1944 November – December

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A 283 Nogent, 26th November 1944                                           Georges (Chatet), garage-owner

Dear Friends,

We were very pleased to have news of you through Mrs Holman. In the past four years, we have spoken about you a lot and, at first, we didn’t know what to think and what fate may have befallen you.

Now, at last, all is well and we are all still here. But there have been a lot of deaths and incredible damage in our two countries and still the war is not over. Even though operations are going very well at the moment, the Boches are tough opponents and they will not capitulate.

Our little town of Nogent has also had its share of the war, with air-raids on targets such as railway lines and bridges causing a lot of damage, especially in the vicinity of the station and the rue St Lazare, where there were 13 dead or wounded. The town that has suffered most, La Loupe, was almost completely destroyed.

But what has been very bad for me personally, was on the 10th August last, when the American troops were approaching Nogent and the Boches blew up the bridge with mines, the one over the Rhone, just 200 m down from my garage and everything anywhere near was destroyed – no more roofs or windows, walls full of cracks, floors collapsed. It needs to be completely rebuilt and none of it makes any sense, because the bridge was rebuilt in twenty-four hours.

The following day on the 11th the FFI [Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur = Resistance] fought a pitched battle with the 190-200 Germans still in the town. It was quite a to-do and, in the end, at ten in the evening, the Boches turned tail and Nogent was rid at last of that vermin. The first Americans arrived on the 13th and, after that, the long stream of vehicles. We repaired the roof of our house as best we could but, as for the garage, it’s in a sorry state.

Your house wasn’t touched. But the Boches, who lived in it for a long time, must have taken a lot of things with them.

Our daughter, Denise, has married a man who works at the Caisse d’Epargne (Savings Bank) in Nogent. She is now a Mrs Lhéritier. Genevieve is waiting for a young mechanic to come for her. Mrs Chatet is well, as am I.

At the moment, we have cars everywhere. Everyone would like to drive, but there isn’t much about to repair the engines with, because all the spares have been taken by the Boches. Many cars are driven by charcoal-fuelled generators – is it the same in Britain? I read in a trade journal that the generators that have been adopted in your country were licensed by the diesel company Jobin Poulenc, which is the type I fit for my customers.

We hope that Mr Powell has completely recovered from his operation. We wish you all the best of health and we hope that, next year, we’ll have the pleasure to see you in Nogent-le-Rotrou. Until then, please accept our very good wishes.

Georges

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A 284 Nogent, 12th December 1944             Mrs P.Villette, 54, rue St Hilaire

Dear Miss Nancy,

I had the good news about your family from Madeleine Daupeley and your neighbour Mrs Bruard. We are happy about that and all three of us are safe and well. And, like you, we are very anxious to see the end of this terrible adventure, in which our poor country of France was very nearly destroyed altogether. How inspired you were to go back over the water and rejoin your family. You would have suffered a terrible fate. We have all…and spent four terrible years. What trials and what brutes we had to endure – we were outraged by all that. And despite our material losses and the almost total destruction of our beautiful factory and houses which we owned, we are now breathing again. But we are suffering only from the impossibility of being to start up again, because our poor country has been bled dry and is short of everything – a transport system, equipment and labour. Times are still very, very bad.

Come back to see us. Maybe you haven’t got the confidence to do that. Your country extended a welcome to you and if you have found family, relations and friends again, your parents will take pride in staying in their victorious country, and I understand that.

…in case you want to sell your house, we should like first refusal. A…would like to acquire it with the surrounding land and I can move part of our house in that direction, as it will be sooner or later… in this excessively narrow street.

I would be very happy to hear from you. Please give our best wishes to your parents and our fond memories of them.

Best wishes

Mrs Villette

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A 285 St André, 24th December 1944                                              Marie Béhaegel

Dear Mrs Powell,

On the occasion of the approaching New Year, my husband and I are taking the opportunity to send our very best wishes to you, to Mr Powell and Miss Nancy, and all joy and good health and all things good to you all. We also wish Mrs Moody good health and trust that you may keep her with you for a long time yet. A little late in the day, may we wish you a very Happy Christmas.

I hope that you are in good health at this time. Here the question of health does leave something to be desired. My husband retired about a month ago…he has a tired heart, the doctor says, and he has to have complete rest. In other words, he has a heart complaint.

As for me, I am having treatment for my throat and they can’t say what is wrong with me. The specialist thinks it’s an infection caused by the liver and, in fact, I am going to have a course of injections. However, they don’t think it is anything serious.

The news is still good about Paul, but I have still not seen him, alas! which saddens me.

On top of that, he is still on the front-line in La Rochelle in the Vendée. He doesn’t complain – far from it, you can tell he is young, because he sees things in a positive light: he’s very, very optimistic, has a good character and his morale is good as well. It comes through in all his letters.

I desperately want this terrible scourge to end, so that we can live together as a family again, as we used to. Alas, there will be so much lost that you wonder whether if that will ever be possible again.

Are you thinking of staying in Britain after the war?

We hope to hear from you soon, my dear Mrs Powell. My very best wishes to you, as well as to Mr and Miss Powell and the same to Mrs Moody.

Marie Béhaegel

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A 286 Paris, 29th December 1944                                              Ted Holman

Dear friends,

I was in Nogent when I received your letter. Mother and I were delighted to hear from you and to see that you were all in relatively sound health. I am very pleased that the letter I sent you from Marseilles reached you safely. I also sent two letters via Switzerland, but you probably didn’t receive them.

I believe you have had letters from Mummy, telling you how we are. I am in Paris, in the Lycée Louis le Grand, working as a supervisor (also maintaining discipline) and I am now preparing my law doctorate. Roland has been living with our aunt up to now and he starts work in Le Mans on 3rd January. Mummy is well but she is a little tired. She is especially upset at the news about our poor brother, Stanley, who didn’t have a chance.

We did have air-raids in Nogent during the war, but there was limited damage. My aunt and uncle from T… were in Nogent for Christmas. Both are in good health and T…was spared during the war. We were glad to have news of Vera and her husband, but we have heard nothing of the Currys. I do hope they are all right, but London and its suburbs had a bad time of it.

Just after the invasion and liberation, we saw some English soldiers who told us what old England had been like. I think that you must have had air-raids. I hope that Mr Powell will make a complete recovery, when he learns that the war has ended, which can’t be far off now. I think that you made the right decision to leave for England, because you probably would have ended up in a concentration camp. What a nightmare we have lived through!

In Nogent I saw two English soldiers who also came to Paris one night on leave. They are very nice – what a difference from the Americans.

I hope that you had a good Christmas. Let’s hope that next year we shall be able to celebrate it together in Nogent, just as we did in the past.

Mummy will do what she can about your affairs in Nogent. I walked past your house a few times when I was on holidays – when it was occupied by the Jerries – and I felt like being sick.

I hope to see you soon, because I don’t think that the war with Germany can last very much longer now, after this latest failed attack. It would be a great pleasure for all to see you in Nogent again. Mummy will give you more news of Nogent than I can.

I wish you a New Year full of food, health and happiness. Best wishes to Geoff, who is still keeping well, I hope, and all the best to all the folk at Basingstoke.

Hoping to see you soon, with very best wishes.

Ted.

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