Friday, 5 June 2009

June 6, 2009 D-Day Remembrance by Adela Meadows

Sixty-five years ago today, a collaboration of nations gave their all in a massive effort to bring peace once more to a world gone awry. This weekend, well-orchestrated commemorative ceremonies played out by distinguished dignitaries representing the various participating countries will take place throughout the now-famous Normandy Landing Beaches.

The ceremonies will mark what has come to be recognized as the turning point toward Victory for the Allied effort…an effort that included ordinary citizens as well as soldiers and saw them participate in events that occurred far a field from Normandy, both before and after June 6, 1944.

Brittany was a strategic area for the occupying forces and Quimper was put into service as an important administration center. Promenades along the Odet River that used to be tranquil were suddenly punctuated with checkpoints and armed officers.

This photograph was taken on the rue du Parc, a commercial area bordering the Odet in the center of Quimper. In the background you can see the sign for the Relais Corentin with the “split-fish” logo used by Jean Lachaud for the HB Quimper table service he designed for them in the 1920s. Where you see “Jacob” marks the antique shop that had been run by the parents of the Quimper-born writer/artist, Max Jacob.

Supplies of coal for the Quimper factory kilns were severely rationed and pottery personnel were among the men aged 18 to 50 and single women aged 18 to 35 that were impelled to work for the occupying forces…either in town or in far-away labor camps.

Reportedly, this rather ironic series of small figural pitchers featuring American presidents was produced at the HB factory as a ruse to keep its designer, Georges Renaud, from being sent off to a labor camp.

The potteries issued limited quantities of goods, if at all, and were often obliged to produce pieces specially commanded by the German military facilities.

This pair of faïence chopes… beer mugs in English and krugs in German…was produced at the Henriot factory for a specific regiment celebrating its first Christmas in Brittany.

The Henriot factory produced this tile for the German Navy in 1943.

The German submarine command base located in the commune of Lanvéoc-Poulmic on Brittany's Crozon Peninsula ordered this plate for their Christmas celebration of 1943.

Quite a change from the sentiment on this plate which translates as “When this rooster crows, Adolph will have us”; the inference being that since a faïence rooster is never going to crow, the Nazis will not prevail over France and England. The plate was made at the Henriot factory in 1940.

Eventually…on August 8, 1944 to be precise…Quimper was liberated and to mark the occasion, the head of one of the HB factory’s decorating studios, Raymonde Pennaneac’h, created this large platter decorated with a jubilant scene of Quimper’s rue Kéréon.

For those Blog readers that also happen to be regular followers of our website, you may recall an earlier article that I wrote which featured the following photographs, but this represents a new audience and the images certainly bear repeating on this auspicious day of remembrance.

In Quimper, there is a quiet spot in a garden near one of the remaining thirteenth century stone walls of the original town enclosure. There, discreetly displayed, is a plaque to commemorate an act of defiance by the citizens of Quimper against the occupying forces.

It translates as follows:

Square Antoine Le Bris
Here on the 14th of January 1944, a group of Résistants participated in the sabotage and destruction of 44,000 dossiers of the S.T.O. (Service de Travail Obligatoire or forced labor camps).
This bold action made Finistère the first department of France to resist.
Quimper remembers

Other places of note and several museums honoring the Résistants can be found throughout Brittany and, as well, there is a relatively unknown, but deeply moving memorial to the soldiers of World War II.

Located some twenty-two kilometers northwest of Fougères …on land officially ceded by France to the United States…is the Brittany-American Cemetery and Memorial.

The message over the chapel entrance reads:

In Memory Of The Valor And The Sacrifices Which Consecrate This Soil.

The sculpture Youth Triumphing Over Evil was designed by Lee Lawrie; inscribed on the granite base:

I have fought a good fight
I have finished my course
I have kept the faith

It's chilling to learn that most of the 4,410 soldiers buried here lost their lives in just one battle that was centered in the area around the town of St. Lo.

Just one battle.


  1. Thank you for mentioning D Day. I have been watching the reports of the ceremonies to mark the 65th anniversary in Normany today, on the TV.
    President Obama gave a very moving speech at Colville.

  2. I, too, watched the ceremonies live on TV coming from Normandy. It is a day to be remembered, for sure. Thank you Adela. My uncle was one of those on the landing, luckily he made it.