaché, Military, Naval and Air of
the Polish Embassy, particularly stressed the commitment of the Polish Forces against Nazism

and in particular that of S/Ldr Horbaczewski.

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... in the presence of Mr. Michel Lasne and Mr. Daniel Loncke, inhabitants of Velennes,
who witnessed the plane crash of the Polish pilot on 18 August 1944.

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The stele was then unveiled by young children...

 114
... a way of transmitting to the younger generation the memory of the sacrifice of this Polish hero

who was shot down in their village.

 120

 The stele was then blessed by Father Wieslaw Gronowicz, chaplain of the Polish Catholic Mission in Paris.

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Dressed in his uniform of Captain, being himself an airline pilot, Leszek Horbaczewski, very moved,

thanked warmly all the people who have contributed to this exceptional tribute in honour of his great-uncle.

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Symbolically, two aircraft, including the Piper L4J which came especially from the Aero-club of Picardy Amiens-Metropole,

flew several times over the ceremony under the eyes of a delighted public. 

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The numerous laying of wreaths at the foot of the memorial followed. From left to right : Mr Jean-François Odent, ONAC-VG Departmental Director, representing Mrs Geneviève Darrieussecq, Secretary of State to the Minister of the Armed Forces - Leszek Horbaczewski - Mr Tomasz Majchrowski, Minister Counsellor, Deputy Chief of Mission, representing His Excellence Mr Tomasz Mlynarsky, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Poland in France and in the Principality of Monaco – Mr Olivier Paccaud, Senator of Oise - Colonel Slawomir Pawlikowski, Military, Naval and Air Defence Attaché, at the Embassy of Poland.

The ceremony continued with the minute of silence followed by the national anthems of Poland and France.  

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Thanks to the flag bearers by Colonel Pawlikowski
followed by Mrs Karolina Smaga, Consul of the Republic of Poland.

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Irena, Leszek Horbaczewski and Radoslawa Szadkowska, from the pilot's family, gathered in front of the memorial.

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Photo souvenir

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A moving moment of reflection...

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Leszek Horbaczewski and Michel Lasne, witness of the crash, at the crash site.

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Speech of Mr Odent and testimony of Michel Lasne

Expo1

An exhibition, realized by the Association of Rescuers of Allied Airmen with the participation of the National Remembrance Association of the 1st Polish Armoured Division, was presented in the Village Hall.

Expo2

 

  Expo3


Expo4 

 

 

CREIL

This day of tribute to the memory of Squadron Leader Eugeniusz Horbaczewski continued with great emotion in the Creil cemetery where the Polish hero lies.

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Prayer by Father Wieslaw Gronowicz

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Laying of wreaths by the Polish Airmen's Association, the National Remembrance Association of the 1st Polish Armoured Division,

the France-Poland Association of the agglomeration of Creil and the Association of Rescuers of Allied Airmen-Oise...

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... followed by those of the Polish Embassy, the municipality of Creil and Leszek Horbaczewski.

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A tribute was also paid to the grave of Polish Officer Stanislaw Calinski, 315 Squadron of the Polish Air Force, who was shot down in aerial combat on 20 May, 1944, in the skies over the Oise.

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This day of remembrance ended in the Guards room of the town hall in Creil by a reception organized by Mr Jean-Marie Villemain,

mayor of the town, and his municipality.

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Marcel Mavré, inexhaustible when it comes to evoking the glorious course of Eugeniusz Horbaczewski,

also recalled that more than 700 Allied airmen lost their lives in our department during the Second World War for our Freedom.

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Colonel Slawomir Pawlikowski and Minister Tomasz Majchrowski

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A still vivid emotion for Leszek Horbaczewski who went for the first time to Creil where his great-uncle rests.

 

This moving tribute in memory of Squadron Leader Eugeniusz Horbaczewski could not have happened without the support of the various municipalities, the numerous organizations, the numerous Associations and our many friends who worked so hard to make this day so exceptional and magnificent.

