Friday, April 25, 2014

WW2 | June 6–70 Years after D-Day (Laval, June 9-10)

The worst casualties were at Omaha
The bulk of the action in the period before and after D-Day in 1944, 70 years ago, was in Normandy. But the Mayenne, the department just south of Normandy, had its share of action as Allied Forces interdicted the movement of supplies and Nazi troops - whether fleeing or seeking to provide support in Normandy - by bombing bridges, railways and airports.
Late on June 5, more than 5,000 ships and landing craft carrying troops and supplies left England to cross the Channel to Normandy. More than 11,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support for the invasion. By dawn on June 6, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops were already on the ground behind enemy lines, securing bridges and exit roads. The amphibious invasions began at 6:30 a.m. British and Canadians overcame light opposition, capturing beaches code-named Gold, Juno and Sword, as did Americans at Utah Beach. But U.S. forces faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach, where more than  2,000 Americans were killed - the biggest casualties of the invasion. However, by day’s end, approximately 156,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches. The troops and supplies kept coming across until August, by which time northern France was wrested from Nazi control.
Jean-Louis Cholet,
Organizer of the Laval
Monument and Event
My uncle Willem van Stockum was a bomber pilot flying missions from Yorkshire before and after D-Day. His life was cut short on June 10, along with 13 other crew members on his and another Halifax bomber. I am going back to visit his gravesite on June 9 and 10, when the local people in Laval will be unveiling a monument to the 14 Allied bombers. Here is a detailed map of northern France showing Laval east of Rennes and west of Le Mans.

The following program was prepared for families of the fallen crew members by Jean-Louis Cholet. (The cost is €50 per couple and €30 for a single person for shared local-travel expenses and food.)

Program for RAF Fallen June 9-10, 1944 .

Monday, June 9th
10 am - Brunch at Brasserie Chez Marcel towards western edge of Le Mans
11 am  - Departure by bus to Conlie (Sarthe)
12 Noon - Lunch at restaurant Le Parc Gourmand
1:30 pm - Visit to the WWII museum Conlie
4 pm Return to Laval
5 pm Laval - return to hotel
6:30 Depart to the city of Ernée via carpooling
7 pm - Dinner at restaurant Le Grand Cerf Ernée
8 pm - Shuttle to Moonlight Hall
Laval, France, June 2011. Relatives of fallen WWII air crews shot down
during the week of the D-Day invasion. I am third from right behind the 
headstone provided by the Dutch Government for my Uncle Willem.
8:30 pm Grand concert by the Concert of the Music of the Air Force
10:30 pm Visit with the band members with after-dinner drinks
11 pm return to Laval.

Tuesday, June 10
9:30 am - Place du Chateau Neuf in Laval, guided tour in English of Old Laval.
10:45 - End of tour
11 am - Vaufleury Cemetery - Ceremony in the square for aviators of the 10th Squadron - religious services - laying of wreaths in their memory.
12 noon - Dining in restaurant for families
2:30 pm - At Entrammes Pear Farm - Inauguration of monument in memory of the crew of Halifax MZ 532. Authorities and Associations present Flags.
3:15 pm - Visit to the Laval Agricultural College (Lycée)
4:30 pm - At Saint Berthevin site, Alain Bridge - Inauguration of the stele in memory of the crew of Halifax MZ 532 - Laying of wreaths. Authorities and Associations Flags.
4:45 pm - Walk to the center of Saint Berthevin to meet for ceremony
7 pm - Visit to the home of the Members of the Association of the French Air Force, followed by a dinner Adieu and presentation of souvenir to Family of crew members.