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My Father's Normandy Story & Paris Welcome - 1944: Military Monday
The following is taken from notes that my father John Weston of Blackpool, Lancashire made on his war experiences.He often talked about them and I am afraid it did provoke the reaction at times of“Not the war again, Dad”.It was only later that we came to realise what a life-defining period it was, and I persuaded him to write an account for his granddaughter, then studying World War Two at school.This is his story.
I served in the RAF Codes & Ciphers Branch and was seconded to General Bradley’s US 12th Army Group HQ.
Just after D-Day we moved to Southampton.There were eight of us, like many more we were in a camp and not allowed outside or to make any phone calls.
We made our way to a little village near a copse – Laval.It had rained heavily and became very humid.In a clearing the GIs had set up trestle tables to hand out meals.We had portioned trays, but the Americans just had billycans to hold the meal of chicken and peaches.There were millions of wasps committing suicide in the fruit juice.
That first night I slept in a PUP tent (one man), but during the night it poured down and around 2a.m. My tent was flooded and my sleeping bag was in two inches of water.There was a lot of thunder and some animals around went berserk.I managed to sort myself out and was on duty the next day at 8a.m.to get our equipment organised.I had a brief time off and went into the village.I saw some small bottles of brandy in a shop – and not much else, so I bought the lot (16 bottles) – they cost around 1/8 (under 10p.) a bottle!
At this time I was getting 200 Chesterfield cigarettes a week, although I did not smoke.With the GIs in khaki and ourselves in blue, we were very conspicuous – more so as we were so few.We also got a jeep and as I was the only one who could drive, apart from the official driver, I used to go into Paris and park by the EiffelTower.Hundreds of Frenchmen gathered there trying to buy cigarettes.
Another time I got a lift into Paris to hear General de Gaulle make a speech at the Place de la Concorde.I was stopped by a Frenchman who said in English “RAF Sir?My name is Joseph Calmy.I was the Shell agent here before the war”.I offered him cigarettes and he then invited me to a building and gave me a bag full of Chanel perfume, toiletries, powder and cream – it lasted Mum for years.I flew back with it when I got some leave in March ‘45.
I needed to get back to Versailles for duty so I went to a gendarme and asked him to stop any car gong that way.He stopped a car that was burning charcoal and we made our way to Versailles, turning down a side street and pulling into a courtyard.I was motioned inside a large house and met the man’s daughter who spoke very good English.She said “My papa wants you to stop and have dinner with us”.We ended up in a café and went through some rush curtains into a back room.In a few minutes a man and a woman came in carrying a bag, which they unloaded to reveal eggs, butter, meat, grapes and champagne.I had a meal of steak with a large bunch of grapes.
When we came to leave it was as if I was walking on air – I floated out of the café!"