Thursday, September 16, 2010

The gorgeous poppy fields

"June 16, 1945

Mesnieres-en- Bray

Dear Folks,
Greetings from France! Landed here on Wednesday nite, June 13th. Crossing the English Channel was excellent. Lovely warm weather.

(c) 13 June 1945 Elsie (Barks) Naylor. Arrival in France. Elsie is standing on the right with other Red Cross girls.
Had chance to see Southampton once more before I left England. As you know this was where Uncle Herbert lived.

I was ever so sorry I didn't get up to see Aunt Eliza and family before leaving. Called cousin Ivy and spoke to Elsie, however.

Haven't seen too much of France as yet. Rode from port to present "residence" in open trucks and my only impression of the countryside thus far was the gorgeous poppy fields. Such loved red patches of fields! They say Normandy is supposed to be so beautiful - I am anxious to see it for so far there is no comparison to England.

Passed thru LeHavre. Perhaps you have read of the terrific damage done there. Everything is flattened to the ground. Saw a number of German pill boxes [1].

The feeling of the French toward us in this port is not good. We have been told that the French have not forgiven the Air Forces for the deaths and damage caused by their bombings. We sensed this feeling the first day here. However, I am not one to blame them too much, for I feel there are those who know no better., and their lives under German rule were no different that life under ours. Some Americans feel bitter about this - I find, however, I have no respect for them but yet I can understand.

Children amuse us - little boys in dresses and pinafores [2] and in wooden-soled shoes! We are now quartered in the grounds of a once lovely chateau [3] (nurses & Red Cross girls only). It at one time was the summer residence for the French kings. Later was made into a monastery. 

Chow line at the chateau.
We are in one huge building which has about 90 sleeping cots in it, and thus we live. Its a "GI" life. We almost died when first we hunted and found the latrine! Just old-fashioned community seating. However, as with everything else one soon gets used to it. Chow is served in the chateau and we start lining up 1/2 hour before time (we are still using our mess gear). At times, the food makes us squirm and after washing our gear we find ourselves in the sand pile trying to get the "grease" off the plates, etc. but we still survive. We eat in a small room - long wooden benches and tables - crucifix on the wall in front.

Walked around the grounds yesterday. Visited chapel in the chateau. Stained glass windows smashed. Canadians took this place last October. Chateau had been Nazi headquarters. Stumbled upon ten Nazi graves in the orchard. Wooden crosses with names - rather young men. Also saw wire stockade Germans held Americans in. As I passed by I remarked about a bottle on the ground only to find it was a dud mortar shell! Walked by rail tracks and saw huge unexploded bomb.

Yesterday went on a conducted tour to see V-bomb[4] sites. Long rail lines lead to the site. Direct bomb hits had smashed along the line and huge craters were all about the adjoining. Tracks were twisted and lay all along the line. Lovely poppies and daisies were growing among the ruins. One building was completely demolished but others were intact inside although camouflaged roofs had been blasted off. The walls were 2 ft. thick only direct hits could damage the inside. 

The Nazis were thorough!!! Can't roam about in France - mines and booby traps still being found. However, I don't' believe I want to stay in France. My eyes are on the CBI (China-Burma-India). Please be patient it you don't hear from me from time to time as I may not have chance to write. I will try to send you my new APO as soon as I know it, as your letters will now go to England to be forwarded and I don't expect to hear from you for quite a while yet. Keep writing tho -

Keep Happy

PS This place is not permanent. I will be going further into France."


[1] To learn more about German "Pill boxes" during WWII, see Click France, and roll your mouse over the locations on the right side to see pop-up pics of German pill boxes.

[2] A pinafore is a utilitarian type of apron worn on top of a dress to keep it clean. The pinafore could be changed out with a clean one without having to fully change clothing on a young child.(WikiPedia includes several pics).

[3] Although the Chateau-de-Mesnieres-en-Bray suffered a devestating fire in 2004, the tourism board for the region has a picture of the chateau as it looks now.

[4] Learn more about the flying bombs known as V-Bombs at WikiPedia.

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