Lieut. A. Tillotson, 5 3 5 Coy. R.A.S.C., Armd. Div. Tps., B.L.A.
Letter to Father, Sunday, 3 September, 1944
What a momentous week. Little did I know when I wrote to you last
Saturday that it would be such a week. I have seen so much, travelled so
far, formed so many opinions and talked to so many people. I only wish
I could see you both and tell you it all. I am afraid I have neither the
opportunity nor the ability to put it into a letter - I will try however.
I started by going back to the rear area around Caen, and how it had
changed. The streets all tidy, spaces cleared and the citizens looking
even now healthier and certainly happier. From organized destruction
I travelled up the Orne Valley, which is very lovely and most reminis-
cent of Scotland. Hills on one side of the road with heather and gorse
and copses, and on the other side the Orne, twisting and turning, with
quaint Norman bridges and waterfalls. I saw several coveys of par-
tridges in the cornﬁelds beside the river.
After the beauty and peacefulness of the Orne Valley, I debouched
into the open land and the Falaise Gap. What a scene of destruction —
everywhere piled up vehicles, tanks, guns, cars and quantities of horse-
drawn vehicles, which, due to his lack of petrol and rubber, he has been
forced to use to a very great extent. I will spare you the horrors. Suffice
it to say that the smell and utter desolation of that battleﬁeld will be
with me, and everyone else who has passed that way, for ever.
Two days ago as I was seeing my convoy through, I stopped two
staff cars so as to get my lot through in one bunch. The officer in the
ﬁrst car said “If you look in the car behind you will see the C. in C. of
the German 7th Army, whom we captured having breakfast in Amiens
a few hours ago.” An amazing experience — he and his staff were there
and looking most dejected.
A word now on the F.F.I.* I think their work and above all their num-
bers and effciency have surprised us all. Every village has a number of
them once you cross the Seine. They are having a wonderful time and
thoroughly enjoying themselves. They are also proving of immense
value to us as we are advancing so fast and leaving pockets of resistance
everywhere, which they clean up and also round up the collaborateurs.
They wear a variety of clothes and have French, English and German
equipment. The only thing they have in common is the Cross of
Lorraine on their arm.
(*The French Forces of the Interior (French: Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur) refers to French resistance fighters in the later stages of World War II. Charles de Gaulle used it as a formal name for the resistance fighters. The change in designation of these groups to FFI occurred as France's status changed from that of an occupied nation to one of a nation being liberated by the Allied armies. As regions of France were liberated, the FFI were more formally organized into light infantry units and served as a valuable manpower addition to regular Free French forces.
This collaborator business really does present a problem. It is to me a
horrid sight to see them marched through the streets, having been
dragged from their homes by the F.F.I., taken to the Place de Ville and
then shorn or very often maltreated. Everyone who has a grudge against
them has a kick or strikes them. I understand that they must feel bitter
against them but surely now is the time for every Frenchman to stand
united. If they have actually been traitors, well and good, shoot them
cleanly, but for consorting with Germans and doing business with them
an ordeal like that does more harm than good. France wants to forget
the shameful years of 1940 - 1944, and leave as few scars as possible.
I spoke to one girl who had had her head shorn for consorting with a
German. She said she was 16 when they came and she had no young
man to be faithful to who was now a prisoner or working in Germany.
Furthermore, there were no young Frenchmen about. They were all
elsewhere. “Que voulez-vous, Monsieur, nous Francaises aiment le
bonheur.” It seems hard on them and some of them genuinely love the
I suppose that one cannot generalize. The one consoling thought is
that it is Frenchman against Frenchman and they cannot blame us for it
There is one opinion I have formed very deﬁnitely and that is that
France must “se débrouiller”. She is sitting back and enjoying freedom
and getting fat and leaving it to the Allies to do everything for them. I
have been asked scores of times when are the Allies going to bring such
and such stuff, or do such and such a thing in France. It never enters
their heads to get organized and do it themselves. This applies especially
to Normandy, where they were settled with the German who brought
the majority of them prosperity while we brought them destruction.
The difference between our reception on that side of the Seine and this
is tremendous. Here they are delirious with joy and gratitude. They
clear the roads themselves and do what tidying up there is to do them-
selves. The men have signed on at the mairie and are given various jobs
to do. No such thing exists in Normandy. We do what is absolutely
necessary to clear the roads and that is all. They do what is absolutely
necessary to make their house habitable. The rest is left to Providence.