TOUTES LES NOUVELLES DE RAMBOUILLET – Newspaper
April 6th, 1988
FATE BRINGS THEM TOGETHER 44 YEARS AFTER
The story is beautiful. There are days when it is nice to work as a journalist. Thanks to you, the readers of our newspaper, after 44 years. Two men that fate had brought together back in August 1944, then separated at the moment of the Liberation of France, will meet again.
Last Wednesday, we told the moving story of a young American soldier whose plane was shot down by German flak August 2, 1944 and who had been hidden by some residents of Rambouillet until liberation.
Now retired Colonel of the Air Force US, Jack Davis, was desperately looking for the family that had hidden him for 17 days.
Thanks to the many testimonies that followed the publication of the article, in 24 hours, Claude Le Febvre, who lived at the time at 44, rue Petit-Parc in Rambouillet, was found. Wednesday evening, our reporter was at home, in Garches, souvenirs of that heroic era have resurfaced in his memory. Modestly, Claude Le Febvre told us about its activity with the « Comet » network, the summer evenings when he was playing cards with Americans listening to the BBC
Reached by telephone Wednesday mid-afternoon, thanks to Henri Villet’s information (the brother-in-law), Claude Le Febvre makes us understand that he knows about the story we liek to run int eh paper. And as soon as we mention the name of Davis, the voice of Claude Le Febvre changes « Jack, Jack Davis?! » Barely 24 hours after the call of the « Toutes le Nouvelles » paper, we had found the man who had hidden the American officer during the summer of 1944!
NETWORK « COMET »
« From the day of landing, we, my mother and I were enrolled in the Comet network, » says Claude Le Febvre who arranges his photo albums together with the memories rooted deep down for more than forty years. « We lived in Rue du Petit Parc at Rambouillet in a house with five beds, but we were only two. The network « Comet » brought over officers of the allied troops who needed to hide. « So it was first some English and then a New Zealander who found refuge with Le Febvre. Some stayed for longer; others were quickly evacuated to the Chevreuse Valley, dressed as firemen. In early August, four Americans will come to 44, rue du Petit-Park: Jans Lindquist, Russel Cotts, Edward O’Day and Jack Davis. They were all four aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress that was shot presumably above Trappes where the Germans had installed a powerful anti aircraft guns. Recovered by Eugène Falenpein, they found themselves at Christiane and Claude Le Febvre via the network « Comet ». Accompanied by Jans Lindquist, Jack Davis, at the time sergeant mechanic will remain hidden at the Le Febvre’s until the liberation of Rambouillet.
EXHILERATING TIMES, THE DAYS PASSED QUICKLY
« Life at that time was exhilarating and the days passed quickly, » says Claude Le Febvre. « The Americans spend their time listening to the BBC and playing cards. » Sometimes, the Americans were searched for (« When they shot down a flying fortress, the Germans counted the coprs and thus knew exactly the number of fugitive soldiers ») would do a walk in the gardens, sheltered by high shrubs surrounding the house; At no time the fugitives were to stay alone. « It was too dangerous in case of routine check or something, » says Jeannine Le Febvre who was at the time the bride of the member of resistance and who kept the Americans company when Christiane and Claude Le Febvre were absent.
« BEFORE THE WAR, JACK DAVIS WAS A PROFESSIONAL JAZZ DRUMMER »
Claude and Jeannine Le Febvre keep good memories of the period that followed the Allied landing on the beaches of Normandy. « Before the war, Jack Davis was a professional jazz drummer, » said Claude, « when he began to play drums with his fingers it was amazing! ». Jeannine and Claude Le Febvre will also remember the day when they were out to dinner at « anti-Nazis » who were eager to have the Americans at their table. « Coming back, just before the curfew, we passed in front of the Garrisons Headquarters. The Americans laughed at the idea of passing in front of the sentry without them having any idea about their real identities.”
On the day of the release of Rambouillet, it was not without some emotions that the Americans will leave the Le Febvre’s.
« They absolutely wanted to buy French perfume to bring back home to the other side of the Atlantic. I had to tell them the scent of the war was not good, they did not want to know!”
When about leaving with his comrades for Paris, Jack Davis gave his watch as souvenir to Christiane Le Febvre. When his mother passed away, Claude Le Febvre recovered the gift of the sergeant and always kept carefully, unaware that one day he would have the opportunity to bring it out for such an occasion.
Nobody really knows why on the other side of the Atlantic, 44 years later, the officer of the US Air Force has set his mind to finding those who saved him from falling into the hands of Germans. Like many other Americans retired officers, Jack Davis began to search for his past. Here in France, nobody blames all the soldiers of the Allied forces for the silence in which they live for over 40 years. On learning that Jack Davis was trying to find him to invite him to the United States, Claude Le Febvre was moved and touched. It is with humbleness that recollections emerged from his memory. Always modest, even when he said it at the time, he risked being shot!
THIS IS ONLY THE LIBERTATION THAT RAMBOUILLET LEARNs ABOUT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE FAMILY FEBVRE!
From June 1944 to August 19, ten American, English and New Zealand pilots have found refuge in 44 of rue du Petit-Parc at Christiane and Claude Le Febvre. During the two and a half months in Rambouillet person, except the Resistance network members knew that the house of Le Febvre used hide Allied pilots. « The neighbours told me after Liberation, they sometimes heard several male voices, but they thought it was our cousins, » says Claude Le Febvre. « Americans » says Jeannine Le Febvre who was only engaged to Claude at the time, but sometimes replacing Christiane Le Febvre at home when she was away because « there always had to be a French in the house. »
The Rambolitains that experienced the Le Febvre during the war, say they were discreet people, modest, who made things quietly. Also on the day of the Libération, the Le Febvre family, like many other resistant, would not divulge all of their activities to the public.
When we met, it was with the same modest Claude Le Febvre told us about his resistance activities.
In the garden of 44, rue du Petit-Parc, the smile of American pilots and members of the resistance.
Around Christiane Le Febvre and her son Claude (top left), some of the soldiers of the Allied Forces who hid in Rambouillet waiting for the arrival of Canadians and Americans. In the first row, second from the left, we recognize the mechanic Sergeant Jack Davis, now retired colonel.
Sheltered by tall shrubs surrounding the 44, rue du Petit-Parc, the « clandestines » often went out for some fresh air between two games of cards.
August 19, 1944, date of the liberation of Rambouillet the officers reunite with their comrades, however they will never meet again the ones who had saved them. Sometimes friendships were created. Friendships, ephemeral but unforgettable.