 

 

 

6th and 7th August 2017

 

Ully-Saint-Georges, Clermont (Oise)

 

Visit of Jane COOPER,

granddaughter of 2nd Lt. Jarvis H. COOPER

 

 

Copyright © 2017 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés - All rights reserved -

                                                                                                                En français france

 

 

Jane Cooper, a young lawyer from New York, and her husband Jesse, who were making their first trip to France, visited us in the first days of August. Very attached to History, Jane came to discover the places that had marked a part of the life of her grandfather, 2nd Lt. Jarvis H. Cooper, during the winter 1943/1944.

2nd Lt. Jarvis H. Cooper was a navigator aboard the Flying fortress "Judy" of the 379th Bomb Group shot down on 30th December 1943, near the village of Ully-Saint-Georges, resulting in the death of four of the ten crew members of the aircraft.

2nd Lt Jarvis H. Cooper

2nd Lt. Jarvis H. Cooper

2nd Lt. Cooper was among the survivors. He was immediately rescued near the hamlet of Bonvillers, near Cauvigny, before being directed to Neuilly-en-Thelle. The continuation of his escape in the department of Oise will see him pass to Crouy-en-Thelle, Clermont, Noailles, Montjavoult and Chaumont-en-Vexin, taken in charge by the "Alsace" escape network directed by Gilbert Thibault in Auneuil.

He then stayed in Paris. At the beginning of May 1944, while being taken to the Spanish border, 2nd Lt. Cooper and his pilot, 2nd Lt. Glenn Camp, were taken prisoner on a train near Bayonne. Both ended the war at Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany, until their liberation in early May 1945 by the Soviet Army.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It was at Ully-Saint-Georges that we accompanied Jane and Jesse. The inhabitants of the village, some of whom witnessed the crash of the bomber, as well as our friends of the Association "N'Oublie Pas 44" and their vintage military vehicles, had assembled near the memorial paying tribute to the airmen. A reception was organized in all conviviality by the municipality. Meanwhile, an aircraft from the Beauvais-Tillé Flying Club, piloted by our friend Bruno, flew over the village in tribute to the American airmen.

Ully-Saint-Georges

 Moment of emotion for Jane in front of the memorial.

After laying flowers at the foot of the memorial, Yvon Corvellec, deputy mayor, took the stand. Very honored to welcome once more the family of one of these American airmen, he pronounced a few words translated simultaneously into English : "...Jane's presence goes straight to our heart and gives us pleasure because it gives us the opportunity to pay a sincere tribute to the courageous American airmen who like Jarvis Cooper and all those whose names are forever engraved on this memorial, risked and sometimes gave their lives so that the democracies triumph over Nazi barbarism ... This visit also allows us to evoke memory and to thank the French ... and they were not so many ... who did not resign themselves and took all risks to endure our threatened freedom. The small ceremony, solemn and warm, which unites us today, associates, within the same tribute, these American and French heroes, known or anonymous and thus allows us, to fulfill not only our necessary duty of memory but also to celebrate, at our modest level, the unfailing friendship between our two countries. "

Ully-Saint-Georges

Very moved and not able to hold back her tears, Jane, with a lot of gratitude, thanked the municipality as well as the inhabitants of the village and all the people who had taken many risks to rescue her grandfather, stressing that she would probably not be present on this day without their bravery.

Ully-Saint-Georges

Souvenir photos near the memorial

Ully-Saint-Georges

After having been invited to share a drink in the premises of the town hall, the time had come to take leave of our friends of Ully-Saint-Georges. The rest of our visit was to continue in Clermont.

Ully-Saint-Georges - Plymouth

Departure from Ully-Saint-Georges aboard a "Plymouth".

It was indeed in this town in the heart of the Oise department that we accompanied Jane. She was able to go to the home of the Legrand-Sauvage family, where her grandfather spent three weeks with his pilot and four other American airmen during the month of January 1944.

Odette Sauvage - Gaston Legrand  Clermont
                                              Odette Sauvage and Gaston Legrand                                             Jane in front of the house, on the heights of 

                                                                                                                                                           the town, where her grandfather was taken in.

