'My Longest Night' by Genevieve Duboscq

Discussion in 'Civilian' started by Pat Curran, Mar 3, 2013.

  1. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,556
    10
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    To continue...

    (Morning of 6th June - p54):

    As Papa Maurice and Gaby disappear upstream in the marsh boat towards Port-de-Neuville, Genevieve is day dreaming while leaning at the railway gates when suddenly the morning stillness is shattered by the sound of an artillery piece firing from the Amfreville direction towards the 'Big Swamp'. I take this to be a reference to the flooded marshes on the western side of the railway track, north of the La Fiere causeway.

    A second round hits a house on the edge of the marshes and sets it on fire. Genevieve refers to the family in that house:

    Does anyone know Jeanette's family and the location of this house?

    Genevieve goes on:

    A fourth round quickly followed, hitting the upstairs of Chateau de La Fiere. Mama Duboscq arrives back onto the railway track and tells Genevieve that she had seen the windows of the Chateau literally flying out with the force of the exploding shell. Genevieve tells us that Maurice Salmon lived at the Chateau. He was thirty years old in 1944 and was a close family friend who had make a communion cake for Genevieve's older brother Francis two years previously. He had promised to make a similar cake for Genevieve, who was due to make her First Communion in a few weeks time.

    I wonder if the delayed First Communion is the event pictured on page 122 of "Sainte Mere Eglise" by Alexandre Renaud:
    [​IMG]
    Does anyone know if Genevieve is in this photo?

    As Genevieve and her mother stand on the railway track, bullets begin to fly past and the naive little girl is mesmerised by the sound of the deadly objects hitting home in the waters of the marshes and in the woodpile at PN104. The mother rushes her daughter indoors and issues a stern directive to Genevieve not to let her young brother Claude out of doors until she returned from the Sheepfold where she said she was going to milk the family cow, 'Blanchette'.

    Genevieve busies herself with house work despite the the flying bullets passing over and impacting the little house. After a while, Papa Maurice returns with a badly injured paratrooper, whose name is stated later to be Lt George Wingate. Despite her small size, Genevieve manages to help her father lift this trooper from the boat and move him to her parents bed in the house using a a wooden ladder from the Sheepfold as a stretcher. Gaby has remained behind with a second, less severely injured trooper. The location where this trooper was recovered is described as being one of 'Bernard's Fields'.

    Again, I would like to know if anyone can identify this farmer and/or his farm location.

    Genevieve's mother then returned from the Sheepfold and helps Papa Maurice to remove the trooper's boot from a leg which appears to have multiple compound fractures. Water is boiled on the fire and they dress the leg as best they can and apply a wooden splint before Papa Maurice returns to where Gaby is waiting with the second, less severely injured paratrooper.

    The second man is described by Genevieve as being a 'blond giant' who appears to have a badly sprained ankle. This man though was able to help Papa Maurice recover a container from the marsh which held very welcome army rations. This man was put sitting at the fire and we learn that his name is stated to be Kerry Hogey.

    The names of these two injured troopers are obviously of interest and I found one effort already underway on the DDay-Overlord.com Forum here to identify Lt George Wingate. It seems there was a Sgt George Wingate in HQ/507 PIR. Does anyone know if this might be the same man we are reading about here?

    There also appears to have been a very unfortunate and bad reaction to the publication of Genevieve's book by the C-47 Club back in 1980 - see page 3 of this pdf. From reading the scathing report in the minutes of the meeting, it looks to me like there was a very unfortunate misunderstanding as to what Genevieve was relating in the book. There may very well be errors as to dates and names but I seriously doubt that Genevieve intended to in any way diminish or belittle the efforts of the paratroopers landing all around her house. I am not sure what age Genevieve was when she wrote the book but it must be remembered that she is relying on her insight and memory as she recalls these events when she was eleven years old.

    I would appreciate if anyone can help with any of the above names or locations.

    Thanks,

    Pat
     
  2. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,556
    10
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    Hi All,

    To continue...

