Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Chronopost are doing my head in!

The pace of life here is slow, but it almost comes to a stop when you are waiting for a delivery from Chronopost.   We waited in all day Saturday because our parcel ordered from Amazon France was supposed to be delivered between 9.30 and 18.00, guess what ?   It didn't turn up.   Fast forward to Tuesday (Monday here was the last of three bank holidays this month) and we check online to find that they "tried to deliver but there was no reply" at 9.30 on Saturday morning.   Rubbish! Poppycock! and several other words that are considerably stronger!!!   We were here at 9.30 Saturday morning and no-one even attempted to deliver.   This is not the first time we have had this problem and should we be stupid enough to use a company that uses Chronopost, it won't be the last time either.   The drivers for that company are bone-idle and if they can't find the address, they return the parcel with "no reply" to the depot, who then attempt to send it out again.   They were supposed to deliver today (Wednesday) between 09.30 and 13.30 Nothing. Nada. Rien...  Bet you anything the system will show that they tried to deliver and didn't get a reply.   So I have issued a big note to self....AVOID CHRONOPOST LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!!!!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Graignes D-Day 70th Commemorations 2014

Here are last year's commemorations in Graignes.

They started with a BBQ in the back garden

We were joined by a C-47 practising its fly past (which was to be part of the official ceremony)

We meet the Australian Federation Guard in a field near the memorial!

The C-47 dropped some parachutists (the first to drop over Graignes for 70 years)

The memorial plaque was covered in readiness for the unveiling.

The great and the good were there and speeches were made.

The veterans

Representatives of the German, American, Australian and Dutch military with Mr D Small, Mayor of Graignes-Mesnil Angot



I even read the English version of the mayor's speech! (I'd lost my voice so it was touch and go!)

Monsieur Denis Small - Mayor of Graignes-Mesnil Angot

The Colonel Frank Naughton's family unveiled the new memorial - they worked hard collating the all the names

The wreath laying was poignant
(Elissa and Flt Lt Mark Schmidt AFG)

The children from the local school laid their floral tributes

After the ceremony there was a "Vin d'honneur" laid on by the village and hosted by AFASEC Jockey School during which there was another parachute jump

6th June D-Day 70th Anniversary.

The 71st anniversary of the D-Day landing is fast approaching and it would be remiss of me not to mark it.   However, I have yet to write about the 70th, for no other reason than they were some of the most amazing days of my life and I wanted to really do justice to them!!!    

Way back at the beginning of 2013, when I was at my absolute lowest and thinking of jacking it all in here and going back to the UK, the French equivalent of the parish newsletter arrived in my letterbox.   On its back-page was an article about an RAAF airman who had baled out of his aircraft and later joined the US forces that had been miss dropped in our village.

I was well acquainted with the story of the miss dropped paratroopers and my family have been to every memorial service held since we arrived here.

What did baffle me was the fact that this airman's name did not feature on the memorial plaque installed in the old church.  So I went to see our local mayor to pose this very question in the most diplomatic way possible.

Our mayor, Denis Small, is a passionate historian and there is little he does not know about what occurred in our little corner of Normandy.  He told me all he knew about this particular airman and what happened after completely changed my life...

Flight Sergeant Stanley Kevin Black (that was his name), was born in Australia on 12 March 1923 and joined up on 19 June 1942.   He was trained initially in Australia before being sent to the UK in May 1943 arriving some two months later in July of the same year.

Our floral tribute to Stanley K Black
He ended up as a bomb aimer on with 106 Squadron flying out of RAF Metheringham.   On the night of the 6/7th June his squadron were tasked with the bombing of bridges in Caen, his aircraft was hit on the way back and crashed on the outskirts of St Jean de Daye near Graignes but not before he was able to bale out.   He was rescued by a local farmer and taken to the American paratroopers that had landed on the 6th June in Graignes, he fought alongside the paratroopers and died defending the village from the Germans.

This amazing information was gleaned from the National Archives of Australia, who have digitized their records and put them on-line for all to see.   For which I, for one, am eternally grateful.   But I would never have found them with out the lateral thinking of John Shipton who found Stan on line in a few clicks!!

John and I gathered the salient information from the website and I made another appointment to see our mayor to give him some more background to the story he had uncovered. Mr Small then gave me a copy of a local newspaper article dated August 1945 which told of the “man that fell from the sky” and told me that the family of Colonel Frank Naughton, of one of the key survivors of our local story, were in the process of collating the names of those who had died in Graignes and that a new plaque in their memory was to be unveiled for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Shortly after my meeting in May 2013 we were commemorating the 69th anniversary of the D-Day landings and made our way to the Commonwealth Cemetery in Bayeux where the Normandy Veterans Association had organised a memorial service. We found Stan's grave and left a poppy cross.

