SPEECH of the MAYOR OF GIVERNY Mr Guy Colombel for the Inauguration of the monument in homage to the British aviators.
Remittance of commemorative medals to the bomb disposal experts.
January 20th, 2007. ( Translation by Mr. Jean-Michel PEERS de NIEUWBURGH).
I thank for their presence :
- Mister the Prefect .
- Squadron Leader FLYNT, of the Royal Air Force, representative of the Embassy of the United Kingdom .
- Mr GILARD, Deputy and Mayor of Les Andelys .
- Mr MIRAUX, Senator and Mayor of Vernon, President of the CAPE .
- Mrs LIDOME, Regional Councillor.
- Mr JOUYET, General Councillor.
And our guests, that we are very honoured to welcome.
Members of the families of the missing Aviators :
- Mrs PEACOCK and Mr. MAUDE.
- Mr GAUDIN, Sub-prefect of Les Andelys .
- Colonel DOMERGUE, Second in command of Base 105 of Evreux present as representative of the Departmental Military Delegate.
- Mr DYEVRE, Sub-manager of the operational service of mine clearance.
- Captain LERAVALLEC, Commanding Officer of the Company of Gendarmerie of Andelys.
- Adjudant DESREVEAUX, representing the Gendarmerie squad of Ecos.
- Mrs LEJEUNE PICHON representing of the Royal Air Force Association.
- Mr MILLER representing British Legion.
- Mr LUCAS representing the 115e Squadron Association.
- Mr HUARD President of Normandy Association of the Air Memory.
- Mr FRANCART representing the National Union of the Combatants.
- Mrs GACOIN representing the Military Medal-holders.
Mr and Mrs elected officials,
Mr and Mrs,
Thursday June 8, 1944 at 00.15
The four engines of 18 Lancaster bombers hum.
This night’s mission must lead them on Chevreuse (Yvelines).
Wind is coming from the west at 5 miles per hour.
Temperature reaches 0° at 8 000 feet.
Visibility is 10 miles.
At 00. 20 : the first bombers align on the runway for takeoff, taking along in their compartments, each one, 18 bombs of 500 pounds.
At 00. 40 : squadron is assembled and flies full South, under the command of Wing Commander R.H. Annan.
At 01. 00 : the cliffs of the the Caux region are in sight. At this point in time, the German aerial defence enters in action. It is particularly fatal there this night. Luftwaffe which cannot face the allied air forces in daytime without undergoing heavy losses, keeps it’s deadly punch at the time of night interceptions.
The fortresses are attacked soon. Several of them are hit on the way of the mission. Among them, Lancaster MKI "H.LL.864" takes several shells. It must soon leave the formation, engine on fire. Captain (Pilot Officer) R.P. Maude tries to escape and return on England. But German hunters arrive on the spot and go after the Lancaster flying on fire over the Vexin region. There is nothing to do. The airplane is too low so the crew can’t think of using parachutes.
Flying very close to the top of the trees of the “Bois de la Reserve”, the plane arrives above Giverny and finally crashes in the “Plaine des Ajoux, some four hundred meters before the Seine River. The plane breaks in multiple pieces. The seven members of the crew die in the crash on the French ground.
A large part of the bombing squadron joins the objective and releases its loading.
At 04. 03 : 12 airplanes out of 18, land in Witchord.
A third of the group was killed in France or in the English Channel.
At daybreak, people of Giverny discover what remains from the Lancaster. Mutilated bodies are withdrawn from the remains. They rest together ever since in a grave in our cemetery.
A few days later, 4 bombs which had undergone the crash landing, will explode, making the surroundings not very sure. Hardly two days after, Allied Forces arrive in Normandy, and Giverny meets the horror of the war on its ground.
Among the graves of Giverny’s cemetary, overhanging the war memorial, one is characterized by its plainness and its simplicity. It shelters the seven members of the crew of the Lancaster H.LL 864, the 115e Squadron, killed on June 8, 1944.
The crew was as follows :
- Officer Ronald MAUDE - Pilot Commander - 21 years
- Flying Officer Ronald TOVEY - navigator.
- Pilot Officer Harold FOSTER - bomber - 31 years
- Sergeant Alan ANDERSON - mechanic
- Sergeant Jack FYFE - operator radio/machine gunner - 22 years
- Sergeant Kenneth PENTON - machine gunner - 20 years
- Sergeant Robert SUTHERLAND - machine gunner - 20 years
All seven rest in peace in the same grave. Their respective ages are there to point out the sacrifice of a young generation full of energy, killed brutally by the torments of the war.
Giverny keeps in its ground the indelible sign of Service pushed until sacrifice of its own life by these seven pilots of the Allied Forces.
Peace and calm of that place invite to meditate.
It must be difficult to have courage when one is likely to die so young for a ground which one does not know, which is not his native ground, to die for a country which does not speak the same language, for people who are not compatriots.
Actual people of Giverny, be in admiration considering the determination and the sacrifice of these men. They fought for our freedoms, they fought for us.
It was a great adventure, we hope that the sacrifice of these men for the recovery of freedom will not be useless and that the youth of today and tomorrow will take example on their quality of heart and their courage.
Let us have our heart moved with their Memory and a grateful thought for these liberators from the United Kingdom, also Canadians and Americans and all those who died, and particularly for these 7 killed British aviators on June 8, 1944 so that we live free today.
This stele that we inaugurate today is the symbol of the sacrifice of the allied aviators fallen on the battle field from the whole world, far from their homes, far from their fatherland.
I very sincerely thank all the people who helped us to manage this project.
This stele, simple and discrete, does not want to be a decoration. It is only an homage, but its beauty exists : that of the heart, the recognition and the respect.
I thank you for all your attention.
January 20th, 2007.