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Normandy August, 7 - September,1,1944
The Battle of Normandy is often popularly thought of as being just the D-DayLandings, on June 6, 1944. It was in fact a very long period of violent and continuous fighting which lasted until the end of August. The hardest and bloodiest battles took place between June 10 and the end of August. The invasion of France involved the landing on the Norman beaches of about 2,500,000 men between June 6 and August 20, 1944.
On the first day alone, 136,000 men were landed and the flood was going to continue for two and a half months. The 'Brigade Piron' was landed in the very first days of August, at the same time as the Dutch Brigade 'Princes Irene' of Col de RUYTER van STEVENICK, the 2nd French Armoured Division, known as 'Division Leclerc', the Polish Armoured Division of Gen MACZEK and the Czecho-Slovak Armoured Brigade of Gen LISKA.
Organized into three independent company-sized 'Motorised Units' (each able to be self-supporting, having integral motor transport, antitank guns, mortars, antiaircraft guns and machine guns), the Brigade had an appropriate quantity of supporting services in the form of an Artillery Battery, an Armoured Car Squadron, an Engineer Company and a Supply Company, carrying the indispensable baggage vital to an independent operation. The British tasked the First Belgian Group (align with the Dutch Group) with the pursuit of enemy elements along the Norman coast, from the canal of the Orne to the Seine River on the left flank of the entire Allied Army in Normandy - a ask to which the Belgians and Dutch, with their high degree of mobility and independent capability, were ideally suited.
July 31, 1944 in the evening, a group comprised of elements of each Motorised Unit (Section of Lt THUMAS - 3rd MU, Section of Lt ROGGE - 2nd MU and Section of Lt LUYCKX - 1st MU) embarks on a Landing Ship Tank ('LST') in Tilbury. They cross the Channel and land in the port of Arromanches (made famous as on D-Day as 'Gold Beach'). These men are an Advance Party to prepare for the arrival of the Group.
On August 2, Captain DIDISHEIM (intelligence officer) and Captain HOWELL (Artillery Battery), accompanied by thirteen men leave England by plane. At 1130hrs., they land in Amblie, an RAF forward airfield situated about 10 kilometres South of Courseulles and adjacent to the 1st Canadian Army's Staff. They have a reconnaissance and liaison mission.
On August 3, the Brigade leaves its camp at Newmarket to go to Tilbury Docks.
August 4, the 500 vehicles of the 1st Belgian Group are loaded and the 2,200 men embark aboard fourLiberty Ships(the Gladstone, the Paul Benjamin, the Henry Austin and the Finlay). In the evening, the vessels sail and join the convoy which is forming off Whitstable, in the Thames' estuary.
On August 6 at 0815hrs, the convoy leaves the port.
August 7 at about 1000hrs, the moment so longed for by the Belgian Group's soldiers finally arrives; the landing of the Group begins in Arromanches for vehicles, and in Courseulles for the men.
"Here took place an incident which it is necessary to me to tell. I had as my Aide-de-Camp, one Captain-Commandant Georges HOUBION. He had joined in England at the beginning of 1942, having undergone a long captivity in the Spanish gaols and the camp of MIRANDA DE EBRO. His health had been sorely shaken there, though it affected not at all his constant cheerfulness and enthusiasm. The Landing Craft's ramp had hardly been lowered, when he jumped into the water to wade through the final metres which separated him from the shore. There, he knelt down, took up a handful of sand and kissed it ardently. This spectacular gesture could seem to be ridiculous, though none of us thought however of laughing at it, so well did he express what we all felt. We found, on this beach of friendly France, a land so close to our own. We had been away for such long months, with the hope, now finally satisfied, to participate one day in its liberation.
(Jean Piron " Souvenirs").
Hardly had the Group landed when a long column formed. The Brigade soon marched off and arrived during night at Douvres-la-Délivrande and Plumetot where it settled down in bivouac. The staff spends the night in Ranville castle.
On August 8 at dawn, the Belgian Group is placed under the command of the British 6th Airborne Division of Major General Roy GALE which itself is part of the British I Corps of Lieutenant General CROCKER, which in turn is part of the 1st Canadian Army (General CRERAR). Colonel PIRON gets in touch with the 6th Airborne Division's HQ which is dug into lime quarries on the right bank of the Orne River. The first mission of the Belgians is to be the reserve of the division, positioned on the left bank of the Orne. The vehicles of the Brigade Train are extremely welcome and are soon in action, transporting British and Canadian paratroops towards Pont-l'Evèque.
