Former Bells editor, Derrick French, was delighted to receive a surprise bouquet of flowers earlier this month.
They were from the mayor and councillors of Rolleville, near Le Havre, Normandy in remembrance of their liberation on September 2 1944.
On that day Derrick, of Misterton, entered the village in one of two scout cars of the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry ahead of the British infantry.
After four years of harsh occupation the Germans had retreated.
“The village seemed empty and very quiet at first until people realized what was happening,” said Derrick. “Then there was a rush of villagers, some with hastily grabbed flowers, who quickly surrounded our cars. I will never forget the ensuing welcome.”
Derrick also received a letter from the mayor, M. Pascal Leprettre, in which he said: “Several people who were there on that day will explain what they saw, how they lived these hours and what have been their feelings on such a unique moment.”
Referring to Rolleville’s 70th liberation anniversary he said: “It will be a greatly emotional time for everybody and a rare occasion for the youngest to hear about a period of which they do not know so much.”
Derrick, also known as John, is now 93 and was unable to attend this year but he and his wife Bett have had the honour of being guests at several of Rolleville’s liberation celebrations and commemorations. Each visit was met with the same overwhelming hospitality and friendship.
“Because of this close connection over many years Bett and I have been blessed with deep and lasting friendships that have enriched our lives immensely,” said Derrick.