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15 October 2014
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A Solitary Walkicon for Recommended story

by threecountiesaction

Contributed by 
threecountiesaction
People in story: 
Leonard Waller, Jack (Sam) Koster, George Lavendar
Location of story: 
Normandy, France
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4848177
Contributed on: 
07 August 2005

A Solitary Walk in Normandy

This account has been submitted on behalf of my father, Leonard Waller and has been added to the site with his permission.

"I was with the 12th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. We went ashore in Normandy on 7th June 1944, the day after D-Day, and advanced around Ouistrehem to Ranville where the battalion took over the village from a parachute battalion, who had fought their way there on D-Day against some German resistance. We spent two fairly quiet days there, occasionally interrupted by German bombers.

Our battalion had set up an Observation Post (OP) on a hill half a mile south of our headquarters, which, on the afternoon of June 9th, was manned by Privates Jack (Sam) Koster and George Lavender. Jack Koster, nick-named Sam after the comedian Sam Costa, was responsible for frequently telephoning HQ with their observations of enemy movement in the valley below. His last call that afternoon was an urgent request for tea rations as they had manned the OP since noon. I was ordered to take the tea ration up to them.

So I set out alone along the track leading to the OP carrying my loaded rifle and a can full of hot sweet tea, with the unreal feeling of taking a solitary walk on the South Downs in the Sussex countryside. Eventually I reached the OP on the brow of the hill, where I was welcomed by Sam and George as I handed them the tea and said that I was to stay to relieve one of them to return to HQ.

Within minutes of my arrival the OP was under heavy fire. There being no form of cover we all three dived as flat as possible and I felt a heavy blow on the side if my head. After a pause to make sure the firing had stopped, I congratulated ourselves on that “near miss”, but looking up I realised that the near miss was a direct hit on the OP. Sam and George had been killed instantly right beside me and the field telephone was nowhere to be seen.

Badly shaken and vaguely wondering what to do next in that utter silence which followed, I reasoned that staying there without the telephone was pointless. I staggered back through our forward company lines where our own mortars were taking vigorous action against a German attack, eventually reaching HQ dazed and deafened. I was then taken on to the field hospital at Bayeux suffering from concussion and loss of hearing from a perforated left eardrum. After three days I was assured the deafness was only temporary and I was left to find my own way back to my unit by thumbing a lift from any army truck travelling in that direction.

Some weeks later whilst back home on leave, my wife and I visited George Lavender’s widow to express our condolences and explain the circumstances of George’s death. I knew nothing of Sam Koster’s family.

An extraordinary postscript to this story occurred fifty years later. In 1994 I joined the D-Day anniversary tour to Normandy with the Devonshire Regiment veterans. In the mêlée of people waiting to leave the ferry, I struck up a conversation with a lady standing nearby and asked her if she was with the Devon’s party. She told me that she was travelling with her husband, but that her reason for joining our tour was in the hope of finding her brother’s grave at Ranville and learning more of the circumstances of his death in June 1944. Thinking I might be able to help as I was with the HQ Company throughout my time with the regiment, I asked her brother’s name and she quietly replied “Jack Koster”. I was momentarily stunned and felt my life turning back again half a century — I was once again the young man aged 26 who was beside Jack when he was killed. She was speaking to the only man who could explain the full details of her brother’s death."

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - A Solitary Walk

Posted on: 07 August 2005 by Ron Goldstein

Dear ThreeCountiesAction

If you are still in contact with Mr.Leonard Waller would you kindly convey to him my appreciation of his amazing story.

All good wishes

Ron Goldstein

 

Message 2 - A Solitary Walk

Posted on: 07 August 2005 by threecountiesaction

Dear Ron Goldstein,
This is the first story I have submitted to the site, I was stunned to receive your reply within 2 minutes of posting my story, so thank you for your kind words.
I will most certainly convey your appreciation to my father - I know he will be very gratified that his story is of interest to others.

Best wishes
Sylvia Waller

 

Message 3 - A Solitary Walk

Posted on: 07 August 2005 by Ron Goldstein

Dear Sylvia
Thank you in turn for your own prompt and much appreciated reply.
We have a forum on the site (F125071?thread=670355&latest=1) where we post our recommendations of articles we have enjoyed.
Your Dad might like to know that I have made this one of my own 'picks'.
Regards
Ron

 

Message 4 - A Solitary Walk

Posted on: 07 August 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Sylvia

I fully agree with Ron. Your father might like to see these perpetual Internet memorials to Jack Koster http://www.cwgc.org/search/certificate.aspx?casualty=2343118About links and George Lavender http://www.cwgc.org/search/certificate.aspx?casualty=2343138About links

Kindest regards,

Peter

 

Message 5 - A Solitary Walk

Posted on: 08 August 2005 by threecountiesaction

Peter
Thank you so much for taking the trouble to let me know about these memorials. I believe Dad visited the cemetary at the 50th anniverary commemorations;he will be very moved to know that his comrades are remembered on the Internet in this way.
Kind regards
Sylvia

 

Message 6 - A Solitary Walk

Posted on: 08 August 2005 by threecountiesaction

Ron
Dad will be most chuffed to know that his story is a 'pick'.
Many thanks
Sylvia

Message 1 - Leonard Waller: 12th Devons

Posted on: 07 August 2005 by Steve Wright

Hello Sylvia

Was your father involved in Operation Varsity - The Rhine Crossing? If so, I would very much like to be in touch with him.

Steve Wright

 

Message 2 - Leonard Waller: 12th Devons

Posted on: 09 August 2005 by threecountiesaction

Hello Steve
My father was involved in the Rhine Crossing although he does not recall the name Operation Varsity. He was in the 6th Airborne as part of the 6th Airlanding Brigade and crossed by glider. Please let me know if you would like any further information
Kind regards
Sylvia

 

Message 3 - Leonard Waller: 12th Devons

Posted on: 09 August 2005 by Steve Wright

Hello Sylvia

Thanks for the reply. That your father crossed the Rhine by glider is all I need to confirm he was on Op Varsity.

Could you e-mail me, please, from my website (link from my Personal Page) and I'll let you know more about the Op Varsity book I'm writing.

Thanks

Steve Wright

Message 1 - 12th Devons

Posted on: 13 September 2005 by Andy1971

Dear Sylvia, please pass on my thanks to your father. I found your fathers story after Ron had recommended it.

Im very interested in the Normandy campaign, and especially the 6th airborne, so im always on the look out for info and stories concerning them.

Ive been going to Normandy each June for a few years now and have become good friends with a few 6th airborne vets. I read that your father was last over on the 50th anniversary?
Well I will be going out again next year and if he would like me to place anything on the two soldiers graves please let me know as it would be an honour.

Again many thanks to your father for his story and his service.

Andy

 

Message 2 - 12th Devons

Posted on: 28 September 2005 by threecountiesaction

Dear Andy
Thank you for your message and kind words. I have passed your comments on to my father. He asks me to thank you for your interest and your kind offer. He is in touch himself with the veterans association so there is no need to do anything on his behalf, but thank you for suggesting it.

Regards
Sylvia Waller

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British Army Category
D-Day+ 1944 Category
France Category
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