• 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)

April 2014

 

Le Cardonnois (Somme)

     Plouha (Côtes d’Armor, Brittany)
 
 
Visit of Nancy Costello-Scovill,
 
daughter of 2nd Lt. Robert L. COSTELLO

  

                                                                                                                                                                                       

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Coming from California, we had the pleasure to welcome once again Nancy Costello-Scovill, daughter of 2nd Lt. Robert L. Costello and her husband Dennis. This visit had a particular aspect as it was intended to go to Brittany, to Plouha, where a ceremony and many events were planned to commemorate the Shelburn escape line and the Liberation.

A few days before this stay in Plouha, we went to Le Cardonnois (Somme) where we were greeted by the former mayor, Mr Guyon, where we paid homage in front of the memorial honouring the crew of the Flying Fortress shot down near the village on 8th February 1944. Emotionally, Nancy laid a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the memorial erected in May 2011 where are engraved the names of the ten crew members including her father. 2nd Lt. Costello the co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Lorenzi the pilot, 2nd Lt. Packer the navigator and T/Sgt Sweeney the top turret gunner had been picked up by the surrounding population and were able to return to England with the help of the Shelburn escape line.

Le Cardonnois - Nancy Scovill

In the afternoon, along small roads amongst countless fields of rape seed stretching as far as the eye could see, we reached the village of Cantigny.
 
During the First World War, it was on the outskirts of this small village that the 28th Infantry Regiment of the 1st U.S. Division in May 1918 saw action for the first time.
 
This battle held back the German counter-offensive despite heavy losses. There, approximately 1,000 young American soldiers were casualties and nearly 200 were killed.
 
            Cantigny  Cantigny
 
Cantigny 1  Cantigny

  Many memorials and a small museum recall this important place of American History.

Cantigny

A touching visit for Nancy and Dennis who did not miss thanking our guide (thank you Gilles) and the villagers for their commitment in perpetuating the memory and the duty of remembering their fallen countrymen, nearly 100 years in this little corner of Picardy.

The rest of their stay continued in Plouha, Côtes d'Armor.

A major place of the French Resistance, the small town of Plouha decided to organise a four day event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Shelburn network and the Liberation.

Plouha

Everything was to celebrate this event : the town was decorated, the shop windows were dressed with items of the period and the walls of the church were hung with very large photographs recalling the time of the Liberation.

 

 Photo eglise 1  Photo eglise 2

 

Plouha happened to be the final link of the Shelburn escape chain. Numerous Allied airmen, shot down on the soil of France during raids against the Reich, having crossed Paris, for the most part, were collected and conveyed to this small town in Brittany. The Shelburn mission initiated by the British Secret Service and led by two Canadians in France, Lucien Dumais and his radio-operator Raymond Labrosse, helped by the Resistance organizations throughout the chain, proved to be a much faster way repatriating the airmen than other existing lines, such as "Comet" or "Burgundy", which led the escapees to the Spanish border, where they got back to the United Kingdom via Gibraltar.

It was near the town, on the small beach of Anse Cochat, that on 8 occasions between January and August 1944, 135 Allied airmen embarked and were able to reach England. These maritime operations conducted by the Royal Navy were always carried out during moonless nights, at the foot of steep cliffs, right under the Germans‘s noses.
At least 46 of these pilots, about one third of the escapees from the Shelburn network, were shot down and were recuperated in the department of Oise or passed through it, notably taken in charge by the "Alsace" escape network" headed by Gilbert Thibault.

 

Plouha - Bonaparte Beach

Bonaparte Beach

 

On Thursday 17th April, an evening of memories entitled "Shelburn and the Resistance" led by the newspaper Ouest-France, was organised by the municipality in the village hall where a large audience was seated.

Confrence

Among historians, two key witnesses : Mesdames Marguerite Le Saux-Pierre and Anne Ropers, conveyors and lodgers, last survivors of the Shelburn network who honoured the meeting with their presence.

