Having spent a full Saturday driving along three quarters of the Overlord front (Utah on the Contetin Penninsula being a little too far when we were hungry and I, as non-driver, had my sights set on assaulting a beer in the nearby town of Bayeaux!) we headed back to our hotel to consider which sites relevant to the 59th we were going to head for in the morning.
As our hotel was located in the north of Caen it was logical that we should initially head into the area where Operation Charnwood played out.
A few days before leaving for Normandy, as a result of contacting the Staffordshire Regimental Museum, I had been sent a chapter of ‘Your men in battle; the story of the South Staffordshire Regiment- 1939-45’ that documented the actions of the Regiment throughout the Normandy campaign. Armed with this detailed account we aimed to locate the chateaux of St. Contest which had been the scene of such fierce fighting on the night of the 8th July.
Even equipped as we were with a detailed road map of the area, the unique nature of French road signs and their tendency to present the information that they are intended to convey against the direction of travel meant that we took considerably longer than anticipated to locate St. Contest and its church spire.
Parking up in front of the church, we left the vehicle to cross the road to the location of the 59th (Staffordshire) Division.
** Not long after this visit the confusion about the Chateau objective of the 59th was resolved. Whilst as already stated the Grand Farmhouse located in St. Contest was indeed fought over, it was the Chateau in Galmanche, a couple of kilometers away that was the focus of the SS defence.
Later I was able to find an old postcard of the building prior to the fighting.
However, a small memorial honours the fallen of the 59th close to the site of the former Chateau.