A 300 Nogent-le-Rotrou, 5th June 1945 from Madeleine (Daupeley)
We were very pleased to receive your last letter, but very saddened by the news it brought. Actually, it’s a very sad coincidence that a young Frenchman you used to know has just died near us. In fact, in the few days prior to the liberation of Nogent, there was a lot of aerial fighting and skirmishes overhead. It was precisely then that this terrible accident occurred. One Sunday, when we were in a little lane near our hiding place, we were watching a dog-fight and we would have seen the plane of the young man you know.
So we went to Brunelles. His grave is well looked after, perhaps better than any other in the graveyard. There are geraniums all around. On a cross with a French flag over it, there’s a plaque with English words on it, which just says: “To our unknown liberator”.
I placed some flowers on it on your behalf and, as soon as I can get some forget-me-nots (they’re out of season at the moment), I shall plant some on the grave. You can rely on your friend to do that. Before that, we’ll go again to put some more flowers on the grave.
After making this respectful pilgrimage, we went to see the priest who told us about the aerial battle. When the body was first found and buried, it was thought that it was a British pilot. The church was too small to hold the large crowd which had come to pay its last respects to this brave pilot, and the same evening, in the presbytery letter box, the priest found an envelope with a certain sum of money in it to pay for a number of masses to be celebrated. This brave and worthy priest remembers you well and he wanted you to be assured that this grave had been looked after.
We then went to see the remains of the airplane, which are still where the plane crashed, about 1 km from Brunelles. Only the wings are still there – all the rest had been burnt out. We did manage to find a few pieces of cloth and I am sending you a sample. It’s not much, but I thought that your friend might be pleased to have a final memento of your French friend. We also brought back a few fragments of the plane, but unfortunately I cannot get them to you at the moment.
As we looked at these sorry remains of the plane, we thought that a few hours before he took off on this mission, the young flier was perhaps with you and that brought a lump to our throats. The German plane that brought down the Spitfire was also hit and crashed. Its pilot was captured by the French, because the Germans were already leaving the country. Mrs Leplanq hasn’t written to me, but she has agreed to warn the priest when she wants to come and see her son’s grave. The parish priest will then send her a car and she can stay at the presbytery at Brunelles. I am at her disposal when she comes and you can be sure that I will help her in each and every way I can. I’ll write to her anyway to tell her that.
Tomorrow it’s Jacques Mauduit’s funeral. A week ago he had come back from the infamous Belsen concentration camp. He was in a dreadful state and all the medical care lavished on him did not keep him alive. This poor young man had been forced to load dead bodies into the ovens for cremation. It’s ghastly when you think of the sufferings of all those deported persons. I know we think about German cruelty, but cruelty of that kind is completely unimaginable.
We were also very upset by the sad news of your cousin. (Col Frank Leland killed in action 1st April 1945. Husband of Nancy’s cousin Violet). It’s awful to die in that way after having gone right through the war. We are really sorry for your cousin and her children. Now is when we are hearing all this bad news and so many unhappy events are taking the edge off our joy at overcoming the enemy.
Here we celebrated victory in a calm and sober way. Obviously, it’s wonderful to see this war come to an end, but there are still so many problems to solve, and misfortunes to deal with, that we cannot really be completely happy.
The problems of food supplies is becoming very difficult. We are rationed to 100 gr of meat every two weeks and, in the country, you can’t get anything. The other day I bought some meat product (I never buy this kind of thing), but Jacques was really hungry and he got food poisoning and was very, very ill. The meat product was made with unhealthy, diseased animals. I shan’t be buying that again. But we are starting to get really fed up with potatoes. There is an incredible black market and, as long as there is, there is no chance of getting more, or better, food.
We hope that you will obtain your visa to come to France this summer. We would love to see you again and, if I haven’t said so already, we would be very happy to put you up.
Our best wishes to your parents and our very best wishes to you.