So many questions... Normandy, Arnhem

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by putteesinmyhands, Apr 18, 2009.

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  1. Background:
    20-odd years ago, I threw my girlfriend and some camping kit in the car, crossed the channel (by ferry) and followed the sun. We stopped each day, shortly before nightfall, set up camp, had a few beers and spoke to the locals to see if there was anything worth visiting. If there was, we'd stay for a day or two, otherwise we'd head towards the sun again. Absolutely enjoyed it - planned to have 2 weeks away, but the money lasted 3 and the Firm was very kind in letting me take an extra week's leave at negligible notice.

    I fancied doing something similar this year, but staying in Pensions/auberges etc. (Being a bit older, the tent is somewhat bigger and not the sort of thing that you'd want to use for just overnighting). As the girlfriend is now Mrs Puttees, she also has a 49% say in what we do...

    She seemed to like the idea, but didn't fancy the amount of travelling that we did last time - about 3000 miles - and suggested Normandy. Shocked? I bloody well was! Why would anybody want to visit Normandy other than to... And Mrs Puttees has never really expressed an interest in anything even remotely linked to military history. Further questioning led to her revealing that she had a granddad who, according to family history, is interred there and she would like to see his grave, among the numerous white crosses.

    Now the questions...

    Is there some way that a holiday could be had that will suit us both? She wants to visit the cemetery (don't know where it is) and will probably want to spend a lot of time doing nothing but soaking up UV. I like to root around places, reading inscriptions in detail and trying to discover things that have been overlooked.

    My initial thought is to trace her granddad's route - from landing to his untimely end - to give her a personal interest in what we're doing which, at the same time, will give me an opportunity to rummage.

    To achieve this, I'd need to know what her granddad was doing, who he was doing it with, and where. Can I get this information with her granddad's name and Army number (she tells me that there are members of her family who know this)?

    Given that this may fill her attention span for only a short while, I could play the "my turn" card and trace the path of my own granddad - he threw stuff out of an aeroplane (he was Army), got shot down, repatriated, shot down again near Arnhem and hid from Axis and Allies until he decided it was safe to make a re-appearance (didn't fancy tempting fate a third time). He died a natural death in his late 80's, often reminiscing about his Dutch girlfriend who kept him hidden from both foe and friend...

    Is there a way that I can trace the movements of these grandparents?

    If so, the next instalment will be questions about accommodation, places to visit, etc. Plus, any suggestions of how I can keep Mrs Puttees in a good mood while I'm doing the military tourist stuff?
     
  2. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    How about day on day off sort of thing
    You have a day rooting then take her to the nearest big town for a days shopping and touring then move on

    Get her grandads details from the Commonwealth graves commision
    It should give his number and unit when he died
    Then you should be able to track the unit by doing a bit of digging about

    Try here
    You only need his surnam to start with
    http://www.cwgc.org/debt_of_honour.asp?menuid=14
     
  3. if she likes sun bathing you could stay somewhere by the beach - then if she fancies just lying on the beach for the day you acn toddle off doing military stuff. The beaches there are beautiful. If she won't go to the beach on her own stay somewhere with a pool.

    there was a post somewhere previously about tracing grandparents war records................

    also probably worth contacting RAF museum at Hendon and the Escape Society about your Granddad's story
     
  4. From my experience with the Señora I have found that the best way to do things like this is to alternate travel with looking. So you spend either the morning or afternoon moving and looking for the next place on the list and the rest of the time looking at the bits you want. Pleases the missus as you are not travelling that much, and pleases you as you see different places, albeit not too far away from the last one.

    If you are in Normandy you can let her soak up rays while you pad around looking at the defences and getting an idea of the ground. Also if you have a certain amount of lunch-time calvados then you won't want to move around that much either.
     
  5. If you want to find her grandfather's grave, go to the excellent Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and search the records online. That will tell you which cemetery and probably which unit he served with. (Unless he had a very common name such as John Smith.) Should be quite easy then to work out the unit's progress, either by buying some of the many good battlefield guides or, even simpler, posting on here.
     
  6. Go here:

    http://www.veterans-uk.info/service_records/service_records.html

    to get your grandads' service records; if you're not the NoK, then you probably know the people who are.

    The After the Battle series is great too; I particularly recommend the Arnhem version they (used to) sell at the Hartenstein Museum. You can follow the route into the town centre, looking at the sights as they were. Mrs P. may not find Arnhem so fascinating, unless she likes meeting interesting, friendly Dutch people and drinking beer. The beaches are rubbish.
     
  7. Ord_Sgt

    Ord_Sgt RIP

    With regards to tracing movements at Arnhem, I can help a bit.

    I helped Marco Poloroid take his Dad and a veteran of the liberation around the area last year. One of the things we did was visit a wonderful lady, who's name escapes me, along with her husband, sadly now passed, have made it their lifes work to maintain an archive of all military history in and around Arnhem. The repository is remarkable and something she is spending her final years cataloguing for donation to a museum. A story such as you describe will almost certainly have been recorded there, if only a few details.

    PM Marco and ask for her name, she did say when we left to pass on her details to anyone who might want to trace anything from back then. She would be more than happy to help you out I'm sure.