The day of 6th August is a date that is always remembered in Clermont. On 6th August 1944, in the early hours of the morning, the Resistant Jean Corroyer fell under German bullets near his home after being denounced. Arrested and deported, his wife and his son never returned from the Nazi extermination camps.

Jean Corroyer was a former merchant navy officer, radio and deputy of Georges Fleury in the Resistance. As every year, a ceremony was organized to pay tribute to him and to his family by the Association des Anciens FFI et leurs Amis, chaired by Patrick Fleury, and the town of Clermont.

Jean Corroyer  Clermont

The procession composed of flag bearers, municipal officials, members of the Associations accompanied by Jane and Jesse and by the population gathered in front of the Town Hall before heading to the place of commemoration.

Stele Jean Corroyer

Laying of wreaths

After the laying of wreaths in front of the commemorative plaque, Patrick Fleury, took the stand to recall the journey and the role in the Resistance of Jean Corroyer alongside his grandfather, Georges Fleury.

Patrick Fleury  Clermont - Jean Corroyer

                          Patrick Fleury                                                                         Jane Cooper and Dominique Lecomte

Referring to the duty of memory, he declared "...let the younger generations know that certain behaviours are intolerable, under penalty of losing the fundamental rights which are the strength of our Republic ..."

Alongside Jane and on behalf of the Association of Rescuers of Allied Airmen, Dominique Lecomte then retraced the course of 2nd Lt. Jarvis Cooper which had led him to stay in the town during his escape. A tribute was also paid to all the Resistance of Clermont and its region who, in infallible devotion, had taken so many risks to remove from the occupant these men fallen from the sky. "...This tribute to Jean Corroyer and the exceptional presence of Jane today, allow us not to forget the ties that united the combatants of the shadows with the combatants of the air. They were fighting for the same ideal, so that France would recover its freedom... "

This ceremony in memory of the Resistance in Clermont, concluded by the Chant des Partisans (song of the Resistance) and the national anthem, was once again a moment of great emotion, especially for our American visitors. Jane confided that, like so many other Allied airmen, her grandfather had never forgotten the sacrifices made by all those brave Frenchmen who had saved his life at the risk of theirs. 2nd Lt. Jarvis Cooper died in 1996, but in 1977, on a trip to France with his wife, he managed to find and personally thank some of his helpers.

All of the audience was then invited to Town Hall for the traditional drink.

The day after that memorable day, we accompanied Jane and Jesse to the crash site near the village of Ully-Saint-Georges.

Ully-Saint-Georges

In the steep woods, a cross and an American flag marks the exact spot where the B-17 "Judy" had finished its fly on 30th December 1943. Among the vegetation and to her great amazement Jane discovered that many small debris aluminum or of Plexiglas of the aircraft still recall today the drama that had taken place there, 73 years ago.

Ully-Saint-Georges

Multiple small metal pieces of the bomber on board which
was his grandfather were preciously taken as a souvenir by Jane.

Unfortunately, the time passed too fast and the moment had come for our American friends to leave us. Very touched by the warm welcome they received during their visit, Jane and Jesse promised to come back to visit us in the near future. In the meantime, the rest of their trip would take them to the South-West of France for a few days before their return to New York.

 

 

1st to 3rd September 2017

 

Campremy (Oise)

 

Visit of a delegation of the "Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency"

 

Copyright © 2017 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés - All rights reserved -

                                                                                                               En français france

 

Four years after their first visit, we had once more the great honour of receiving and accompanying a delegation of the “Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency”. The noble mission of this American organization, mandated by the Pentagon in Washington D.C., is to deploy research teams of historians and scientists to try to find the remains of more than 82,000 soldiers, airmen, sailors and the Marine Corps, still missing during various conflicts. "No one left behind" is the promise made by the Department of Defense to recover those who are today still missing.

DPAA

Whether during the Second World War, the Cold War, in Korea, Vietnam or Iraq, none of these American servicemen is abandoned and forgotten.

