WW2 veteran British paratrooper from Operation Dragoon Peter Matthews, meets the “boy” he gave chocolate to, for the first time since 15th August 1944.
On the 15th of August 1944 Peter Matthews was making his way to the main crossroads by the River Nartuby in Le Muy, Southern France. He had been ordered down from the hill overlooking the town with “Spike” Nolan and a couple of other members of 4th Battalion C Company to assess the strength of the German force holding this important crossroads. On his way down the plan was to follow the course of the river along to the bridge over the river by the crossroads. Helping the paratroopers find the best way down was a young local man Jean Galli. On the way down they passed a farm and a young boy, Maurice Toselo, ran out and stumbled across the British Paratroopers.
Peter Matthews said “I thought to myself, I hope he doesn’t shout ‘cos he’ll give our position away and we’ll all be dead ‘cos the Germans were nearby. The only thing I could think of was to give him my chocolate ration and hope he would go back into the farmhouse. Luckily for us he did just that.”
The paratroopers hid by the bridge over the Nartuby and awaited their chance to take the crossroads which had been an important objective of the whole operation.
Peter Matthews added “I have been returning to Le Muy since the 50th Anniversary of Operation Dragoon and I’ve become friends with Jean Galli, we always have a drink together each year, but to meet the boy I gave chocolate to is incredible. Of course after 66 years Maurice is not looking so young now but he’s still that boy in my memories and talking with him brought back the memory of that morning in 1944. How lucky we are to be alive”
Two old soldiers, one British, one American and both veterans of Operation Dragoon, meet once again outside the Musee de la Liberation in Le Muy. Peter Matthews (left) and Joe Ciccinelli have been returning to the Le Muy area of Southern France since the 50th Anniversary in 1994. Both are recipients of the Legion d’Honneur bestowed upon them for their part in the heroic efforts in helping Liberate France form Nazi occupation.
Le Muy was the first town to be liberated in the South of France on 15th August 1944.
On the 15th August 2009 as part of the Liberation celebrations in Le Muy the people of the town dedicated the bridge over the Nartuby on the N7 near the town, to the 4th Batallion Parachute Regiment.
On the morning of 15th August 1944 the bridge was the scene of some fierce fighting as it also stood near the main crossroads to the town. During one firefight members of the 4th Batallion B Company saw a German patrol with 2 American prisoners…in the fight that ensued the Americans were freed. Peter Matthews and Spike Nolan and other members of 4th Batallion ‘B’ Company were first on the crossroads on the morning of 15th August 1944, there was some fierce fighting but the British held the crossroads and began to force the Germans back up into the town.
The photos below show members of the 4th Batallion, including Dick Hargreaves who was B’ Company Commander and Peter Matthews. The veterans were honoured to unveil the commemorative plaque and throw flowers into the river to remember those who died in the battle that took place here in 1944.
Taken from Michaels own account of his involvement in Operation Dragoon.
“……We spent the first four months of 1944 on Sicily, based on three USAAF bases – Gerbini, Ponte-Olivio & Comiso, (where we loved the food, after our British rations, especially at breakfast – “how many eggs? Sunny side up or easy over?” and all the trimmings!- and the PX !), training with the American aircrews to bring them up to pathfinder standard – to home in on our directional beacons and ground landing aids, so as to avoid a repetition of the disastrous Sicily landings. We carried out numerous day & night exercises with them, dropping between one man at times and a section of eight at others to let them get experience of making correct landfalls and identifying the dropping/landing zones which we would mark out.
This training paid off in August when we were able to pick our own crews for our pathfinder drop in the south of France (part of Operation “Dragoon”) who dropped us, despite heavy ground fog, on the correct spot. Our work was also appreciated by the American Air Force, who awarded us the unique right to wear their torch pathfinder batch on the left sleeve of our uniforms.
On Operation “Dragoon” we dropped at 03.34 hrs into the fields & vineyards of the village of Le Mitan near the village of La Motte & town of Le Muy and set up our Eureka beacons and other landing aids in good – 3 -time for the arrival of the Brigade at dawn. Again the leading planes of the three battalions were crewed by our friends from Sicily and two of the three battalions landed right on target on our DZ; the third, unfortunately had its Rebecca receiver malfunction and, not receiving the signal from our Eureka beacon, dropped its battalion some miles away. (They were able to rejoin the Brigade later during the day.) The value and efficiency of the pathfinder unit had been proved to the full. During the rest of the day and subsequently we cleared the ground of obstacles, brought in American gliders and supply drops, created landing strips for light aircraft and so on. We returned to Italy by sea on 29th August, billeted near Rome, and were re-equipped for our next adventure, already in the pipeline…………”
Michael Compton was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the French on the 6oth Anniversary celebrations of Operation Dragoon at La Motte.
Parachute Regiment veteran Peter Matthews receives the Legion d’Honneur from French Minister Hubert Falco on the occassion of the 6oth Anniversary celebrations of Operation Dragoon at La Motte which was one of the first villages to be liberated by the British in 1944 in Sothern France.
In all 10 medals were awarded to British veterans representing the Pathfinders, 4th, 5th and 6th Batallions of the Parachute Regiment.