Normandy veteran Bill Hartley had a staggering chance encounter in Caen as he attended a D-Day drinks reception.
Bill, aged 91, who lives in Killamarsh, was one of 11 men from the Sheffield Normandy Veterans’ Association branch invited to an event hosted for returning servicemen by the people of Caen when he was approached by a French woman.
Christiane Siegle simply wanted to chat to Bill, ask him about his medals, and thank him for his involvement in liberating occupied France 70 years ago today.
But when she discovered he was from Sheffield neither could believe the coincidence - because her ex-husband Bob Hill’s cousin also lived in Killamarsh.
“It is so strange,” said Christiane. “I could have spoken to any one of the veterans and not had such a connection.
“I remember visiting Sheffield almost 30 years ago. We saw the steel factories but many were shut - and we had to walk up a lot of hills!”
The drinks reception, attended by present-day Army personnel in full uniform, plus hundreds of veterans from all over the UK along with their families, was just one part of a full day of special events in Caen. The city was destroyed by bombing in June and July 1944, but despite heavy civilian casualties Caen was liberated, and the people remain grateful.
Each of the veterans was presented with a large commemorative bronze medallion from the city of Caen, imprinted on the back with the words ‘We Will Remember Them’.