Yesterday in decluttering my personal office I found a Canadian newspaper”the Toronto star” of Saturday,December 29,2001 in which I was pictured . Here is the story:
An old letter in a wallet .
In 1944 an intrepid 11 years old french boy welcomed with enthusiasm the Canadian army freeing the north – west coast of France where he lived . A gun battery located no far from his family home shot at the Cap Gris Nez , fortress where the Germans resisted . He wanted to participate , to have a comrade soldier and to live like a little soldier among the guns . He succeeded and he was proud to have a grand protective comrade . Then the Canadiens left for Holland . He was sad . A correspondence has been after the war until 1948 . But his last letter had not answer .
The Canadien soldier had kept this last letter in his wallet and at the spring … 2000 he asked his children to try to find the ” young ” French . They did and found him . A regular correspondence via the Internet during 1 1/2 year with the soldier ‘ s eldest daughter allowed to find again the friendship links in the new context , 56 years later .
At the end od December 2001 the ancient boy of 1944 crossed the Atlantic Ocean in order to be there at the canadian soldier ‘ s 60th wedding anniversary at the eve of New Year . It was a huge surprise for him orchestrated by his daughters . The two comrades ” in arms ” found again each other through in an inexpressible emotion .
The young boy of 1944 , it was me .
- I had a comrade ….
In 1944 I was 11 years old and I lived in Marquise , little town situated between Boulogne – sur – Mer and Calais near France ‘ s northwest coast and particularly near the Cape Griz – Nez transformed by Germans in a dangerous fortress threatening Britain with big guns . My father was a worker in a factory and my mother remained at home , what it was frequent at this time . I was the only one child of the family .
During the War the school was occuped by germans , so we went to the elementary school half every day in a little house . With my friends we had a half – wild life and we played in the grazings differents kinds of games often warrior games . We did not like Germans at this time . Not only they were the envaders but they appropriated all goods . We had nothing . Very little to eat . My mother Marthe had to make clothes , sometimes bread and even…soap ! My father Emile resoled shoes with bits of old tires . Fortunatly he had a friend , farmer in a next village . He helped him during his short holidays at the fields works and at the harvest ( works with horses ) . So we got some potatoes , pork , eggs and butter but not too much . My father was not a soldier . He had been called to remain in his factory which made arming and shells , if I well remember . He had not given his gun and his radio post as the Germans asked . So we listened to BBC ( British radio ) in French every night during all the war what it was strictly not allowed by Germans with the risk to be deported in Germany .
May and June 1944 were terrible months . Americans and Englishmen bombed huge areas all around us . The town of Boulogne – sur – mer was completely destroyed . Allied hoped that Germans would think the landing of american, english and canadian forces would have here , in north . Besides , Germans were building very important tubes under chalk hills in a village near Marquise called Landrethun in order to shoot missiles at England , especially at London . So , many big american bomber planes that we called ” flying fortress ” always bombed the Landrethun ‘ s area . American planes always were staying high in the sky to avoid the German anti – aircraft defence and threw their bombs moreless approximatively . One of them reached the objective from time to time but they reached anything else . My grand parents lived in Landrethun .
One night my grand parents and their three last children heard the planes come in . They got up immediately and ran away to the shelter they had dug in the garden to about 25 meters from the house . As soon as they were in , they heard a terrible thunder . They were frightened to death . My youngest aunt ( Yolande ) went out of the shelter when the quietness was restored and shouted : ” Mom ! we have no more house ! There is nothing more ! ” At the place of the house there was a huge crater . The bomb was just fallen on the bedroom where they were just before . No more house , neither furnitures nor clothes ! Nothing ! At the far end of the house the roof of the cowshed was fallen on the four cows that were crying , their spinal column was broken . Germans brought them for butchery . My grand father became sick and died the next year .
My father built with other people a kind of ” cottage ” for them, in reality a shack containing only one big room with wood taken up from german positions . Germans indeed were more and more running away but not all of them . The Cape Gris – Nez remained a dangerous fortress where they resisted . And , at last , the canadian army arrived in Marquise ( September 1944 ) . French people were in the streets congratulating the soldiers and fraternizing wih them . But , as soon as Canadiens were there , german guns , turned inland , shot us from the Cape Griz Nez . Peace was not there yet .
The canadian artillery arrived and shot the Cape Gris nez . A battery was at the end of the street where my grand parents lived in Landrethun . I used to drive my bicycle from Marquise to Landrethun where my father built a shack for my grand parents and since the canadian battery was nearby I always was with the soldiers and looked at how the guns were working . At this time I was an intrepid boy probably . I was proud to be among these soldiers who freed us and fought against ennemy for us . I had the impression to participate . I wanted to have a friend among these soldiers . I was a little the troop ‘ s kid . Quickly I fraternized with Douglas . He was kind and protected me strictly because I was not very prudent and even not at all . He was a straight man and I felt that . I don’ t remember how we understood each other since I had not learned English yet and he had some remembrances only about French . Some words were sufficient probably . He was my comrade soldier that I was happy and proud to get . I wonder now how I could enter the battery . I asked someone ” Is Dougles there ? ” . If he was there I entered and wandered in the camp . From time to time we talked . We talked about the war ( I was informed ) , about his wife and also my family .
