Archive for Saint-Lô

June 7, 1944

Posted in Kids with tags , , , , , on June 7, 2014 by xi'an

[I wrote this post a few years ago, but the 70th anniversary of the D-day brought back those memories and I thought it worth re-posting…]

This is the day I almost got un-born, not that I was born at the time (!) but my mother, then almost seven, came close to dying under the Allied bombs that obliterated Saint-Lô (Manche, western France) from the map that night, in conjunction with the D Day landing in the nearby beaches of Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. (The city was supposed to be taken by the end of June 6, but it was only on July 19 that Allied troops entered Saint-Lô.) Most of the town got destroyed under 60,000 pounds of bombs in an attempt by the Allied forces to cut access to the beaches from German reinforcements from Brittany. (Saint-Lô got the surname of “capital of the ruins” from Samuel Beckett after this bombing and it took many years to reconstruct.) My granparents and their three daughters barely went out of their house before it collapsed and had to flee the ablaze Saint-Lô with a single cartwheel to carry two suitcases and the three girls. Several times did my grandfather hide them under his leather jacket for power lines were collapsing around them…
They eventually (and obviously) made it alive out of Saint-Lô, only to be rounded up with other refugees by German troops who parked them in a field, most likely to be used as hostages. Taking advantage of the night, my grandfather managed once again to get his family away by crawling under the barriers on the darkest side of the field and they then reached (by foot) a most secluded village in the countryside where my great-grandmother was living at the time. From when I was a child, I have heard this story so many times from my mother that it is almost pictured in my brain, as if I had seen the “movie”, somehow.

Trip back in time

Posted in Kids, Travel with tags , , , , on July 24, 2011 by xi'an

(This is yet another post of no particular interest for most readers, another Sunday musing about family history and “old” days…)

Last week, I went with my brother to help my mother move items away from my grandmother‘s house, which has just been sold.  (A bit of a surprise as the house has no strong appealing features and the mud walls in some parts could even be considered a nuisance!) There were only a few items of furniture and it was quickly done, but it was also the opportunity to say a last good-bye to places where I spent my summer vacations and that I will presumably not visit in a long while… Things had already changed so much that it indeed felt like a place from a distant past. The post WWII prefabricated wooden house my grandparents lived in for most of my childhood had disappeared, as had their beautiful garden, the small Norman town they lived in had lost most of its soul thanks to an ugly supermarket built right in the middle, and the empty house now sounded as if it had been abandoned for ages, so different was it from the well-kept home of my grandmother! Only Mont-Saint-Michel that we passed on the way there remained the same majestic silhouette in the distance, as well as in time, since it had played an important role in my grandfather’s life… Continue reading

June 7, 1944

Posted in Kids with tags , , on June 6, 2009 by xi'an

This is the day I almost got un-born, not that I was born at the time (!) but my mother, then almost seven, came close to dying under the Allied bombs that obliterated Saint-Lô (Manche, western France) from the map that night, in conjunction with the D Day landing in the nearby beaches of Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. (The city was supposed to be taken by the end of June 6, but it was only on July 19 that Allied troops entered Saint-Lô.) Most of the town got destroyed under 60,000 pounds of bombs in an attempt by the Allied forces to cut access to the beaches from German reinforcements from Brittany. (Saint-Lô got the surname of “capital of the ruins” from Samuel Beckett after this bombing and it took many years to reconstruct.) My granparents and their three daughters barely went out of their house before it collapsed and had to flee the ablaze Saint-Lô with a single cartwheel to carry two suitcases and the three girls. Several times did my grandfather hide them under his leather jacket for power lines were collapsing around them…
They eventually (and obviously) made it alive out of Saint-Lô, only to be rounded up with other refugees by German troops who parked them in a field, most likely to be used as hostages. Taking advantage of the night, my grandfather managed once again to get his family away by crawling under the barriers on the darkest side of the field and they then reached (by foot) a most secluded village in the countryside where my great-grandmother was living at the time. From when I was a child, I have heard this story so many times from my mother that it is almost pictured in my brain, as if I had seen the “movie”, somehow.