The intentions to document this information are long standing in that they go back some two decades to the early/mid 1990’s, just a few years before the subject of this site, James Kitchener Heath passed away.

As is the case in so many families in which a generation experienced war and all its traumas, certain aspects of service are known, but all too often the details are sketchy and disjointed. Add into this mix the passage of time and the result is invariably a collection of stories and fragments of memories accompanied by a handful of fragile and faded documents (if you are lucky) that represent the sum of information relating to the most extraordinary period in a soldier’s life. This was certainly the case in our family..... and it’s not much to go on.

In February 1995, my Father and I struggled to put together a potted service history to be read by the cleric presiding over my Grandfather’s funeral. At this point I decided to take steps to fill in some of the gaps as best I could.... sadly now without the benefit of first hand testimony.

A well known turn of phrase, ‘written on the back of a fag packet’ is defined by the Collins on-Line dictionary as something ‘composed or formed quickly and without detailed analysis or research’. As far as first hand source material for this history is concerned, no better a description could be made. The details gleaned from my Grandfather in brief (and often emotional) discussions in the 1990’s are summarised as a list of place names written in an old man’s shaky handwriting on the back of a standard envelope! (this will feature later). On the upside, a standard envelope is approximately twice the size of a cigarette packet, which immediately doubles the amount of information to work with!

By my own admission, this site is a little self-indulgent, being of primary interest to myself, my mother, my children and a handful of relatives still living in Staffordshire. In addition, it may be that the information presented here will be read by others outside of the family who have a passing interest in military or family history.

I would welcome any comments/suggestions or dare I say it relevant information to contact me.

Friday, 30 June 2017

59th (Staffordshire) Division Memorial Galmanche 19th May 2017

In May 2017 I returned to Normandy for the third time with some special tasks in mind that would wrap up my efforts to complete this 'Pithead Polar Bear' project of mine. 

In 2014, with the research in its infancy I made it to St Contest and the 59th Memorial in the square. On that occasion I left believing that the impressive property located next to the Church was the focus of the fighting in which my Grandfather with the 5th South Staffords was engaged over the 8th and 9th July 1944. 

Whilst La Grande Ferme, the aforementioned property, was indeed occupied and fought over,  the objective of the 5th South Staffs was located about a kilometer away. It was only on our most recent visit that Owen and I determined to finally find the elusive Galmanche memorial come what may. 

After the usual circuitous journeying along the narrowest of country lanes we spied two flag poles. Could it be that the side by side Tricolour and Union Flag marked the much sought after spot. Indeed it did and I was finally able to pay my respects at a spot that lay within 100 yards of where my Grandfather had fought 73 years earlier. Unusually I was well prepared and had with me a Royal British Legion with me for the occasion.

Over the past few years it had been my understanding that the only remaining evidence of the Chateau of Galmanche was now fashioned into the cross design memorial to the 59th that stands in St. Contest. However, having finally located this corner of Calvados we decided to venture further down the track, at the end of which the rebuilt property was visible. 

I have to say that I was thrilled to see that on either side of the new building their remained a couple of sections of the outer walls of the original Chateau and what's more, these walls were suitably peppered with bullet holes as well as bearing the scars of artillery attention.

Just to think that one of these pock marks could have originated from my Grandad's rifle...... assuming that he could shoot straight!

The approach to the original Chateau from the memorial site.

The rebuilt property on the site of the original Chateau Galmanche.

It is notable that the new building has retained the spiraled wrought iron work on the gates that can been seen on the photograph of the pre-war Chateau.

The original Chateau de Galmanche.

The photographs below show a section of the outer wall of the original Chateau bearing the scars of the July fighting as the 59th tried to dislodge the SS from the fortified position of Galmanche.

Scarred exterior wall of the original Chateau.

One of Jim Heath's potshots?

Apologies for the Interruption.... Normal Service Will Be Resumed!

Visitors to this site will have noticed a distinct lack of activity on this site. The more astute of you will realise that this has been linked to the publication of the book. Without meaning to be morbid in anyway, my priority was to get the physical copy out there as quickly as possible in order that the handful of veterans that contributed to the book would get to see it.

It is now my intention to pick up the site again with a continuation of the story, plus anything that comes up post publication.



A Pithead Polar Bear is now available for purchase

I'm a bit late with this blog site, but the culmination of the work put in on here has finally been realised in print and I am very happy with the results. I am really pleased with the way that the sales are going. So far, 111 books of the 150 print run are accounted for. It is quite something for me to think that this humble family history is to be found on the bookshelves of friends and colleagues in the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, America, Canada and Australia. Thank you one and all!

Adrian x.

More details can be found at: