Mr Elie Lemarchand, eyewitness,
July 7th 1944.
At about 1 or 2 o'clock in the afternoon, an
aircraft circles around Bons-Tassilly. The anti-aircraft-guns start shooting,
and we go outside to see what is happening. The aircraft is hit and is falling
in flames. The pilot bails out, but falls through the flames and as a result he
is badly burnt about the face and body.
The pilot comes down in a little wood
on the other side of the road, behind the lavoir (public washing place).
aircraft crashes not far from there, in the marsh, between the road from Caen to
Falaise and the river Laizon (nowadays the dual carriageway passes nearby, and
it is very near the water filtration plant at Bons-Tassilly.
The pilot takes off his
harness in the copse behind the "lavoir". At the same time Mr Guy Oriot who saw
him, makes his way towards him and possibly signals to him to hide in the wood
behind the 'lavoir'... but... Germans arrive in a car from their base at
Potigny and see Mr Oriot going towards the pilot, both are arrested. So the
story begins, Mr Oriot is undoubtedly suspected of wanting to help the pilot
escape. Of course the pilot is captured, but what about Mr Oriot? The germans
think he might be from the resistance and trying to hide the pilot. So, they are
both taken to chateau's farm at Bons-Tassilly, which is where the Colonel
commanding the anti-aircraft battery, which shot down the plane is
The Germans who arrive at the farm with the two men are from the SS. Some
tough talking between the Wermacht and the SS follows. In the end it is the SS
who get to take both Mr Oriot and the pilot to their headquarters at Beaumais.
I think that for Mr Oriot it is very serious and that it will be very hard
for him to get out... it might cost him his life (the SS do not mess
The chateau owner, who is lodging the colonel, thinks he must try and
resolve the matter. He goes to the colonel's office and tries to convince him
that Mr Oriot has nothing to do with the affair. It takes most of the afternoon,
and a lot of coffee laced with calvados, before eventually the colonel takes up
the phone to call Beaumais, but I don't know what he could say to convince the
SS that Mr Oriot has nothing to do with the affair.
(The following was told
to me by Mr Oriot himself)
After being mistreated for a while, Mr Oriot is finally released
in the evening. Obviously by now he had had enough, and he took the shortest
way back from Beaumais to Bons-Tassilly. But then a few kilometers further on,
he was picked up again by the SS car... His blood ran cold and he
thought, "this time my number is up !... but no! They had come to
apologise for mistreating him, and offered to take him back to Bons-Tassilly,
which they did.
The next day,Mr Oriot's parents went to the owner of the
chateau to thank him for his intervention with the German colonel, and to give
him something to say thank you.
The plane, I don't know if it was a Spitfire,
was it taken away then by the company which recovers wreckages...?
been dead for a number of years now, and so has the owner of the chateau along
with many members of his family. The only surviving members are the grandchildren
who were 3,4,5 and 7 years old at the time, so probably would not remember
much of the affair. So... few witnesses. Me, if I remember it, it's
because I was hidden, avoiding the S.T.O (the German system for making young
Frenchmen work for them) and I was working in the farm of the Bons-Tassilly
chateau. I was 21 and it didn't do to get too close to the SS or these others.
But, I well remember the Canadian pilot with the burns to his face and hands; is
Of course, the area south west of Falaise is a large area. An
aircraft trying to locate its target and at the same time trying to avoid anti
aircraft guns may not know to the exact kilometer he is...
I would also like
to add for this little account, that Mr H....,the chateau's owner, was quite
friendly with the D.C.A colonel. The colonel had been there since the start of
the landings, and it was through him, every morning that Mr H got news of the
military operations on the Normandy coast. Sometimes, it pays to be familiar
with the enemy (but not to collaborate with them) especially when it helps to
save someone's life.
The account of this story took most of the afternoon,
and it is quite true, as it is said in the article in the 'Falaise news', Mr
Barry Needham (the pilot) and Mr Oriot's mother and father came to plead with
the colonel on behalf of Mr Oriot. But with them not speaking German and the
colonel speaking no French, that it was Mr H...(who was Belgian) who acted as
Of course Mr Barry Needham did not know what the young man was
doing with him in the German car. He was wounded, burnt in the face, wrists and
ankles and shocked, hiding in the woods and perhaps not seeing too clearly.
Perhaps he did not even see Mr Oriot. It would be natural for him to ask himself
who the young man was. I think MR Oriot was 21 at the time
I think that one part of the reply is set out in
Elie Lemarchand (14170 Epaney)
This account enabled Mr Barry Needham, coming
back all the way from Saskatchewan (in the middle of Canada) to re-discover
the remains of his aeroplane. On 16th June 2006, they unearthed the
engine of a spitfire, one canon, two machineguns, a rear wheel (which Mr Needham
took home with him) and various parts, which allowed the formal identification
of Mr Needham's plane.