My parents invited Douglas for a meal at home in Marquise .I took him at his battery in landrethun and we walked and rode in bicycle along a lane between big marble quarries . My parents had put on the table a dusty bottle of wine to honour him . I wondered where they have had this bottle since we had nothing . I think it was a bottle remaining from my first Holy Communion Day in previous June . It must be carefully hidden .
One day I went to Landrethun . The battery was gone and also my comrade .
56 years later .
After the sudden departure of the canadian battery in 1944 ( see the precedent entry ) I felt sadness and emptyness . My father took pictures of me at the places where I used to talk with Douglas . I held a placard where his name was written , a child ‘ s idea to mark his presence . I sent those pictures to his address in Toronto ( Ontario ) in Canada . There was a correspondence but the answers were unfrequent and stopped in 1947 .
Then life undertook to busy me with studies , again studies , always studies , military service including a part of Algerian war , marriage , heavier and heavier activities in teaching , six children . In September 1994 I was retired and I have not seen time running away . Now , the young boy of 1944 was become the root of a family containing 23 persons . Family , gardening , music , spirituality took a large place in my retired gentleman ‘ s life .
One day , on the 22 May 2000 I received a letter from the Douglas ‘ eldest son : ” My name is Mike Bible and I am a teacher in Canada . I am trying to locate the Michel Fauquet who used to live in Marquise ( Pas de Calais , France ) a long time ago . My father Douglas B …. met him and his family when he was in France near the end of the second world war . If you are that Michel , please email me and let me know or write a letter to the adress below ….. “ .
What a choc ! Suddenly I was caught again by my youth , by an almost disappeared world , by the History ! It was vertiginous . What it was latent at the bottom of my memory brusquely lived again like the old pictures of 1944 at the botton of their wooden chest . I saw again all things . I had forgotten nothing . Douglas was well present in my memory . He had contributed with my parents and others at the construction of my personality . How would I have been able to forget him ? I wondered why he had been waiting for 56 years to search me . But for him also , life should have been very busy .
Whatever it was a wonderful story . So , as soon as I answered by e.mail to the eldest son in sending the same famous pictures sent at the war II end . But I specified I was not good in English language and I heard very badly the spoken English . Then I was very surprised to have to wait again about three months before to have an answer . I began to wonder . I wondered also how to do for re – etablishing links between two personalities who had been so much evoluting during more an half – century . Fortunatly in August 2000 an energetic woman , the Douglas ‘ eldest daughter , Lynn , handled the situation .
Friendship always was there .
…….Her brother Mike left for Bogota and her father Douglas being a bad writer , Lynn decided to handle the situation . On the 13 th of August 2000 she sent me an e.mail that began a correspondence over one year and half . We learned each other the Douglas ‘ family life and the mine . At Christmas 2000 we exchanged videotapes of the feast in the two families .
During the year 2001 Beverly , the Douglas ‘ wife had to remain 6 months at the hospital after a surgery . After the operation the situation became very serious with unpredictable consequences . During this critical phase Lynn and even her husband Wayne kept me informed by a daily e.mail as for a family member . Step by step I felt myself in solidarity with this family so well gathered around their parents .
At the Eve of the New Year 2002 it was their 60 th wedding anniversary . Fortunatly Beverly was healed . Lynn suggested to me to come . I accepted . The surprise was revealed to Douglas only at Christmas . ” Michel will arrive in two days , on the 27th of December ” . What a surprise ! And what a surprise also to see Toronto Star ‘ reporter and cameraman that were waiting for my arrival at the Toronto airport to relate in their newspaper the meeting between a canadian Vet and the French boy he knew in France in 1944 . The newspaper ‘ s picture will show very well the spontaneity of the meeting .
I was welcomed by Lynn and Wayne and by other family members like a choosen brother held in great affection with also some friendly taisings ( practice of cooking , of …crocheting ! ! ! Horror ! I am completely unable for this last activity in spite of the efforts of my terrible teacher Lynn )
What about my relation with Douglas and his wife Beverly ? After a correspondence over a year and half I knew the Douglas 2001 and him knew I was no more the boy of 1944 but a mature man at least . However the incredible thing arrived . I felt inside for him , and also his wife now , the same franck friendship mixed with respect as in 1944 . Although tens of years were passed we talked and acted in the same way as if we had left yesterday .
Time had been abolished . Friendship was there : permanent , unalterable
Unfortunately Dougles died in 2007 and hs wife Beverly a few time after. But the memory always is alive . And his daughter Lynn keeps in touch regularly /