Monday, March 25, 2024

June 1944: Arthur and Michel and the battle of La Rochette (variations on a theme)

Here is another account where Michel Planas's story and my grandfather's story match, both in the date and in some of the details. Interestingly, on the previous day, both men were away from their HQ in Ourches (Michel to run some errands for the unit and my grandfather because he was on leave), and returned on June 28th to mayhem:

    Arriving at OURCHES [on June 28] we find the Company in turmoil.

    The advanced guard posts signal the presence of a column of 17 vehicles parked on the RN 538 near the crossroads leading to Upie.

    Some of the occupants of the trucks moved in our direction while some of the leading vehicles continued on their way towards ROCHETTE to attack the neighboring Company of Roger MAISONNY. 

    A few minutes later, a HEINKEL 111 came out from the north, parallel to our positions, machine-gunned and dropped a few anti-personnel bombs on the first line of hills after the village of OURCHES.

--Dr. Michel Planas, 1955

    Before dawn [June 28] I was on my way back and soon after the sun rose I saw four planes flying South above the foothills and a few minutes later a sound of bombing could be heard. Then at intervals, other planes flew over the mountains and bombed. I could not see which was the bombed valley and did not know whether our company was involved, but I felt sorry being far from my comrades and I hastened my steps.  Finally, a few hours later, I was back and found the entire company in advanced positions behind a ridge blocking the valley. I was told to listen to the radio for a few minutes only and then join everybody with grenades and my submachine gun. A battle was raging behind a mountain in La Rochette valley which was parallel to the Ourches valley in which we stayed. Airplanes flew forth and back pouring loads of bombs over the men of the company that stayed in La Rochette Valley. Artillery guns shot toward La Rochette from the plains below, rifle and machine gun fire could be heard at intervals.

    After an hour or so, airplanes started flowing above our valley and bomb our own positions. Hiding against rocks and in holes, nobody was hurt. In such a terrain only a direct hit could hurt. But it was impressive and frightsome. Before a bombing the engine roar was growing noisier and noisier. Then low flying planes were appearing from above the hills. Small, perhaps 15 years old, single engine double wing airplanes would be obsolete and useless against any other enemy that air defenseless maquis. Then, before the planes were above us, 3 or 4 small, 100 lb bombs could be seen leaving each plane and moving along trajectories toward us.  Every one ducked in, closed his eyes. A powerful, ears-bursting blast from a bomb which hit perhaps 10 feet away rising a cloud of dust.

    After some time the calm came back again. The battle in La Rochette valley came to an end. 
--Arthur Lubinski, 1974


1 comment:

  1. Arthur's account is a lot more readable. Amazing that he wanted to hurry to be with his company during a bombing. Showed what kind of guy he was. I bet his wife would not have approved.


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