About 16 million Americans served throughout the Second World War. More than 400,000 of them were killed in action. Approximately 73,000 are still without a grave, including 20,000 missing airmen, mainly in Europe and during the Pacific War.

The mission of this research team composed of two historians, a forensic archaeologist and an interpreter was again concerned with the case of S/Sgt. James H. Coleman.

Campremy

Josh Fennell, Historian (on left) and his team

A ball turret gunner aboard the Flying Fortress of the 306th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, which crashed near Campremy on 11th February 1944, S/Sgt. Coleman was killed at his post during an attack by German fighters over our area. He was a native of Indiana, then 27 years old.

S/Sgt. James H. COLEMAN

  S/Sgt. James H. Coleman

The few bones fragments of his body found in the dislocated wreckage of the aircraft were buried by the Germans in the cemetery of Beauvais-Marissel.

Exhumed in April 1945 by a Commission of the American Army, the remains of S/Sgt. Coleman did not allow to be formally identified. They were subsequently reinterred in the Epinal American cemetery. Still to this day, S/Sgt. Coleman remains among the unidentified soldiers.

According to the survey carried out by the American organization, the four-engined aircraft hit the neighbouring field, crossed the road before ending up by disintegrating. More than 73 years later, many pieces of small debris from the plane are still scattered over a wide area.                                                                                                                                                                          

For three days, with the necessary authorizations, the American delegation headed by Josh Fennell thus methodically measured and marked the ground into squares. The area was then explored by means of detectors, in search of the slightest clue or object likely to have belonged to the missing airman (pieces of clothing, buttons, dogtag...)

Campremy

The perimeter of the area of search was quickly marked with numerous small red, yellow and white flags indicating the location of debris of significant importance.

A parachute harness buckle, buttons and pieces of cloth were found and carefully picked up by the researchers. Once back in the United States and analyzed, these important discoveries would perhaps be assured of being uniforms and parachute silk.

Campremy

The discovery of the parachute buckle further confirmed, if it were necessary, that S/Sgt. Coleman had unfortunately not evacuated the aircraft, unlike the other nine crew members.

Campremy

The exceptional presence and the reason of the coming of this American research team into our area interested not only the local written press but also, to our surprise, the regional television "France 3 Picardie".

Campremy

Josh Fennell with the TV reporters of "France 3 Picardie"

 

The TV report

The information, thus broadcast, has not failed to attract the curiosity of some inhabitants of the region, simply intrigued and appreciative to learn about this willpower of the American government in wanting to find their soldiers at all costs.

These three days of research made it possible to define with greater precision the perimeter where it would certainly be possible to find the remains of S/Sgt. Coleman. The area was mapped and each location where important items were found was accurately noted.

Campremy

The results of these days of research were transmitted to the headquarters of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. A program for more thorough excavations, employing much more substantial means, is likely to be established in the near future. The DNA of any discoveries of S/Sgt. Coleman’s bones or teeth, analyzed scientifically and compared with the descendants of his family members, could then allow the airman to rest in a grave bearing his name.

In the days that followed, the investigations of this American delegation on the paths of memory continued in other crash sites, in Picardy and Normandy.

 

 

20th and 21st May 2017

 

Leglantiers, Saint Just-en-Chaussee, Wavignies

Froissy, Crevecœur-le-Grand (Oise)

 

Visit of S/Sgt. Louis I. WATTS’s children

 

 

Copyright © 2017 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés  - All rights reserved -
                                                                                                               In French france

 

 

During the month of May, we had the great honour and pleasure of welcoming seven members of the Watts family coming from Arkansas and North Carolina. Indeed Louis W. and Peggy Watts, Michael and Lynnette Watts, Vicki Olsen, as well as Louis M. and Anna Watts, honored us with their visit. Louis W., Michael and Vicki, are the children of S/Sgt. Louis I. Watts rescued in our area in 1944 while Louis M. is his grandson.

This visit would not have been possible, without the important work of research of our two friends Pascal Pollet and Franck Signorile, who initially established contact with the Watts family in the United States and retraced all the escape route of the crew, without the French families, (Begue, Boisselin, Desesquelles, Liebbe, Radziminski, Ropital), involved in the rescue of the airmen and without the excellent welcome organized by each of the municipalities concerned.

