A French Orphan and the Tiles of War

Posted: March 12, 2014 in Men of the 111th Ordnance Company
Tags: ,

The discovery of the 111th’s European itinerary has already answered two questions we have had. The first involves the French boy the men picked up in Normandy–presumably an orphan. Last week, when we heard from the French student, Tristan, concerning the Falaise Gap, I asked him in an email if he had any idea as to how we might find out more about this lad of 1944. His first question was, “Do you know when and where the 111th picked him up?” And of course, I had no idea–just somewhere in Normandy.

Unidentified French boy the unit picked up in Normandy and took with them for six months.

Unidentified French boy the unit picked up in Normandy

Well, as luck would have it, the very next day Tom Sedlacek found his dad’s copy of the itinerary, and he faxed it to us. One line in it says “Picked up French kid 8-14-44”; they were camped in Vire, Normandy on that date. So I wrote back to Tristan with that information, and he has offered to sent the boy’s photo (I was able to send a better one than the one above) and this information to newspapers in Vire for us. Wouldn’t be amazing if the boy–now a man in his 80’s–is alive and we could find him? A long shot for sure, but stranger things have happened on this quest. Such as…

In my father’s stash of things, I found a box containing four painted Dutch tiles. I never could figure out where they came from or why he kept them or what to do with them, so I put them in a closet. In January, we got a phone call from Melissa Boaz, the granddaughter of 111th member Joseph Apple, Jr., and for some reason she brought up the fact that she had some Dutch tiles he had mailed home to her grandmother during the war–they were still in the original shipping box. I pulled out my tiles, took a picture of them with my iPad, and emailed it to her. Sure enough, same tiles, except for one. We laughed at the thought of the two men shopping for tiles while a war was going on. Here is one:

photo (37)

Then the other day we saw this on the itinerary: “…Maastricht (first inside quarters in tile factory” 9-27-44. Look carefully at the company (Ste Ceramique) and location (Maestricht) on the back of this tile:

photo (38)

I checked and it seems the company no longer exists. “Groningen” seems to refer to the girl’s village or perhaps her costume.

So, it looks like the men helped themselves to some souvenirs, something to send home to their wives and mothers. Have any other 111th families come across similar tiles?

  1. Ken Campbell says:

    Hi Andrea,

    This is so funny. My dad sent four tiles home to my mother. I now have two, my sister kept one and gave one to her daughter. I have the same picture of the girl in blue. Two tiles were in the blue hued family and two were in earth tones.

    Glad someone is working on finding the French boy. I noticed on the itinerary when you first sent it to me that it told when he was picked up. I hope something can be found out about him.

    Thanks for all you and Ed are doing.


  2. Kay McAnally says:

    Good Grief! The dead just keep on talking! I’m waiting to find out who the French boy is! Incidentally, I used antique tiles I found in Europe as a back splash in my guest bathroom. Loved looking at them and reminded me of my days in England everyday.

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