Topic: The Normandy Invasion remembered by a local French teenager

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On Monday 6 June 1944, French teen Renee Jeanne Olinger was holidaying in Thury-Harcourt near Caen when the Allies invaded. Years later from France, she wrote to Dilly Arnold of the New Zealand Normandy Veterans Association wishing to thank them for their sacrifice.

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Monday 6 June 1944 was the first day of a Weeks college holiday (after successful examination!!!) with my oldest sister and a girl friend of us. We arrived to the countryside in a village called Thury - Harcourt 30Km away from Caen where We should spend this so well deserved holiday.

We were staying with friends of our family, we had so much projects for enjoying those few days holiday, with swimming and canoeing on the river Orne, helping a farmer with the cherries harvesting (The retribution/rewards was to eat cherry as much as we cared!), walk through the forest and find possibly mushrooms and flowers. The first day was Wonderful, tired and happy, we went to bed, hoping for a good rest and another beautiful next day.

Suddenly we wake up, it was a strong bombardment, far away, we thought on the town of Caen, the noise became always stronger and stronger; it seems it would never stop.

Over Caen, the sky was so red, and we could hear different kinds of shooting, always nearer and stronger. Slowly we started to think that it was not just a simple bombardment as we were used to get, but perhaps, was it the long expected landing of the allied?

In spite of the worries, a feeling of happiness filed our hearts and minds, at last to finish this long and terrible war, peace seems to be so near now.

Alas, we could not imagine, which high price would be required for getting the liberty, how many victims and suffering it will require?

Toward morning, the German troops became very active, during hours, we saw convoy of military lorries, with soldiers, ammunitions, ambulances, cannons of all kinds, and with an infernal noise tanks, taking the direction of Caen.

We were then certain that something very special had occurred. it was still curfew time, so it was impossible to go out and try to get some news.

It is only around midday that we could get some information. The first inhabitants of Caen, fleeing the bombardment arrived, completely exhausted, the news they brought were worse than we could ever imagine : They said that

The town was completely bombed out, standing in fire, the smoke was so thick one could not breath, one counts already a few ten thousands of victims, yes, it seems that although the Allied troops had landed, they were in a terrible situation, they have very heavy losses, and are ready to turn back" .


We worried so much, in the after-noon the German ambulances returning from Caen, passed through Thury - Harcourt, filled with wounded soldiers, and on their roofs dead soldiers on top of each other, blood was running around, a vision of horror.

Later that evening Thury-Harcourt undergo its first bombardment, we heard that there was big depot hided in the forest, of course the allied would try to bomb until they stopped the Germans from reach it, the second bombardment occurred during the night.

People decided to leave the village, and with our friends, we run to the railway tunnel thinking to be in a safe place. For just our luck, they were 2 railway wagons there, we could settled down, how long would we stay here? What will the future brings us?

As long as we will live, the day of the 6" of June 1944 will be ever present in our mind. It was over a week later that our father came to see us on his bicycle for all his lorries had been commanded by the Germans.

As you know Alan, we then spent many days in the crypt of the cathedral.

We teenagers who lived through those days of the invasion and saw a the carnage will never forget what those men did for us and we will ever be grateful. Will you say a big thank you to those Normandy Veterans who are gathered today from a French teenager (perhaps no-longer) who owes so much to them.

Renee Jeanne Olinger

Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade landing from an LCI (Landing Craft Infantry Small) on ‘Queen Red’ Beach, SWORD Area, at la Breche at approximately 8.40 am. No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit. Downloaded from,_Sword_Area.jpg.


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The Normandy Invasion remembered by a local French teenager

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The Normandy Invasion remembered by a local French teenager by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License