 

This meeting, where the public was invited to participate, recalled both the preponderant role of the Shelburn mission since its creation in 1943 and the remarkable and courageous actions of the families of Plouha who had, discretely, to accommodate and convey the airmen before their embarkation at the "Bonaparte" beach.

 

In the audience, some participants evoked, in turn, their childhood memories at the time when they lived in fear of the Occupier, subject to restrictions, but also telling some funny stories.

 

 
The next day, 18th April, in full view of the sea, an official ceremony took place near the "Bonaparte" beach.
The Prefect, the Consul of the United States, elected people of the region, military authorities, a detachment of the 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment, Resistance workers and their descendants, National Associations and flag bearers, students, public... Everyone was given an appointment in this place steeped in History.
 

 Plouha - Nancy Costello-Scovill and Beverly Patton-Wand  Plouha - Ceremony

                        The Costello-Scovill and Patton-Wand families

 

Chaired by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence, a solemn and national tribute was paid to the Shelburn network.

 

  Plouha - Jean-Yves Le Drian

 

The ceremony began with a speech by the Mayor of Plouha then the word was given to the Minister of Defence.

Plouha - Speech of Jean Yves Le Drian

On behalf of the State, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian made a moving tribute to the network members. "...Passeurs of the Freedom, helping in the night fallen but not defeated combatants, to all the inhabitants of Plouha and around, to all those who housed, fed, cared for and encouraged, to all the Resistance workers of Brittany and moreover, to all the Resistance networks, to all the friends of the Freedom, I pay , on behalf of the Nation, a solemn tribute. With their heroic and decisive action, they already passed the breath of Freedom into the sea air of Brittany…"

These speeches were followed by a minute of silence and the national anthems of Canada, of the United States and of Great Britain. La Marseillaise was sung in unison by school pupils.

Many white balloons then flew up into the blue sky, symbolizing the Allied airmen who escaped from this beach in 1944.

Plouha - Balloons  Plouha - Ceremony

The Minister of Defence then personally warmly greeted the two last survivors of the network, Marguerite Le Saux-Pierre and Anne Ropers.
The day then ended with a reception in the Plouha village hall.
 
Saturday 19th April, still in radiant sunshine, the town of Plouha plunged back into the atmosphere of the Liberation.
With speakers broadcasting music of the period, the MVCG-Bretagne (Military Vehicle Conservation Group) had parked its best models and its "troops" in uniform for a great open-air exhibition around the church, allowing the audience and the younger generation to appreciate and discover the different materials that equipped the U.S. Army in 1944.
 
 Plouha - Military vehicles  Vehicule
 

Plouha - Civilians  Plouha - US nurses

The engines were then started up. The procession was formed with at its head a superb Buick Staff Car which had taken place on board the last two Resistance workers of the Shelburn network. Amidst the population waving tricolour flags, the long parade of vehicles then took the direction of the "Bonaparte" beach before returning to the village.

Buick Staff Car  Citroen-Traction avant

That day ended at the Hermine village hall where a show, led by Jean-Marie Thomas, allowed the audience to immerse itself in the musical atmosphere, the time of the Freedom recovered.

Plouha - Show  Plouha - Show

Plouha - Show

These four days of festivity finished on Sunday 20th April with the show "Rezistans", a moving choreography stage played by the Cercle Celtique of Guingamp on the theme of the Shelburn network followed by a screening of the documentary film "Passeurs de l’Ombre” directed by Rolland Savidan.

Plouha - French families and families of airmen

At the end of the film, the Resistance workers, descendants of the missing members of the network, children of the escaped airmen gathered one last time in front of the stage to thank the municipality of Plouha and the organizers for their hospitality, their full involvement in perpetuating the memory of the Shelburn network and thus maintain the duty of memory.

These four days spent at Plouha were a tremendous opportunity for very warm meetings with the Resistance workers, with their families and the population.

The daughters of Robert L. Costello and of Ralph K. Patton did not miss any opportunity, throughout these days of remembrance, to express their deep gratitude to those who, despite the enormous risks they ran in supporting the Allied cause, had allowed their fathers to return home safe and sound.

Plouha - The Memorial

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