THE PEOPLE OF NORMANDY AND THEIR LIBERATORS

In the liberated regions, the Normans finally made the acquaintance of the soldiers they had been waiting for for so long. However, the fighting, and most of all the bombardments, had resulted in so many deaths and so many ruins that the rejoicing was inevitably muted in some places.

Even so, the local population greeted their liberators warmly. banners were hastily made to celebrate their arrival, along with flags and even dresses in the colours of the Union Jack or the Stars and Stripes.

Everywhere, the initial encounter took place around a bottle or jug. The doors to wine cellars were flung open. The Allies developed a taste for cider as well as for something slightly stronger – calvados. For their part, the Normans rediscovered the taste of chocolate and tobacco and indulged in the novel pleasure of chewing gum.

While relations with the British were cordial, they were particularly warm with the French Canadians. Initial contacts with the Americans were more circumspect. The latter were initially mistrustful, as they had been warned by their government that some French people might not be friends but foes, and there seemed to be no way of telling them apart. More than one GI asked someone else to taste the food and drink they were offered first, though they soon dropped their reserve and were openly friendly.

In Cherbourg, the first large city to be taken by the Americans virtually intact, there were extraordinary scenes of rejoicing at the end of June. During the break-out at the end of July, the American columns were given a triumphant greeting wherever they went, and often had to stop for a few minutes to receive flowers, embraces and warm handshakes.