I was 7 and ½ years old in June
of 1944, and we lived in the lower area of Breville, where I have always lived.
At this time, there were many bombings on Merville, where there were non-movable
gun batteries in clear sight that had been built by the Germans to cover a
possible invasion of the nearby beaches.
On June 4th, we were forced to leave our home - my Dad feared for our safety
- there was a central communications blockhouse just 300 meters from the house.
He was fearful, since this had not been bombed, and he took us to the Saint-Côme
We moved there into some unused horse stalls, while the castle itself was
occupied by the Germans, just as the important houses and places like 'le
Belvedere' in Breville were also occupied by the Germans.
Except the intense bombing of Merville, we never suffered from the preparation
of a great and large operation. On the other hand, the night of June 5th became
a night of enormous and continuous noise.
My Dad and other adults went out into the
night, and were quite satisfied. A glider had landed in a hedgerow just 200
meters from our location. The pilot was seriously wounded. My Dad and his
friends took him out of the glider, and hid him on an embankment. The women
then went and cared for the pilot, and took him food. The next morning he
Afterwards, we saw soldiers that appeared
to be on patrol, whom were English soldiers, with blackened faces, and branches
on their helmets. As they passed the livestock outbuildings, they became visible,
which had an odd effect on me.
We also saw German patrols that were being directed from the castle located
in the 'Bas de Breville'. Between Breville and Gonneville were the advanced
German lines, where there was lots of weaponry - cannons and all sorts of
On the day of June 6th, we, the kids, remained
hidden in the outbuildings of the castle while my Dad left to find food for
everyone. He was gone the whole day and didn't return until the night of June
6 to June 7th, because of the combat taking place. On June 7th, an English
patrol commanded by Lieutenant Christie of the 9th Para came and asked my
Dad if he had seen a glider land near to the castle. Dad took them to the
place where two gliders had landed so they could recover materials. However,
the English paratroopers were caught by a German patrol that was passing on
bicycles, but fortunately suffered no harm.
At the entrance to Breville, in a small
woods, there was a German gun battery that overlooked the Saint-Côme
Castle. The English Commandos took this assault battery during the attack
The castle was destroyed after having received
an artillery hit in the front. It was alternatively occupied by others that
followed the attacks and counter-attacks. After each attack, the English returned
to refuge at Amfreville.
Every day my Dad went out to look for food
or to help the English soldiers. It was necessary to find eggs, milk, and
other things to eat. We were 20 refugees at this place. We always remained
in the livestock outbuildings, but it a bit tranquil, in spite of the fighting
going on around us. No one fired on us. The principal activity was at the
castle - the livestock outbuildings were only an annex, and what the English
wanted to do was to dislodge the German officers that occupied the castle.
Along with what the English had accomplished in other places, they then wanted
to occupy this castle, as it was a strategic point, just like the church steeple
We stayed at the castle until the 12th
or 13th of June. After these events, we left the castle, and set out for Breville.
The field that led to the Godard Farm was a place that was the clash of English
paratroopers and a German patrol. My Dad took a checkered handkerchief and
attached it to a stick - both forces stopped shooting, and we passed through
the middle of the field and between the two forces. For the anecdote, it was
necessary for me to attend a 1984 celebration of the 40th year since the Normandy
invasion to become acquainted with one of the English soldiers from that scene.
This soldier, nicknamed "Spike", (18 years old at that time) was
part of the group that was fighting in the field. He has remained my unfailing
The village of Breville was completely wrecked, except for the town hall and
the "Belvedere". We continued towards the "Bas de Breville"
and the house, but this area was yet secure and my Dad decided to continue
to the town of Dozule.
We recuperated a cart and horse, and the dozen kids rode in the cart while
the adults walked along side. A mattress above the cart protected us from
possible shrapnel from an artillery shell.
We went to Goustranville, but the bridge had been destroyed by the battalion
Spike named earlier, and the Germans had reconstructed a bridge using small
boats. During our passage an Allied plane strafed the bridge and soldiers
located at Alentours. The horse bolted, and we all fell into the water. My
hand was crushed between the cart and a boat. The German soldiers recuperated
parts of people desecrated by the strafing, and they made a splint for my
hand from bandages.
We arrived at Dozule, and the road that led to Rouen, where there was a German
military hospital that would treat us. We were then greeted at Dozule by Mr.
We then departed Dozule towards Drubec to take a rest. We tried to go by ambulance,
but the ambulance was strafed. The mayor requisitioned a cart to help us make
our way to Bonneville la Louvet, to the home of Mr. Noel, before continuing
towards Vannecrocq, where our cousin lived.
During a stop to rest at the Chapelle Bayvel,
we were in a house, and in the adjacent barn, there were 20 wounded Germans.
Then came some inquisitive Canadians who came to see who was there. Upon discovery
of the wounded and dead Germans, the Canadians transported them to a crossroads
before continuing their advance.
At Vannecrocq, we were at a large farm,
and, from time to time, some of the French Resistance came during the night
to obtain fresh supplies. One day, a fighter plane was hit, and we saw the
pilot bail out. He descended by parachute and landed near the farm. My Dad
and three of his friends went to help him, and hid his parachute. They then
hid the pilot in a haystack located in the corner of the wall. Germans arrived
to search for the pilot; they probed the haystack with their bayonets, but
since it was a thick haystack, the pilot remained unscathed. My Dad then contacted
the local French Resistance, and they came and got the pilot, but I do not
know what became of him.
This occurred sometime before mid-August.
We returned to our house at the end of
August. The chaos was long. The wardrobe doors had served as roofs over the
trenches, and the walls and windows of the house had taken many artillery
rounds. The house was a wreck.
Jacques Courcy   (October
Translation from French by Thad J. Russell