Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

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Re: Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

Post by Temujin » Thu May 31, 2018 10:39 am

Lorraine, I have some questions, and then some information. Before I started looking for the bridge site, I read the war diaries to give me info on the bridge. Here’s the info you posted on the bridge
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If you read this, it tells us how the 5th wanted to build a bridge but they needed to close an existing ford, and the road, which HQ’s denied (they needed the trucks and men moving forward)......so then they decided to build the bridge to the NORTH of the existing road. So we know that the bridge was NOT built “on the road” but slightly north of it.

Then the war diary says that NO 3 Platoon took over the maintenance of the bridge (after it was built).....I’m ASSUMING this was the bridge they just built........BUT, it “MAY” have been another bridge???

Could you post the war diary page for the day BEFORE this page, I’m trying to see if I can get any other clues on the exact location of this bridge. JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE

Next, assuming that the Map Reference IS THE BRIDGE, I’ll now post up the info on the bridge.

Phil, has found the correct map.....I’ll post it below.....and I will post more info so you can actually find it in “modern day France”

Here’s the map Phil found
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Re: Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

Post by Temujin » Thu May 31, 2018 10:53 am

So first off, I had to determine where the co-ordinates come from. France etc was mapped with the Lambert System. So I had to find the location using this system, and the British Map Reference.

Here’s the location of the map reference, converted to the Lambert System Zone 1 (note: if you look at the bottom of the map that Phil Posted, or the “whole” map.....you can see in RED the reference to the map being Lambert System Zone 1)
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Then using the co-ordinates that this gives us, I’ll now post a series of maps, first large ones so you can see the area we’re in, and then zoom in..

You’ll see the co-ordinates come out to JUST NORTH of the existing highway and bridge over that highway, so using the info in the WAR DIARY, this seems to be correct, the bridge was built JUST NORTH, of the existing road
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So the above shows the approx location. Remember the conversion isn’t EXACT, so that is why the postion is slightly off the river.

What I would recommend, go to the road D675, stop at the bridge (off the road of coarse) and look at the banks of the canal to the north.....you may find clues to the bridge.......also local museums may contain more info, and in fact someone who KNOWS where the bridge was.

Hope this all helps, if you have questions or need more info let me know

ALSO, if I could get the war diary page BEFORE the one you posted, I’d like to double check please

Cheers

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Re: Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

Post by Temujin » Thu May 31, 2018 11:17 am

Lorraine Campbell wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 4:20 pm
This is my Grandfather standing at Hilliard Bridge

Another clue, if you look at the photo, the new bridge is “beside” some cobblestones. These may be the existing road (hard to tell).....or a walkway beside the road. Cobblestones may not be their now (you never know though?) but the bridge MAY have been built right beside the existing bridge???

USUALLY, engineers to NOT build bridges so vehicle have to take sharp turns.....because Armoured vehicles (tanks etc) tend to TARE UP a road, especially cobblestones when they turn......meaning more maintenance. So a slight turn to the left as they moved forward on the road, onto the bailey and then back right to get on the bridge.

ANOTHER clue, would be to find the “ford” that they were using until the bridge was built. My “gut” tells me the Ford was to the SOUTH of the main bridge.....theirfore they could keep it open, and build the Bailey to the NORTH of the road

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Re: Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

Post by Temujin » Thu May 31, 2018 11:27 am

Lorraine, another clue.......looking up a google earth photo.....I think I can see just to the north of the current bridge, the soil is “built up” and this is where they may have built the Bailey bridge (just a guess)......I’ve placed a red arrows on the route......remember, traffic was come from CAEN going EAST to the front lines

ON the photo, you can see the raised earth beside the existing road
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Re: Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

Post by Phil » Thu May 31, 2018 1:21 pm

Here's an account of interest. So the bridge was built on 22 Aug 1944, here's some items from notes from 18 Aug in the same area. Now Goustranville is just West of the canal crossing bridge that we've been looking at, so to say that the 12th Parachute Battalion started West of Goustanville and then proceeded through the town towards a railway bridge would put them at the canal where this bridge was about to be built. Later this account mentions another bridge which was intact which could be the bridge to the North on the canal.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peoples ... 8669.shtml
During the evening of August 18th, the 13th Battalion of the Parachute regiment was positioned to the west of the Normandy town of Goustranville. Among their number was Private Thomas Henry Crutchley 4919420 from Bloxwich in the Midlands region of Great Britain. He had been serving in the in the South Staffordshire Regiment and had become attached to the 13th battalion. He was twenty-seven years old.

The 13th battalion commanders received orders on the 18th to prepare for a night march and attack on the tiny Calvados village of Putot en Auge, which was still in the grip of the enemy. The battalion began to move out at 2330 and marched up the main road through Goustranville heading for the nearby railway bridge. Guided by Captain Golding, the head of the battalion reached the railway bridge at 0145. To their dismay, they found that the bridge had already been partly destroyed. To make matters more difficult for the 13th, the canal flowing beneath the bridge was tidal and was rising, precluding any opportunity for a crossing at that time.

The men of the 13th turned around and retraced their steps through the darkness, towards Goustranville. On arrival, they received orders to follow the 12th Parachute Battalion across the river by another bridge, which had been found intact. The 13th began to move at 0400 and despite shelling from nearby enemy positions as they passed along the main road, reached a position at the foot of a hill where they could wait for an opportune time to cross the canal. The time was now about 0430 on August 19th.