On August 9 in the evening, the Group relieves the 5th British Special Service (Commando) Brigade. In front of them, are the German 272nd, 711th and 346th Infantry Divisions and elements of the élite 12th SS Panzer Division 'Hitlerjügend'.
The trains of the Group are bivouacked in quarries near the Orne Canal and River Bridges (now famous as 'Pegasus' and 'Horsa' Bridge respectively). The staff settle down in Hauger's town hall. Forward, the three Motorized Units are deployed along the front line, with their left flank resting upon the swamps which line the estuary of the Orne. The Engineer Coy and the Armoured Car Squadron are in reserve. The Artillery Battery is deployed on the left bank of the canal.
For the next two days they send out reconnaissance patrols. The Engineers emplace themselves in Amfréville.
On August 13, the Group is in contact with the enemy in front of the villages of Sallenelles and Hauger. The 1st Unit (Major WINTERGROEN) is pressed to the right on Amfréville, in contact with the 12th Devonshires (6th Airlanding Brigade) on their right. The 3rd Unit (Major NOWE) has its left flank resting on the Orne estuary. A part of the 3rd Unit is deployed forward at the entrance of Sallenelles, level with the school. The 2nd MU is in the centre, to the South of the road which leads towards Franceville. The border of the village is still in the Germans' hands. All the region is continually observed by the enemy as they still occupy the dominant feature - the infamous Merville Battery (which was the scene of a very bloody raid by 9 Para on the dawn of D-Day). Approximately one kilometre to the rear, the Armoured Car Squadron is in reserve in the limestone quarries of La Basse Écarde. Lieutenant Colonel DERIDDER (the Artillery Battery) moves his position over the Orne to a position near Haute-Longueville (north of Ranville) and there redeploys his guns. The Brigade Train bivouacs along the river. The staff is settled in the City Hall of Hauger. Commandant PONCELET, the Brigade Chief of Staff, unfolds his maps in the property of the FABRE in Hauger. In the least uncomfortable room, Private LEBRECHT (Colonel PIRON's driver) unfolds his boss's campbed. Nearby, the Engineers are bivouacked in reserve in an orchard.
The Artillery Battery bombards German positions for five days.
August 14, Belgian patrols encounter German patrols in the road from Sallenelles to Grande Ferme du Buisson (to the southeast). A grenade detonates next to Lieutenant Georges VAN DER VEEN (commander of the 5th Section of the 2nd MU) and he is seriously wounded.
An enemy patrol infiltrates between the 12th Devonshires and the 1st Unit. Lieutenant Jacques WANTY (2nd Section of the 1st MU) (testimony)receives a bullet in the shoulder while Sgt DEWANDEZ is evacuated to the field hospital. In the 3rd MU, the young Private BASTIN, wounded during a patrol, is captured by Germans. He remains a prisoner for some days but manages to give them the slip and returns to his own lines. The first German prisoners are taken by the Brigade.
The HQ of the 2nd Unit emplaced in one Mr LAVALLEE's house receives a German salvo. A Mr MAUBER's house also takes a blow on the same evening.
The days of August 15 and 16, the Belgian troops are subjected to numerous mortar 'stonks' and suffer their first losses. For Private Edouard GÉRARD (5th Section, 3rd MU), Doctor GOLDBLATT can do nothing more … Sadly, it was fated that the youngest of the volunteers would be the first one of PIRON's lads to have 'died in the field of honour'. At the same moment, in the 1st UM, Lieutenant DE BLOCK receives a shell splinter in the leg. It is necessary to amputate the leg. To protect the population, Sallenelles is evacuated.
On August 17 at dawn, the first divisional Warning Order reaches the Belgian Group. The great day has come. The Belgians are going to attack at 0300hrs Their mission is to seize commanding positions which cover Franceville and Merville. The Colonel orders the 2nd and 3rd Units to send out strong reconnaissance patrols. That of the 2nd finds iteself taken under heavy machine gun fire in the midst of a minefield. The younger REMOORTELE who commands it is killed and two other soldiers are wounded. The patrol succeeds in extricating itself thanks to timely support by the artillery. The patrol of the 3rd Coy proceeds along the coastal road in the direction of Moulin du Buisson, but is stopped by enemy fire only 200 metres beyond the Belgians' advanced positions. At 0710hrs, the Attack Order for the start of 'Operation Paddle' (the offensive to clear the Germans from the land between the Orne and the Seine) arrives at the Brigade HQ.