 

20th May

The first stage of this visit took us to the village square of Leglantiers. It was indeed on the outskirts of this village that the B-26 "Marauder" bomber with S/Sgt. Louis I. Watts on board had crashed on 10th May 1944 (see previous pages).

To the great surprise of the American family, were waiting for our friends of the Associations "N'Oublie Pas 44" and "Club du Loisir Historique" come with their vintage vehicles, were waiting for them. This surprising gathering was not without reminding the oldest members of the village of the time of the Liberation.

Leglantiers

Plymouth

 Superb "Plymouth" vintage

The long procession then took the direction of the crash site of the plane where everyone gathered.

Atthecrashsite
A panel of various small debris from the B-26 "Marauder" was presented to the Watts family.

Mr. Legros, who was aged seven in 1944, was present. He recalled his memories of this day of 10th May 1944 when he saw the damaged bomber fly over the village at a very low altitude and crash. "I did not see any parachutes and we all thought it was a German plane. The enemy troops arrived quickly on the scene ... We then learned that the aircraft was American ... "

Bruno Jurkiewicz, a native of Leglantiers, told us about the memories left by his mother. "That day she was on this little road. The plane crashed a few hundred meters from her. She really was very scared. She also thought it was a German plane ...! "

TemoinsBruno Jurkiewicz and Mr Legros with Louis, Michael and Vicki,children of S/Sgt. Louis I. Watts.

A purring was suddenly heard in the sky in the distance. In tribute to the American airmen, the crash site was overflown several times by our friend Bruno Maillard.

Avion  Vehicules

The long cohort of vehicles then took the direction of Saint-Just-en-Chaussee, the second stage of the visit.

Between the villages of Leglantiers and Ravenel, a short stop was made at the edge of a field where one of the three escapees of the "Marauder" had landed by parachute and had been rescued.

Champ

Louis M. Watts meditative at the edge of the field where his grandfather possibly landed.

At Saint Just-en-Chaussee, a first stop was made in front of the house where Jean Crouet lived. This home is the first identified place where S/Sgt. Louis Watts and Sgt. William Edge were accommodated, brought there by Dr. Edmond Caillard. On 12th May 1944, both airmen left Saint Just-en-Chaussee for Froissy, escorted by Marc Cuny. However, our visit to Froissy was planned for the next day.

FamilleWatts 

The whole Watts family in front of the home of Jean Crouet.

The engines restarted, we were preparing to go down to Rue de Paris, where the house of Yvonne Fossier and her companion Paul Begue was located.

Surprised to see as many American vehicles and GI's in the streets of the town, some people came to meet us. They introduced themselves as the descendants of a family that had hosted American airmen during the war. Imagine our astonishment and our great joy to learn that it was the daughters of Yvonne Fossier !! It was totally unexpected!

There are sometimes days when the expression "chance makes things right" turns out really true to its name, to the delight of all and especially the Watts family and the children of Yvonne Fossier. Indeed, their father, but also Joseph Houlihan and William Edge, were among the airmen taken in, despite all the risks, by this valiant family of Saint Just at the beginning of June 1944. A few days later Watts and Houlihan were transferred to Wavignies, again by Marc Cuny, while Sgt Edge remained there.

Henceforth all gathered in the courtyard where the (now disappeared) house of the Fossier-Begue family was located, we also had the great honour of meeting Lucien Bertin.

A young resistant, Lucien Bertin was 17 years old in 1944 and lived in Wavignies. By order of Georges Jauneau, chief of the Resistance of the sector, he had temporarily found refuge with Yvonne Fossier while his village seemed under the surveillance of the enemy.

Lucien Bertin was therefore a witness to the stay of the three American airmen in the early days of June 1944. A photograph was taken with discretion at the time with them in the courtyard of the house.

