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D-Day Experiences: A French Girl's Courage and a Soldier's Duty

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:17 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

"I am Micheline Bartlett. I was formerly Micheline Grégoire of Caen in Normandy. On the 6th June 1944 (on D-day), my family and I were awakened about 2 am by the sound of gun fire which continued until 6 am, when the Germans were in the streets shouting just like wild animals, telling us not to come out into the streets- if we disobeyed we would be shot at sight; we had orders to shut doors and windows but, on no account, to lock them; the Germans could walk in at any time. The morning passed with heavy gunfire from the coast, at 1 pm the first bomb fell. Unfortunately, I was one of the victims, being buried in the ruins of my home for four hours, which to me seemed eternity.

A woman at first heard me scream and sought help. As my head was cleared, the priest came to administer the last sacrament. When I finally was got clear, I was very frightened I could only scream at the dreadful sight that met my eyes. I was carried away, walking over the dead bodies of my friends and neighbours, each one known to me personally. Even though it is 16 years since that happened, I still can picture that dreadful scene. When the ambulance came, I refused to go until I had heard about the fate of my loved ones. My mother and father had been killed- this I was not to hear until later. I was taken by a friend to a cellar under the Catholic sisters’ house, where I stayed for a week or 10 days, when the news of my parents’ fate was told to me.

By this time, my left leg, which was badly hurt, was so swollen that I had to go to hospital where I found my sister, her husband and son, who had also been buried in the house at the same time. On arriving at the hospital, there was no room for any more, so the sister had me put into her own bedroom, which was a little room in a loft, where I could hear shrapnel from the bombs. I was terrified. Then, I heard news that the sisters’ house where I had been taken first had been bombed, killing 45 people. The shock killed the priest who had come to give me the last rights. By then, I was so frightened I could not stand it anymore. I asked permission to leave the hospital. I heard of my brother-in-law’s removal to his mother's house, she was living at the Rue de Burgull. I found him and stayed three days. Behind her house was a German camp. One morning, the bombs began to fall on the camp, which broke all the windows. After that, my brother-in-law and I went to the cathedral of St Ettienne where hundreds of people were seeking shelter. There we stayed until the day British soldiers delivered Caen. Weeks went by with only bombing, homes being destroyed, people being killed. I will never forget the day the British and French Canadian soldiers walked into that church. I was happy, yet could not help hating them for doing so much killing. I began to cry when I saw a British officer who said they were under the impression that all civilians were evacuated. He explained to us that only by bombing could they liberate our city; otherwise the Germans would still have been there; the day ended.

The next day, the Germans started to gunfire on the cathedral killing people, so the British took us in lorries to Bayeux where we stayed for about three months.

Today, I still suffer with my leg. I do not get a pension, neither did I get compensation. I was a single girl, and my parents were both dead. My husband was a British soldier and was in the Battle of Caen, where he went down with shell shock; today he still suffers with his nerves."

Edward Bartlett landed on Sword Beach with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry just after 10 am. His unit advanced further than any other unit on D-Day. He went down with shell shock during the Battle of Caen. After recovering from shell shock, he went on to serve with the Black Watch and went all the way to Germany with them.

History

Item list and details

Photo of Micheline Bartlett (formerly Grégoire) and Edward Bartlett

Person the story/items relate to

Micheline Bartlett (formerly Grégoire) and Edward Bartlett

Person who shared the story/items

Greg Bartlett

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

They were my grandparents.

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID

93479