The 6th Airborne Division in 'Operation Paddle' was to move forward on the axis Troarn-Dozule-Pont l'Evêque, its left wing consisting of the 1st Belgian Brigade of LtCol Piron, the Dutch Brigade 'Princes Irene' of LtCol de Ruyter van Stevenick, 12th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment of the LtCol Gleadell, the 1st Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles of LtCol Carson and the 2nd Battalion, Ox and Bucks Light Infantry of LtCol Roberts.(Executive command for the left wing of 6th Airborne Division was exercised by the HQ of 6th Airlanding Brigade (Brigadier Edward Flavell), which also had twelve Cromwell tanks of 'A' Squadron, the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment and two batteries of the 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Artillery Regiment under command).
In essence, Gale's plan was for the main part of the division to push forward on its main route via Troarn and Pont d'Audemer whilst 6th Airlanding Brigade, with the Belgian and Dutch brigades under command, would mop up enemy positions along the coastal areas. The 3rd Parachute Brigade would move to Bures, crossing the river there and moving on to the island in the middle of the Dives Valley. 5th Parachute Brigade would then follow onto the island, whilst 4th Special Service (i.e. Commando) Brigade would remain at Troarn and hold the area to the south of the town, both brigades being prepared to exploit any gains made by 3rd Parachute Brigade and to open up the main axis of advance. Meanwhile, 1st Special Service Brigade would take Bavent and Robehomme, preparing to cross the river at Robehomme if able to do so. 6th Airlanding Brigade, with the Belgian and Dutch brigades, would take the coastal area between Franceville Plage and Cabourg and was to cross the river at Cabourg if possible.
It was Gale's intention that the momentum of the advance would be such that the enemy would have little or no time to prepare defensive positions east of the River Dives.' (Peter Harclerode, ' Go To It ! - The Illustrated History of the 6th Airborne Division'
Everything is ready. The Colonel gives order for the 2nd and 3rd Companies to move. The Armoured Car Squadron' mission is to go as quickly as possible along the coastal Franceville and Merville roads. The resistance is very strong. The Franceville road is mined and is dominated by the German strongpoint of the Moulin du Buisson, the centre of which is identified by an armoured bunker situated at the top of a dune. The other route crosses narrow heavily-mined roads. The Armoured Car Squadron are able to move only bit by bit and require much support from the Engineer Company. A dozen mines are neutralized by Warrant Officer HARBOORT and his team. However, a mine explodes, killing a mine clearance specialist and mortally wounding Warrant Officer HARBOORT. He dies two days later. Lieutenant SAUVAGE (a troop commander of the Armoured Car Squadron) is wounded in the back. He is replaced by his 2 i/c NOEL, then by Jules FLORIDOR. At 1040hrs, it is announced that Sallenelles is cleared by the DEWANDRE's 3rd Troop. The advance starts again, but it is severely slowed down by the effects of mortars and mines. DEWANDRE's 3rd Troop is blocked some 300 metres North of Sallenelles.
At 1100hrs, a troop of the Armoured Car Squadron is put at the disposal of the 12th Devonshires, who advance on the Belgians' right. At 1230hrs., the Colonel orders the 1st Company to take the Grande Ferme du Buisson. From there, it will attack towards the outskirts of Franceville, avoiding the key German strongpoints along the coastal road. This tactic succeeds and the 1st Coy penetrates to Franceville beach; the first objective of the Belgian Brigade. During this time, the other units also succeed in moving forward. After an intense artillery preparation, FLORIDOR takes 2, 4 and 5 Troops of the Armoured Car Squadron and assaults the strongpoint at Moulin du Buisson. The German defenders 'run away as rabbits'. Winkler's Troop of the Armoured Car Squadron, on foot, are instrumental in dislodging the Germans from the key point of the position. Soon afterwards, The Engineer Coy clears the road of mines and obstructions. By 1900hrs, the Brigade has occupied all its objectives. The race for the Seine now begins.
On August 18, the day is spent probing for the enemy defences on the bridgehead of the River Dives around Cabourg. The French Resistance fighters ('FFI') supply information showing exactly the enemy positions in the area. The Engineer Company spends the day clearing mines from the Cabourg to Bruqueville road.
The artillery makes a jump to Gonneville, then Vauville-sur-Mer. For 5 days they are again going to harass the German positions.
