Rene Jeanne Olinger was a teenager in the Summer of 1944 spending a short holiday in Thury harcourt when the Allies landed.
Rene came in contact with the NVA Chester and Wirral Branch at the 50th Anniversary in 1994 and wanted to share her account with them and offer her sincere thanks to the boys who came to drive the Germans out of France at last.
Along with my older sister and a girl friend of ours, I arrived at the country village 30km away from Caen called Thury-Harcourt where we would spend this well deserved break. We were staying with family friends and had so many fun projects to occupy us during those few days; swimming and camping on the river Orne, helping a farmer with the cherry harvesting (our reward being to eat as many cherries as we could manage!), walking through the forest and finding mushrooms and flowers!
The first day was wonderful. Tired and happy, we went to bed hoping for a good night’s rest and another beautiful day tomorrow. Suddenly we are woken by the noise of a strong bombardment far away, we thought perhaps in Caen. The noise became louder and louder and seemed it would never stop.
Over Caen the sky was red, and we could hear different kinds of shooting becoming louder as it got nearer to us. Slowly we started to realise that it was not like the normal bombardments we were used to. We began to wonder whether it last it could be the Allies landing?
Despite our worries, a feeling of happiness and hope filled our hearts and minds, at last to finish this long and terrible war, peace seemed within reach.
Alas, we could not imagine what high price we would all pay for this liberty. How many victims and what suffering it would require.
They said the town was completely bombed out, standing in fire. The smoke was so thick one couldn’t breathe and there were already a few ten thousand victims. Yes, it seemed the Allied troops had landed, but they were in a terrible situation and with heavy losses they were ready to turn back! What were we to believe?
We all worried so much. In the afternoon the German ambulances returned from Caen, passed through Thury-Harcourt, filled with wounded soldiers, with the dead piled up on top of each other on the roofs. Blood was running all around, it was a vision of absolute horror.
Later that evening Thury-Harcourt underwent its first bombardment which went on through the night. People decided to leave the village. We ran to the railway tunnel thinking we would be safe there. And as luck would have it, there were two railway wagons there so we could settle down and shelter for the night. We had no idea how long we would have to stay there or what the future would bring for us.
As long as we live, the day of June 6th 1944 will be present in our minds.
It was over a week later that our Father came to see us on his bicycle, since the Germans had commandeered all his lorries. We then spent many days in the crypt of the Cathedral.
We teenagers who lived through those days of the invasion in the Summer of 1944 witnessed all the carnage, and will never forget what those men did for us. We will always be grateful and I want to say a big thank you to all the Normandy Veterans from a French teenager (perhaps no longer!) who owes them so much.