Begue  LucienBertin
                                                    Pascal Pollet and Paulette,                                                   Lucien Bertin

                                          one of the daughters of Yvonne Fossier

Having returned a few days later to his village, Lucien Bertin and his parents took part in the rescue by collecting and accommodating two British airmen, the only survivors of their bomber shot down near Wavignies.

This visit to the place of accommodation in Saint Just of S/Sgt. Louis I. Watts and his two crewmates in the company of their rescuers could not be completed without taking some "historical" photos. Substantially in the same place, the cliché of 1944 was reproduced with the descendants of both the airman Louis Watts and some of his rescuers. A moment of great emotion for all and especially for Lucien Bertin who, 73 years later, rubbed shoulders with the descendants of one of the airmen he had met.

StJust

Lucien Bertin with the Watts and Begue families.

At the beginning of the afternoon, the visit continued in Wavignies. In the rue Vincenot where the castle was once destroyed by the Germans, we were warmly welcomed by the Mayor, Mr André Renaux, his town council and the people of the village.

Wavignies

Mr Renaux reading the various documents relating to the rescue of the airmen.

A reminder of the important role of the Wavignies Resistance group was mentioned. Many Allied airmen were lodged by various families in the village. Louis Watts and Joseph Houlihan accompanied by an American fighter pilot, 2nd Lt. Harry Hunter, stayed from 7th to 28th June 1944 at Antoinette Dhuyvetter’s home. A few days after their departure, the Germans surrounded the village, making numerous arrests with dramatic consequences.

GenevieveLeBerre

Our friend Genevieve Le Berre, guide of airmen of the "Burgundy" escape network had joined us.

Our visit continued with a quick visit of the house where Antoinette Dhuyvetter lived. Although the site was extensively renovated, it was with great interest that the Watts family discovered this place where their father had been housed for three weeks, 73 years ago.

Wavignies2

All the audience then gathered around the war memorial where a ceremony was held. A tribute was paid by the Mayor and our Association to the numerous resistants and helpers of airmen of the village who died for France, followed by the American and French national anthems.

Monument

Wreaths laid at the war memorial

This day was to end with an official reception at the village hall. During his speech and on behalf of the municipality, Mr. André Renaux expressed his pride and his great emotion in welcoming the members of the Watts family. "... Today, the presence of this American family strongly marks the duty of memory that we must pass on to our children and grandchildren ..."

SpeechWavignies

The journey of the airman was then retraced, notably his stay at Wavignies in June 1944, before concluding with the words "We shall never forget that the United States of America was on the side of France when it was attacked and invaded. We will always have a debt to them. "

Very emotionally, the children and the grandson of the S/Sgt. Watts were then presented with the medal of the village in memory of their visit.

After a few words of thanks from Louis W. Watts on behalf of his family and also very proud that his father and his family were honored, this reception ended with the traditional drinks in a very friendly atmosphere.

SpeechWavignies2

 

 
Video by the municipality of Wavignies

 

 

21st May

For this new day, the destination was Froissy. The visit began with a visit to Eugène Ropital's former saddlery where Louis Watts and Joseph Houlihan were housed for three weeks in May 1944. Warmly welcomed by the owners of the house, the Watts family, surrounded by the descendants of the Ropital, Boisselin and Radziminski families, could see the old barn and the hiding-place on the floor where the airmen were hidden.

Froissy1

The Ropital and Watts families.

The visit continued a few hundred meters away, in the ex-house of Jean Boisselin where William Edge had been lodged. Former “novelties shop", the building has since been renovated but it was moving for all, especially for the Boisselin family, to rediscover the places of their childhood.

ChezBoisselin

Souvenir photo in the garden of the house with the Boisselin and Ropital families.

Mrs. Sabbagh, the mayor of the village, and her entire municipality, had organized an official reception in the honour of the visit of this American family to the places where their father and grandfather had been collected, despite all the risks, by members of the local Resistance.