On August 20, the Armoured Car Squadron is transferred to the 6th Airborne Armoured Recce Regiment, due to the Brigade's advance being halted by numerous demolished bridges. The 6th Airborne Armoured Recce has been sorely tried since landing on D-Day and the commander of the regiment (Lt Col Godfrey STEWART) was overjoyed to have the Belgian Squadron available to resume the contact with the enemy in the direction of Dozule-Annebault. The rest of the Brigade is moved towards Auberville.
August 21 at 1100hrs, Belgian troops enter Cabourg, on the Dives, though its bridges are destroyed. The colonel sites his tactical HQ there while the 1st Unit crosses the river using various means. The 1st Unit then pushes beyond Houlgate and moves on to Auberville where it collides with a strong German rearguard. A patrol from Lt JACOBS' section, guided by a French patriot, Lt LEFEVRE, is ambushed and is taken under fire by four machine guns. Six men are killed (1 Sgt DEGROOTE, Cpl BETBEZE and privates BECKAERT, JADON,GURHEM and DE BOECK) as well as the lieutenant LEFEVRE (testimony). The chaplain DETHISE, who moved forward to help the dying and wounded, is wounded on his return and is later evacuated. During this time, the engineers work tirelessly, with the assistance of the local populace to establish a passage across the Dives. Some jeeps eventually succeed in crossing the river and succeed in bringing provisions to the advanced units. At 0700hrs, a message arrives from General GALE, the 6th Airborne's Commander: "Congratulations to your advance". In the evening, the attack is led by the 1st Unit which neutralizes the first enemy positions without support of artillery. In the night, this company, strengthened by elements of the 3rd MU and supported by the artillery resumes the attack. Again, the assault is completely successful and the Germans withdraw.
Simultaneously, the Armoured Car Squadron advances further in the South. At 0600hrs, Goustainville, while the Squadron's Commander (Major de SELLIERS de MORANVILLE) gives his orders to the leaders of a Troop, the Recce Regiment's CO (Lt Col STEWART visits him and, addressing the group of Belgian officers says to them: "Gentlemen, in front of you Dozulé is on fire, Troarn still burns behind you, over there, on the left, another city burns, I do not know which. I ignore where is the enemy, you will find it well. Good luck". At around Noon, the Squadron finds the enemy's main line of resistance around Branville, Annebaut, La Chapelle and Hainfray. Some armoured cars are ordered to maintain observation posts (OPs) opposite the enemy positions. At about 1800hrs, The General asks the squadron's commander to verify Branville's occupation. Howver, the ground approaching Branville is dangerous for armoured cars. Nevertheless, Lt DEWANDRE moves with caution at the head of his troop and reaches the middle of the village where he surprises a large enemy detachment. Suddenly, Germans appear in all the houses' windows. All the armoured cars open fire, while in the north of the village the leading armoured car discovers an anti-tank gun emplacement. Lt DEWANDRE gives the order to pull out before the enemy recovers from his surprise. Weapons fire in alldirections. The road is covered with wounded and dead Germans. At 1915hrs, Lt DEWANDRE returns with the information. He is later awarded the British 'Military Cross' by Field Marshall MONTGOMERY in recognition of his actions.
On August 22, at dawn, the advance starts again. The light vehicles of the Group are now able to cross the Dives on a bridge built by the Belgian engineers. At 1300hrs, the Belgians enters Villers-sur-Mer where the Group receives a fervent reception from the populace. Everywhere, French, British and Belgian flags flutter, bells ring and the crowd shouts: "Long live Belgium! Thank you! Long live France !". In the evening, Touques is passed and Deauville is liberated. The Belgian Group is the first to have reached this river. General GALE summons Colonel PIRON to his HQ to congratulate him on the rapid progress of his Group. Lieutenant Benjamin PINKOUS is wounded by mortar. He died on August, 24.
However, the bridges are destroyed and German troops still occupy the Trouville Heights from where they bombard the Belgian positions with mortars and artillery.
Two privates of the 1st Unit: ROUCHE and FOURNIER are killed in front of the ruined bridge (testimony). The artillery and the heavy vehicles, having crossed the Dives by the heavy bridge in Troarn, arrive in Deauville. The HQ of the Brigade settles down in a farm captured by Belgians.
The Engineer Coy digs in around Brigade HQ.
The Artillery Battery is in position near Clarbec.
August 24 at 0650hrs, the Armoured Cars Squadron receives the order to push towards the next river line, then on towards the major obstacle of the River Risle, and also to try to contact, on the right, elements of the British 49th Recce Regiment (of the 49th (West Riding) Division (the 'Polar Bears'). Commandant DE SELLIERS de MORANVILLE launches VERHAEGEN's troop on the axis Honfleur, Fiquefleur, Equainville, Berville, Foulbec. At about 1025hrs, the Squadron HQ settled down 300 metres east of St Benoît d'Hebertot. VERHAEGE perceives Fiquefleur's bridge which is intact and wants to try to catch it by surprise. But he is taken under the German bombardment. He is wounded, along with three of his men. BIHAY, rescues one of them under enemy fire, while VERHAEGE continues to give information by radio.
At dawn on August 25, the infantry penetrates deep into Honfleur, but is stopped at Fiquefleur by automatic and antitank fire. The Belgian infantry is soon joined by the the armoured cars of VERHAEGE's Troop, who provide vital supporting fire wih their machine guns. However, one of VERHAEGE's vehicles is hit, wounding the commander and killing the driver, Private VAN DEN BROECK. During the morning, the Brigade concentrates on Honfleur. The crowd demonstrates its joy at be freed, but also its anger. Women who had been 'seduced by the glamour of German uniform' are shaved in public and dragged through the streets. The FFI (French Resistance) summarily dispenses justice to two traitors. Ahead of them, on the other side of the water, the Belgians perceive the fortified port of Le Havre. The motorized elements having crossed the La Touques in Pont l'Eveque, rejoined the Brigade in Hornfleur. The staff is billeted in the 'White Horse' Inn where a charming girl, dressed in Alsatian dress, offers flowers to Colonel PIRON. They spend the day in this small nice fishing port. However, the population is still quite angry at German atrocities. It seems that during the previous night, they had killed a group of French patriots.
The artillery is in position in Quitteville.
During the night of August, 25, the Belgian Group receives the order to continue its advance and to resume contact with the enemy. The Germans abandon the Fiquefleur Heights. The pursuit starts again near Berville and Foulbec. There, the avant-garde is stopped by enemy fire from the Heights dominating the Risle Valley. The leading infantry suffer some losses there. Lieutenant VAN CAUWELAERT, son of the Minister is slighty wounded. The avant-garde infantry operate in concert with the Armoured Car Squadron and move toward the South. During the day, the Group receives the order to concentrate at Berville where it settles down in orchards for 2 days' rest following its fast advance. In front of the Group, is spread the vast estuary of the Seine. Westward, the soldiers can perceive Le Havre. It is here that the news arrives that the 6th Airborne Division is going to return to Great Britain where it will be reorganized in preparation for future airborne operations (these superb airborne soldiers have been fighting as foot infantry for nearly three months). The Belgian Group will shortly come under the command of the 49th (West Riding) Division of Major General "Bubbles" BARKER.
On August 26, General GALE decides to launch the Armoured Car Squadron towards Pont Audemer to cut off the retreat of the German rearguards. At 0815 Hrs, Lieutenant D'OULTREMONT who's mission is to tempt an action on Foulbec's bridge sees that the bridge is destroyed. The Squadron comes under fire from the enemy, who are camouflaged on the heights overlooking the Risle. However, support was on the way, as Colonel PIRON had at dawn, sent the 3rd Motorized Unit out in front of the Group, on the axis Honfleur-Berville-Foulbec. The Unitmoves up through Conteville and arrives at the Squadron's position. However, almost immediately, they come under intense enemy fire. Practically the entire company is pinned down, with some soldiers being wounded. Private MOUCHET is killed here and will be buried in the village.
The Artillery Battery moves to Saint Maclou.
The bridge at Pont Audemer was the only route back across the Risle for the entire German 711th and 346th Infantry Divisions, and their determination to hold the bridge for as long as possible was obviously high. Although the 711th was a low-grade formation, the 346th was a good quality division and had been giving the 6th Airborne Division a hard time from June 8th onwards. They had deployed their entire anti-tank battalion, which included Marder III and StuG III tank-destroyers, as well as towed guns, in support of their position on the Risle, which was consequently very strong. Indeed, the Dutch "Princess Irene" Brigade, supported by a squadron of Cromwell tanks from the 6th Airborne Armoured Recce Regiment, also made a dash for the bridge on this day, but were able to do no better, even with their tank support, which the Belgians did not have the benefit of. The Germans retrated across the river and blew up the bridge before any allied units could seize it.