During the summer of 2013 I found out more information about Stan and what happened to him. I posted some questions on a couple of military forums dealing with the RAF and it was there that I “met” Graham Roberts. He had, serendipitously, been at the cemetery in Bayeux at the same time as me and had seen the poppy cross and he was also a veteran of the RAAF . We started to communicate via email and resolved to try and track down the relatives of Stan.
In early 2014 and I had a “Miss Marple” moment where I had found some newspaper announcements from the Melbourne Argus from the late 1940's from Stan's father and siblings, one of whom was his sister Jean Caffyn and his nephew John. Graham, who lives in Adelaide then tracked down John Caffyn in Melbourne by using the good old phone directory and got lucky first time!

Graham explained the reason behind his phone call and events snowballed from there. I exchanged several emails with John Caffyn when, out of the blue, I received an email from Elissa Liggins, John's daughter (and Stan's Great-Niece), expressing a desire to fly over from Australia to be at the memorial.

So in June 2014, Elissa and Graham and his wife Lorraine came over from Australia and were joined by Elissa's friend Clare.
The Australian Embassy issued us all with invites to the official ceremony at the War Cemetery in Bayeux and confirmed that a contingent of the Australian Federation Guard would attend our annual commemoration ceremony in Graignes on the 7th June. We meet up with the AFG at Bayeux Cathedral on the 5th organised the elusive car passes (another story I won't bore you with) and looked forward to the ceremonies to come.

Elissa, Isabelle and Clare

With the pass securely stuck to the windscreen of our car we all piled in and tried to get over to Bayeux. This was no mean feat as all the roads between Isigny-sur-Mer and Caen were closed to all traffic except those cars with stickers. We approached the N13 which was blocked by Gendarmes and showed our passes and we were off! The N13 on most days is relatively quiet but on the morning of the 6th June 2014 we were the only ones on the road, we felt like royalty!

We arrived at Bayeux, parked and walked to the ceremony, encountering many veterans and their carers who had made the journey back to Normandy to remember their friends and comrades that didn't. We located Stan's grave and bumped into some members of the Australian Press who were there covering the visit of some Australian veterans and the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. We recounted Stan's story and they filmed Elissa paying her respects at Stan's grave.   She even got on Channel Seven news!!

After the memorial there was the most amazing, moving and memorable fly past of the Memorial Flight Lancaster and two Spitfires, just watching it brought tears to my eyes and gave me goose bumps, what a sight it must have been watching squadrons of them flying over head night after night.

Fly Past

We had lunch at a lovely restaurant in Port en Bessin and then made our way home via the coast road negotiating our way through the vintage vehicles that crowd the lanes, it was spectacular.

From back row left to right;
Lorraine, Isabelle, Me, John and Jacob
In front; Graeme, Clare and Louis

Then we went home to Graignes to reminisce and prepare for the next day and the village ceremony honouring Stan and the rest of the soldiers that died here.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Bells! The Bells!

I have just seen an article on BBC Breakfast News about the bells in Ashwell Church in Hertfordshire being silenced due to complaints about the continuous ringing on the quarter hour all through the day.  

Apparently they ring on the hour and chime the different quarter hours and have done so for the last one hundred and twenty years.   They underwent some renovation and were silent for about two years, when they were re-installed some people complained about the noise and North Hertfordshire County Council issued a noise abatement order silencing the quarter hour chimes from 23h00-07h00 but allowing the hourly chime.   

Thankfully a white knight has come to the rescue and has installed a muffling system to the bells thus reducing their tintinnabulation (love that word and have wanted to use it for sooooo long!!!!!) to a moderate level.   


Would you by a house near a railway line and complain about the trains?   Or what about an airport?   Some people are beyond belief!!!

Yours sincerely


Monday, 18 May 2015

France is on the cutting edge of science (LOL!!)

It's official, France is on the cutting edge of science, so much so that it has already filtered down to all the municipal workers and those contracted to work for the government, be it at a commune or a departmental level.   The science field they are excelling in?   Noetic Science!!!   The science whereby the mind creates the outcome (literally mind over matter).   How else can you explain the phenomena where one can pass a group of five workmen at 9.45am looking at a virgin piece of un-excavated road only to find that seven "workers" (I use this word advisedly!) were there an hour and half later with no discernible progress.   So one can only assume that instead of using the time honoured methods and machinery honed over decades, they have adopted the scientific mantle and are willing the hole to appear rather than digging at it!!