- Contributed by
- Action Desk, BBC Radio Suffolk
- People in story:
- Joan and Ademar Melville - Jackson Sir Arthur Teddrer General Morgan Anne Robertson 'Bomber' Harris
- Location of story:
- Paris Versaille Normandy
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 13 September 2005
My Invasion of Europe
This story was submitted to the People’s War website by Maddy Rhodes a volunteer with Radio Suffolk, on behalf of Joan Melville — Jackson who has given permission for it to be added to the site. Mrs. Melville — Jackson fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
I went to Normandy as PA to Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder. We were stationed at Granville, where the Americans built us a wonderful camp in just a week. ACM Tedder had his HQ in a caravan on the site. On one occasion when I was summoned to his office I found Air Chief Marshal Harris with him. We were introduced, and ‘Bomber ‘ Harris as he was known asked whether I was Welsh, as my name was Leake. ‘No sir,’ I replied, ‘I come from Yorkshire’.He answered in a broad accent ,
‘Ah lass !Reet good things come out of Yorkshire!’
I know that many people, including my boss had agonised about the bombing of Dresden, but that the Russians had pushed for it, as they knew that German troops were gathering there.
From Granville we moved to Versaille to the headquarters at the Trianon Hotel. A group of four of us decided to make the journey by car. On the way, we thought we would stop in Orleans to pay homage to Joan of Arc. We made our way to the Cathedral, but while we were there we began to feel extremely uncomfortable. We were aware of being surrounded by a palpable feeling of hatred which was directed at us. We realised of course that the town had been bombed by the RAF, and here we were, in our uniforms. Rather shaken, we left as quickly as possible, and carried on to Chartres. The feeling in the undamaged Cathedral there, with it’s stained glass and quiet peace was totally different, and we came out feeling spiritually uplifted. However, we were soon aware of another rowdy mob. Two young women, who were accused of collaborating with the Germans, were having their heads shaved. One of our party, being a chivalrous American thought that we should intervene. However another counselled against becoming involved, and again we hurried on our way.
When we were moved to Versailles, I was billeted in a small hotel in with my friend Anne Robertson, who was General Morgan’s PA. The hotel had been used previously by German service women. On the first night we were bitten alive during the night . The following morning we found bugs under the wallpaper. The place was filthy so we marched into the billeting officer’s office and demanded to be moved.
We were given lodgings with a French family who looked after us very well. We were able to order coal for our room, so while we were out during the day, the French family used our room so they could enjoy the warmth. Life was very hard, and they had suffered many deprivations. Their son had been taken by the Germans because of his resistance work. His mother made the arduous journey every week to Paris to the Red Cross to obtain news of him. After the war, we learnt that he had been exterminated in Buchenwald.
For two months our HQ at Versailles was in one of the villas in the grounds, which had formerly been Goerings love nest. We were at one time on high alert for an attack by Otto Skorzeny who we were told was plotting to assassinate the Allied Leaders assembled in that villa. The security was terrific. We had to call in an electician to repair something one day, and as I knew him I was asked to go and identify him before he could be admitted. Poor chap — although I had seen him before, I couldn’t be absolutely certain that it was him, so someone else had to be sent for to do the identification! What nerves can do !
We had been billeted in a nearby hotel, but I used to take baths in the villa. One evening while I was in the bath, I heard noises. Thinking that I had been alone in the villa, my imagination started to work. Wrapped in a towel and clutching the bath stool, I went to investigate and came face to face with the Deputy Air Chief Marshal.We were both equally surprised, and could imagine the headlines!
One day I received a phone call from an ex RAF pilot who had been awarded the DFC. He was now on the staff of General Bedell Smith, the American Chief of Staff. and was keen to see how his award had been reported in The London Gazette, but didn’t know how to obtain a copy. On making enquiries, he had been told that I was bound to have one. I was able to tell him that I did indeed have a copy, but that, as it was my bosses personal copy, I could not ‘just send it over’ as requested. I told him that he was welcome to come to read it in my office, which he duly did. It seems to have been a very audacious start to what was to become a very special relationship .Ademar Melville — Jackson DFC and I eventually married on 8th. September 1941.
This story continues under the title ‘ Finishing the Task’
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