On August 27, the Armoured Car Squadron comes back under Belgian command. The brilliance with which it provided reconnaissance during these last 6 days earns it the congratulations of the 6th Airborne Armoured Recce Regiment's Commander, Lt Col Godfrey Steward.
In the evening of August 28, the Belgian Group receives the order to cross the Risle at Pont Audemer and dig-in in Corneville's orchards.On August 31, the Group receives its orders. It will cross the Seine under the protection of the 49th Recce Regiment. It will regroup to the South of Yvetot and will then march on Le Havre and contact the enemy. The crossing of the Seine is made in several places. Three passages by rafts with engines are organized at Caudebec and up-stream. The Armoured cars will cross on the first rafts, just after nightfall. Colonel PIRON accompanies Captain BLOCH, the liaison officer, on the first raft. The operation is very slow and lasts until the evening of the next day.
The Squadron arrives at its crossing point at 1800 Hrs, but has to wait for work to be carried out by the British Royal Engineers. At 2100 Hrs, the squadron crosses the Seine at Mailleraye. This operation lasts until 1000hrs on the next day. The Staff crosses at Caudebec at 1100 Hrs, followed by the Artillery Battery. The trains of the Brigade cross via the intact railroad bridge at Rouen, further upstream.
On September 01, the crossing of the Seine having been very slow, it is only at midday that the march on Le Havre can begin. The Armoured Car Squadron spread out and screen the advance of the 1st Motorized Unit. Soon, they reach Bolbec and Harfleur. The Germans have established their outposts along the edge of the deep valley which leads down to the city. However, they are easily overrun. However, the western heights are strongly defended and furnished with concreted bunkers. The Tactical HQ is established between Caudebec and Lillebonne. The motorized units and the artillery are ready to commence the attack when abruptly, the General BARKER meets the Colonel PIRON at about 1800 Hrs. PIRON is given new orders : During the night, the Group will be relieved by the 49th Division and will then group together, ready to move at dawn on the next day.
On september 02, Colonel PIRON is summoned to Lyons-la-Foret. In the afternoon, the armoured cars leave Saint-Romans for Yvetot. Colonel PIRON leaves Valliquerville at 11 o'clock. The order is given to move to Arras. The Campaign of Normandy is over...
The Allied armies had crossed the Seine. Many once-mighty Panzer Divisions lay in smoking ruins at Falaise. Paris was free. The British, American, Canadian, Polish, French, Belgian and Dutch armies advanced irresistibly towards Belgium and Alsace.
>" While driving, Commandant HOUBION treated me to a small pork sausage warmed on the campaign stove. We crossed Rouen. My thoughts concentrated on these 4 weeks of fights. Our balance did not seem to me too bad. My soldiers had fought bravely. We had not undergone heavy losses. Our roughly 2,500 men had freed the Norman coast from the Orne to the Seine. Mr PIERLOT, in London, should be satisfied with us. We could wear our Belgian colours with pride "
>( Jean Piron's " Souvenirs ")
" The units of the brigade played leapfrog in this pursuit along the flowery coast, protected forward and on the flanks by the Armoured Squadron of Major DE SELLIERS de MORANVILLE and supported by the Battery of Artillery of Major DERIDDER. The three heroes of this ride are called Commandants WINTERGROEN, WATERLOO and NOWE. Passing time has erased their names. It is advisable that we return to them the honours that are due. All the problems of provisioning were resolved by Captain André BERO and Lieutenant Jean MUSSCHOOT. Mines were lifted, bridges were constructed and craters were filled thanks to Captain Richard SMEKENS. The indispensable transmissions were orchestrated by Captain RICHIR. The Doctor VERMEYLEN looked after our wounded soldiers. And this adventurers' caravan moved off enthusiastically under the crook of Lieutenant-Colonel Jean PIRON. His detractors should know that he was the only Belgian Colonel present in the battles of the Liberation. Belgium has no right to forget him. "
( " Forgotten men " of Guy Weber)
" During the advance of the 1st Canadian army, from the Orne to Le Havre, (the 1st Belgian Group) was always the avant-garde of the division to which it was attached. Honfleur and Bolbec were liberated, after hard battles, as well as all the villages marking out the Norman coast; in particular the towns of Cabourg, Villers-sur-Mer, Deauville and Trouville. Its action was worthy of the highest testimonies of respect on behalf of the Allied high command ".
( Text of the quotation in the order of the army which was awarded to the 1st Belgian Group following its operations in Normandy).