1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - North West Europe 1944
VERNON - The River Seine Crossing (25th to 28th August 1944) - Part 9
The Worcestershire men enjoyed a most pleasant stay at Pressagny. For one thing it was unexpected, coming so quickly after the peace of Berjou, and for another, owing to the speed of the advance from the bridgehead, it lasted much longer than anyone had hoped; the weather was mainly good, accommodation was adequate, and the people, from Monsieur le General (retired) to the local baker, were quite delightful and hospitality itself. They could not, it seemed, do enough for their liberators, and everyone from the Commanding Officer downwards was showered with gifts, invitations and expressions of gratitude and goodwill with embarrassing profusion.
After two nights in the positions taken over from their predecessors, the Companies moved into the houses in the village and at once every soldier, or group of soldiers, seemed to become some French family’s personal responsibility. French youths swarmed around and clamoured to be allowed to join the British Forces. Some were taken on unofficially and were given rifles and battle-dress to wear, to their immense delight and to the envy of their less fortunate brethren. It was before the Battalion left there that the French Government began recruiting, so none of these stalwart volunteers actually served with us, except in their native village.
On the 2nd September the Padre (Capt. Spiers, C.F.) held a voluntary but well-attended Church Parade in the garden of Battalion Headquarters, and on the following day the Battalion marched to Panilleuse where, with the other two Battalions of the Brigade, it received an address from the Divisional Commander. He revealed the details of the previous operation and congratulated all ranks on the part they had played. He afterwards held an investiture at which the citations of Major A. J. Gutch (M.C.) and Sergt. Stupple (M.M.) were read through. Neither was present to receive the award, Major Gutch having been wounded at Mouen and Sergt. Stupple at Mount Pinçon.
But this was not the only ceremony. Back at Pressagny the villagers, headed by M. le Maire, requested a Liberation Thanksgiving Service at the village War Memorial. Accordingly, at about 10.30 hours one morning, the Battalion and the villagers assembled there. The villagers sang the Marseillaise, and the Battalion, God Save The King.
Captain William Spiers
The Mayor made a speech with much eloquence, tears and many extravagant gestures, to which the Commanding Officer replied in French. He was thereupon presented with a large bouquet, which, looking somewhat nonplussed, he handed to Captain Noel Watkins (Second-in-Command of “B” Company) whilst he took the salute.
The service terminated with much handshaking, tear shedding and rich expressions of mutual esteem.
Officers at Pressagny L’Orgueilleux, France with the Robineau family
Back standing L to R: Capt. Jock Bannister, Young Girl, Michelle Robineau
Standing L to R: Lt. Freddie Coulcher, Mr Robineau, Maj. Bill Broome, Mrs Robineau, Lt.-Col. Robert Osborne-Smith, Miss Robineau, Mrs. Robineau,
Mrs Robineau, Maj. Algy Grubb, Mr Robineau
Front seated L to R: Capt. Bryan Elder, Capt. Peter Gray, Capt. Robert Duff-Chalmers, Mr. Robineau
* * * * *
Other features of Battalions stay there were the “Liberty Trips” to Paris, bathing in the Seine and the arrival of substantial reinforcements from 59th Division, which was being disbanded. The men were almost exclusively Staffordshires and the officers included Major W. H. Broom (killed-in-action just a month later at Elst, Holland), Lieut. R. H. Jauncey, Lieut. (afterwards Capt.) J. M. Lyons, and Lieut. (later Capt.) P. E. Gray. Lieut. N. T. Richards and Lieut. P. G. Hall also rejoined the Battalion after having received treatment for wounds sustained earlier in Normandy.
Lieut. Johnnie Davies (7 Platoon, ‘A’ Company) recalls:
“Lieut. Fiset, a fellow Canadian Loan Officer, and myself decided to visit Paris. Fiset managed to get hold of the company motorcycle and with me as pillion passenger we raced off to Paris. Paris had already been liberated by the Americans and when we arrived the streets were full of people celebrating. As we rode up the Champs Elysees, Fiset had to swerve suddenly to avoid hitting a woman; he hit the kerb and crashed the motorcycle. I was lucky to escape with just a few cuts and bruises, but Fiset had a broken leg. Instead of having a good time in Paris, I spent my time contacting the American forces in order to get medical help for Fiset. After this I managed to get a lift back to the Battalion at Pressagny L’Orgueilleux, leaving Fiset with the Americans in Paris. On returning I had some explaining to do arriving back minus my fellow Canadian officer and the company motorcycle!!”
Lieut. Henri Paul Fiset was evacuated on the 3rd September 1944. He did not return to the Battalion.
Lieut. J. M. Lyons
Extract taken from the Berrows & Worcester Journal,
dated Saturday 3rd February 1945.
On the 14th September orders were received for a quick move into Belgium, and at 07.00 hours on the following day the men bade a very sad farewell to Pressagny L’Orgueilleux and took the road once more.
Private Peter Mann (12 Platoon, ‘B’ Company) recalls:
“During our stay at Pressagny L’Orgueilleux we were amused by a captured German news sheet which referred to the men of the 43rd Wessex Division as ‘Yellow Devils, men to be feared’. Looking around at our young men it didn’t seem an apt description.”
Private P. Mann
Captain Jock Bannister, Captain Robert Duff-Chalmers, Lieut. Roy Humphreys, Major Bill Broome at Pressagny L’Orgueilleux
HQ Signals - at Pressagny L’Orgueilleux
Signal Platoon, 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Pressagny L’Orgueilleux