HeadLine: You are dancing on the graves of 5,000 heroes
The Mirror, 04/11/2000, p21
by SHAUN MILNE
AN OLD soldier who cleared the bodies of fallen comrades from D-Day
beaches yesterday led protests against the Frenchman who plunders war
Gerald Davitt said Jacques Lemonchois was “dancing on the souls” of
5,000 British and Allied troops who lie buried off the French coast.
Lemonchois, 46, has spent the past 30 years raiding ships sunk in the
Normandy landings for relics to sell.
Mr Davitt, 74, of Birmingham, who served in the 48th Grave
Concentration Unit, said: “I don’t know how he can live with himself.
“He is dancing on the graves and souls of brave men who lost their
lives trying to set France free from the Nazis.”
Mr Davitt and his unit buried comrades killed at the landing sites of
Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
Mr Davitt said: “They would have on rings, gold chains and other things
but we would never dream of taking them.”
Lemonchois bought a licence from the French government in 1970 giving
him permission to remove wartime material from the battlegrounds. He
sells items to collectors, puts some pieces in a museum he runs and
sells other relics for scrap.
Alan Martin, 63, of Hucclecote, Glos, said his father, Jack, and uncle
Vic Shellard both took part in the landings.
“My uncle is still alive and he is upset. This man is disturbing places
of rest.” Stan Wilkinson, 77, from Manchester, survived when HMS Capel
sank, losing half her 130 crew. He said: “This man is raiding their
Eric Falconer, 75, of Macclesfield, was an able seaman who survived the
landings. He said: “We had nets under the ship to stop bodies floating
out to sea so we could give them a grave. Now he is stamping all over
them. What kind of man can make his living doing that?”
Medic Richard Smith from Nottingham died on hospital ship SS Amsterdam.
Daughter Kathleen Key, 74, was distraught someone could be swimming
around his grave. She said: “It’s heartbreaking.”
Alfred Langley, from Essex, was also aboard the Amsterdam when she went
down. His son, also Alfred Langley, 75, said: “This man is exploiting
Wendy Wall, 58, of Middlesbrough, still has the Normandy medal awarded
to her uncle John Dee, 18, after he died serving with the Scottish
She said: “This man should leave them alone, they have made a big
enough sacrifice without lining his pockets.”
Elsie Handley, 86, from Southport, Lancashire, was livid to learn about
Lemonchois. She said: “I lost my dear, lovely brother Bob in the war,
and I would hate to think of him being disturbed.”
Kenneth Hoggett, 78, of Doncaster, was on a landing craft for the
assault and saw many friends perish.
He said of the scavenging Frenchman: “I hope he finds a mine and is
blown to hell.”
But Mavis Marriott, from Peterborough, who lost her brother Arthur
Papworth in the landings, appealed to readers not to tar all the French
with the same brush.
“They are not all like him, Lots of French people treat us like royalty
because they are so grateful. They named a school after my brother in a
village called Vaudry in honour of men who died helping them. They
wanted to remember them for what they gave for us.
“We all should.”
Categories: Daily Mirror articles