The men took shelter from continued enemy fire behind a hedge and along a nearby earthen bank. They hoped that the darkness and the mist that had enveloped and concealed them during the night would remain long enough for them to be able to follow the 12th across the canal and open ground, into the village of Putot en Auge.

Gradually the first glimmer of summer dawn appeared and as the darkness receded, so did the mist. It was obvious to the men that their current place of rest was overlooked by enemy positions on the high ground nearby, and as morning approached, they were beginning to become visible, so they decided to disperse. As they moved, enemy shell and mortar rounds began to land all around them, but fortunately the 13th suffered no casualties as they dispersed. As daybreak came they stumbled across nine very frightened German soldiers and took them prisoner. At 0900, the Brigadier, who had already entered Putot en Auge along with the 12th ordered the 13th to follow.

At 0950, companies "B", "A" and "C" of the 13th crossed over the canal and entered the village, coming under renewed enemy mortar fire as they did so. On reaching the village at 1025, the 13th had taken five casualties and shortly afterwards received orders to attack and capture a hill that overlooked the village, known as "Hill 13". The attack commenced at 1115.
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Re: Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

Post by Phil » Thu May 31, 2018 1:48 pm

I found some aerial images from 1944, and I've overlaid this one onto a current image. It looks to me that it's a railroad crossing the canal diagonally and proceeding into the town. This could the rail bridge mentioned in the previous account. You can also clearly see another bridge North of the road, though this is the road to the North of the one we've been looking at previously.

https://www.google.ca/maps/@49.2248079, ... a=!3m1!1e3

https://ncap.org.uk/frame/1-1-70-14-18
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Re: Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

Post by Phil » Thu May 31, 2018 2:24 pm

So, to summarize, here are the bridges in the immediate area of those coordinates.
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Re: Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

Post by Temujin » Thu May 31, 2018 7:21 pm

Phil and Lorainne, I have to give you my opinion. I do not believe the bridge was built at the northern locations. I believe the bailey bridge was constructed close to the bridge on D675......(the south bridge on your Map Phil)

My reasons why:

First, before I start my reasons, I have to assume that the Map Reference in the war diaries IS the map reference for the Stalker Bridge. I’m hoping that Lorainne will give us the War Diary Page BEFORE the one she posted, and if she has it the one AFTER. I think if I have a little more info, I should be able to confirm the Map Reference location....

Having said that, I am assuming that the MR 237720 is the location therefore my reasons:

1. Having spent 17 years in the Army, I KNOW that Map (Grid) References are one of the “most practised” items in the military. If you don’t know where you are......then you can’t do your job. Engineers are particularly good at Map References, as they have to find exact locations, to build bridges, plant or remove minefields etc etc........SO having said that I KNOW the MR 237720 is most likely correct.........ALSO, all “jobs” that the Engineers preform are first “RECCE’D” by an Officer or Senior NCO. They confirm WHERE the bridge will be built. The war dairies that you posted talk about the bridge for at least 2 days, so they knew where it was built, IMHO

2. And Using the Map Phil has confirmed, their is NO DOUBT in my mind that MR 237720 is the location of the bridge, over the canal on Route D675 (this is a modern day highway number).....so the bridge had to be built at that location or shortly north of the existing bridge.

3. Zooming in on google maps, shows a “build up” on the north side of the existing bridge. To me, this looks like where the bridge was built (the bailey bridge).......as you need room to build and launch the bridge, but on the other side, you only need enough room to deconstruct the landing nose, and prepare the bank and road. Also the almost “straight” approach from the road to the Bailey Bridge, again makes sense, as this is how we are taught to place bridges, close to the main route, NO HARD TURNS so tanks or armoured vehicles will tear up the approach road, and close to the main route on exit. ALSO, normally we would try to use the existing bridge (lay the bailey bridge over it)......but I’m not sure why they didn’t do this, the bridge and abutments may have been to damaged (blown up) or some other reason.

4. Another assumption is that the existing FORD was close to the bridge site, and because the 5th Field Company was NOT ALLOWED to close the road for construction or close the FORD.....I would assume the FORD site was below (to the south) of the existing bridge......I’m assuming, it would be nice to know where the FORD was?? By the war diary it was right next to the existing bridge

Having said all of the above, this is my best guess.....and I may be wrong.......and if I am WRONG, luckily I’m a moderator and I can delete all my post so I don’t look dumb......Ha ha

SO, next step is if we can get more pages of the War Diaries for this time period, I may be able to confirm I am “right” or “WRONG”.....
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Re: Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

Post by Temujin » Thu May 31, 2018 8:02 pm

Phil wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 1:48 pm
I found some aerial images from 1944, and I've overlaid this one onto a current image. It looks to me that it's a railroad crossing the canal diagonally and proceeding into the town. This could the rail bridge mentioned in the previous account. You can also clearly see another bridge North of the road, though this is the road to the North of the one we've been looking at previously.

https://www.google.ca/maps/@49.2248079, ... a=!3m1!1e3

https://ncap.org.uk/frame/1-1-70-14-18

Phil, I was re-examining the WW2 maps and the ones you posted. Unfortunately the road that you “overlaid” the air photo on didn’t existing in WW2.......so this can’t be overlaid in the right spot???........UNLESS this is overlaid on the railroad track that seem to run in this area about that time??

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Re: Sgt. Charles May, Royal Canadian Engineer

Post by Lorraine Campbell » Thu May 31, 2018 11:40 pm

You guys are amazing. I can't thank you enough...
here are the war diary pages from the days before and the day after.
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