    Once Papa Maurice has brought in the second injured paratrooper, named by Genevieve as 'Kerry Hogey', he sets off northwards across the marshes again towards Fresville, this time in search of the boxes of supplies dropped by parachute. If Genevieve has the date correct and it is D-Day, then these supplies would have been dropped with the paratroopers during the previous night and would not be from the later aerial re-supply missions. He also checked out what must be a larger chute to see if it contains a drowned trooper. The location is described by Genevieve as:

    I would wonder if the name 'Three Rivers' got mis-translated in the English edition of the book as I cannot see any other watercourse which might be described as a 'river' joining the Merderet in the vicinity of PN104. I suspect this location is probably the confluence of the Merderet and a large drainage channel - perhaps the one below in the live IGN map (press F5 to reload it if you get lost zooming out):

    <iframe width="800" height="400" frameborder="1" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="http://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/embed/visu.html?c=-1.358578184330234,49.4247120335999&z=0.0000013411045076580043&l=ORTHOIMAGERY.ORTHOPHOTOS::GEOPORTAIL:OGC:WMTS(1)&l=GEOGRAPHICALGRIDSYSTEMS.MAPS.3D::GEOPORTAIL:OGC:WMTS==aggregate(1)&permalink=yes" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

    While Papa returns without anymore rescued troopers, he does bring back a punt load of much needed supply containers of ammunition and food. This first boatload he then unloads onto the embankment and transfers a wheelbarrow full down the track to the American positions near PN103. Here he is thanked by the troops and asked to stack the remainder of the boat load at PN104 and they will come and retrieve it as it is required. When he returns with his empty wheelbarrow, he has some sad news:

    Upon his return, Papa Maurice goes out in his punt to collect more containers:

    I was interested to see if there is any NCAP cover around PN104 for the 6th June but was disappointed to find that, in the digitised archive at least, the available frames show heavy cloud cover over the location. I did find one frame, NCAP_ACIU_US30_4108_1053, flown on the 8th June, which shows a huge number of parachutes in the flooded marshes near PN104:
    [​IMG]
    Image Credit: RCAHMS/www.ncap.org.uk

    The vast majority of these chutes are from post invasion aerial re-supply drops flown on the 7th June, the day previous to this reconnaissance photo. I can see from what little cloud breaks there are in the 6th June cover, that these chutes are not present on that date, certainly not in anything like the numbers we see above. I suspect therefore from the description Genevieve gives of her father stacking large quantities of ammunition and ration boxes in the small yard beside PN104, that he is collecting from these post invasion re-supply chutes rather than the much smaller amount dropped with the paratroopers on D-Day night.

    I would be interested to learn more about the governess at Chateau La Fiere, Madame Brisset and how she was killed. Most likely it was while she was in the Chateau during the German shelling on the morning of the 6th June - as far as I know, no bombs were dropped on or near this building.

    Anyone know more about this woman or her family?

    Thanks,

    Pat
     
  3. Adam Berry

    Adam Berry Member
    Member

    Aug 22, 2019
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    Male
    Author and Historian
    England, UK
    Hi Pat,

    Interesting thread. As I continue to build up information on the fighting at La Fiere I have purchased a copy of this book mainly for reference.

    Just to clarify a few points which I think have pretty much be eluded to already, it's generally accepted that General Gavin came down in what is now commonly referred to as Timmes Orchard, as given the way his day went from there forward this is the most logical place.

    It fascinates me to find out more about PN104. Indeed Wisner seems to have been the #1 man through the door of the house there, but according to testimony it seems Colonel Lindquist also entered the building. A friend of mine did a night march across the "secret ford" many years ago, and came up on to the railway embankment from that side exactly where PN104 would have been located. I interrogated him as to what was left to be seen as, to me, the historical significance of this building speaks for itself. Unless significantly overgrown, not a trace of it exists to this day so as opposed to simply being allowed to fall into disrepair, it was completely removed. Before learning this I was already attempting to figure out how I could gain access to the area as, you will have seen yourself, it cannot be accessed from the West without crossing the rail-lines but is the wrong side of the Merderet to the East of the rail-lines in an "island" of sorts with one viable crossing point and lots of potential trespassing required to reach it.

    Regards,
    Adam
     
  4. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,556
    10
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    Hi Adam,

    Apologies for the long wait you have had to endure for my reply!

    I think the location of PN104 may have had something to do with the light rail link between SME and the main Cherbourg line as there is no reason to have a railway mans cottage there otherwise, IMHO. This tramline had been completely removed by 1944 and I have never seen any sign of it on reconnaissance photos. I do have a sketch map which shows it heading over from SME in that general direction - I'll see if I can dig it out.

    IIRC, it showed the line extending to the west side of the mainline heading towards Amfreville, which could indicate the 'secret ford' was actually the track bed for this line.

    Regards,

    Pat
     

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