Saint Lô d'Ourville -- Carrefour d'Olonde

The Last Battle For France June 17th - 18th 1940

After Dunkirk the German advance through France was rapid.Some 50,000 British troops rescued at Dunkirk were landed in Cherbourg to spearhead the defence of Normandy and create an area of resistance around the port of Cherbourg and by this means it was hoped that the Germans would not only be held but could be pushed back across France. Unfortunately the German advance was so swift that although the British troops had been landed, not much of their equipment had been shipped from England. General Rommel who commanded the 7th Panzer group, was under orders from Hitler to take Cherbourg quickly before the French government's demand for a cessation of hostilities was implemented. Commandant Feuardent was given the task of holding the Germans at bay whilst the British troops were embarked back to their ships and taken back to England. Many French Solders and Sailors also took the opportunity to flee to England against orders to fight again for the liberation of their country. Commandant Feuardent commanded the 6th Battalion of the 208th Regiment, which also included a detachment of Senegalese troops and about 250 Marines. In all around 2,500 badly equipped French troops together with a number of British Royal Artillery. The French headquarters in Cherbourg heard hour by hour of the German's advance, and the Germans had faced no real resistance since Saint Valery en Caux which fell on June 12th. By the evening of June 17th the Panzers had reached Flers, by 20:30 the same night news reached Cherbourg that they had taken Villedieu les Poéles, and by nightfall Coutances and Lessay had been taken. In Rommel's memoires he states that around midnight his Panzers had arrived in Le Haye du Puits. The French troops that faced Rommel were his only obstacle before he reached his goal of Cherbourg, and this was the first resistance he had faced during the last 250 kms. Not a shot had been fired by either the Allies of the Germans. The French some cannons had put in place, but these were old and not very accurate. They mostly consisted of 75 mm first world war cannon, either mounted on wheels or on metal bases and they had been brought by train and put in place near the track. At point "A" Denneville Station had one cannon of 75 mm. At point "B", again by the railway there was a selection of machine guns and mortars. Point "C" in the village of St Sauveur de Pierrepoint two 75 mm cannons were placed, again by the railway. At the cross-roads to the north called, Carrefour d'Olonde "E" another 75 mm cannon manned by the Senegalese and British Royal Artillery troops was in position. Eight members of the Royal Artillery died here and are buried in the Village Churchyard at Denneville. On the retreat they had driven over mines placed in the road by the French, who thought that no Allied troops remained to the south. The final point of resistance was "F". This was the railway station at St Lô d'Ourville. Ships of the French Navy positioned themselves on either side of the Cotentin Peninsular to fire on the approaching Germans. The four ships were the Courbet, later scuttled as a block ship on D-day, the Amiens, Flore and Melpomeme. The first contact on June 18th was at point "A" which shelled the first elements of the 7th Panzer, when three vehicles were set on fire and Lt Isermayer was killed. The Germans retreated to La Haye to report the situation to Rommel. Another point of contact was at "C" St Sauveur de Pierrepoint, which exchanged fire with the Germans. The church suffered some damage in the exchange of fire. Whilst the last battle for France was taking place, the armistice was about to be signed between the Germans and the French Government. Rommel sent a captured French soldier through the lines with a white flag with a message that the armistice had been signed and that they should cease hostilities. The French, knowing nothing of this, asked for time (eight hours) and sent a messenger on a cycle to St Sauver Le Vicomte to telephone the military authorities to verify the facts of the signing. The armistice in fact had not been signed, so the battle commenced. The French felled large trees to block roads and the German's advance. One by one the French points of resistance fell to superior fire power, the old 75 mm cannon was no match for the Panzers. The French positions had been augmented during the battle by French farmers using their hunting rifles. Many of the French defending the line were taken prisoner, but others escaped to the Channel Islands and escaped to England to join the Free French Forces. By the evening of June 18th, Rommel was in Barneville staying at the Hotel des Voyagers. France had fallen and the armistice was signed. The last battle had bought thirty six hours, in which all the British troops had been taken off at Cherbourg and many Frenchman also had found sanctuary in England ready for the time, four years later to the day, when the Cotentin would be liberated. Part of the old French fortification can still be seen on the crossroad's.

The Carrefour d'Olonde also featured during the summer of 1944 when it was held by the American's, with the German's just to the south at La Haye du Puits. This crossroad was the jumping off point for the Americans of the 79th Division on July 3rd 1944.

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