Sunday, March 21, 2010

July 22, 1944

World War II touched the small village of Graffigny-Chemin on the night of July 22 1944 war.

A British Lancaster airplane returning from a bombing mission crashed in a thick fog into the hills outside of Graffigny. Thirteen airmen died in the crash and were buried later in the village cemetery. Three airmen survived the crash. Two were seriously wounded and treated by a doctor from the neighboring town of Bourmont. As their wounds were serious, they were taken to the Germans in hopes with the hope they would be treated well. The two airmen were never heard from again.

A third airman Canadian Paul Bell was hidden in the village of Graffigny-Chemin. He was then escorted to Switzerland by the French. He returned to England and rejoined his unit. Sadly, he died in the liberation of Holland.

Although the plane burned on impact, its radio transmitter, weapons, and some explosives remained intact. Villagers of Graffigny-Chemin removed these before the Germans arrived. On discovering this, the German commander took hostages and threatened to execute the hostages and burn the village if the plane's contents were not returned.

Living in Graffigy-Chemin was the widow of a German colonel who had died in 1913. She interceded with the German commander for the return of the hostages and cancellation of the order to destroy the village.

The story is by way of Dominique Martin.

1 comment:

  1. My name is Chris Nelson - I'm an Englishman living in London, UK.

    I was very interested to read your post about your grandmother because it relates to a subject I've been researching for some years in which your grandmother played an important role.

    My wife's father came from Bourmont, France - a village close to Graffigny. When my wife's father died he left her a house and land in Bourmont. We visit several times a year - spending a couple of months a year there.

    In 1944 a British aircraft carrying soldiers on a special forces mission to North Eastern France crashed close to Graffigny. Three of the airman and one of the soldiers survived the crash. Those who died are buried in the cemetary at Graffigny.

    After the crash local resistance forces recovered munitions and other supplies from the aircraft. Local people helped one of the airman to evade capture - he returned to the UK some months later and was killed the following year. The other two survivors were badly hurt and were given up to the occupation forces for medical treatment.

    The German occupation forces took hostages, threatened to burn the village down and deport the inhabitants unless the munitions were returned. A woman - a madam Meine who I think may have been your grandmother - interceded on the village's behalf and persuaded the Germans not to carry out the threatened reprisals.

    Madame Meine undoubtedly saved many lives amd much property from destruction. For that the village has much to be grateful for.

    I have also been told that in 1940, in the aftermath of fighting between French and German forces, Madame Meine successfully interceded on behalf of two Bourmont men who were to be executed by German forces.

    I was told that Madam Meine was the widow of a German officer who had died some years before the events I mention above. Apparently she had a daughter living in Germany who was married to a senior government functionary. I think (but am not certain) that I was told she had another daughter married to an American. Finally, there is a small chateau in Graffigny which I was told was once inhabited by the Meine family.

    Needless to say, I was most intrigued to read your account of your Grandmother who may have been the same Madame Meine. It seems possible that the Madame Meine who saved Graffigny-Chemin from destruction was your grandmother. She would have been 54 years of age in 1944. Alternatively, the Madame Meine in question may have been your great grandmother (Julie Meine nee Chavalier).

    Obviously, because of the passage of time, the information I was given about Madame Meine may have become confused. But nobody disputes the very important role she played in 1944.

    I'm writing a short account of the crash as piece of military and local history to be placed in the archives of the local historical society. I do feel that the facts about Madam Meine should be properly recorded and therefore would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter further with you.

    My email address is