After evocating the journey of Louis Watts and his crewmates, Mrs. Catherine Sabbagh continued with these words: "Today is a great day! We celebrate together these glorious times when your father carried bombs under the wings of his plane to stop the German invasion. But in fact, he was not only carrying bombs, he brought Peace and Brotherhood. We will never forget it! ... "

SpeechFroissy

Mrs Sabbagh, mayor of Froissy

After the national anthems, the municipality of Froissy gave the Watts family pictures of the village where the airmen had been housed.

On behalf of her entire family, Vicki, Louis Watts's daughter, warmly thanked the entire municipality as well as all the people present, very delighted to have the opportunity to thank all the French families who had rescued her father. "... Our father loved the people of France and he passed on this affection to his children ... He spoke little of the war, but spoke often, and fondly of the brave men and women of the Resistance who risked their lives to harbour him and thousands of other Allied soldiers... He loved the ‘Marseillaise’ so much that we had it played at his funeral in 1984…

This warm reception was concluded by the traditional drinks and some souvenir-photos.

SpeechVicki  CadeauxFroissy

Militaires

Gunner

Before heading towards Crevecœur-le-Grand, a stop was made in the village of Puits-la-Vallee where the stay of the airmen Louis Watts and Joseph Houlihan was evoked.

Dodge

PuitslaVallee

Puits-la-Vallee

Crevecœur-le-Grand was the final stage of the visit of the Watts family. A very moving meeting was organized in the courtyard of the former "Garage Moderne" with Jean-Mary Liebbe.

Anchored in his mind, the memories of Jean-Mary Liebbe, 8 years old at the time, were all the more precious moments. Very modest but also very proud to meet the children of one of the airmen taken in by his parents in July 1944, he testified to the very active role of his family in the Resistance during this terrible period of the Occupation during which it was so risky to come to the aid of the liberators fallen from the sky.

Liebbe

Jean-Mary Liebbe

At the foot of the imposing town hall, adorned with American colors, the Watts family was then welcomed by the municipality of Crevecœur-le-Grand, directed by its Mayor Mr André Coët. Many regional and departmental representatives honored us with their presence.

As a welcome, the youth Municipal Council also marked its presence by deploying a friendly "Welcome".

Welcome

The official reception was held upstairs, in the magnificent room Francois the First converted into a wedding hall. Staying at Crevecoeur, the King of France slept there in 1520.

In his speech, the mayor, Mr. André Coët, retraced the escape route of S/Sgt. Louis I. Watts, which led him to stay in Crevecœur-le-Grand. He also paid tribute to the many inhabitants of this town who did not hesitate to risk their lives by collecting Allied airmen throughout the conflict. The German repression was then implacable.

Mr. Olivier Dassault, member of Parliament and grandson of the famous aircraft manufacturer, reminded us of the ties and solid friendship that have always united the United States and France in the difficult periods of History. Learning that the Watts family was mostly coming from Little Rock, he did not fail to mention that a branch of the Dassault Aviation Group is located in this city of Arkansas.

SpeechCrevecoeur  Dassault

                           Mr André Coët assisted by Mrs Garault for the translation.                                              Olivier Dassault

The elected representatives then shared the honour of handing over to the whole Watts family the medal of the town of Crevecœur, a symbol of gratitude to their father and grandfather.

VickiDassault

Vicki receiving the medal of the town from the hands of Olivier Dassault.

After words of thanks from the Watts family, a diploma from the Governor of Arkansas, expressing his gratitude to the people of Crevecoeur who had come to the assistance of S/Sgt. Louis Watts, was offered to the municipality.

Diplome

The Governor's Diploma offerd to the town of Crevecoeur

Everyone was then invited to the reception hall. As a welcome, the choir "Saint Nicolas" sang a few songs from the classical and patriotic repertoire as well as some American tunes to the delight of our guests.

This magnificent day ended once again with the traditional drinks.

Chorale

The choir "Saint Nicolas"

ReceptionCrevecoeur

This unforgettable visit was very moving for the Watts family. They were able to retrace, during these two days, the path that had led their father and grandfather towards Liberty. The numerous meetings allowed them to thank with deep gratitude the descendants of the families of our region who came to the aid of the airman in 1944.

 

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