- Descanneville in flames.
The bombing on the battery intensifies.
The Merville battery was the target of numerous bombing missions, which intensified as D Day drew closer. Aerial reconnaissance revealed that bombs below a certain tonnage had been ineffective. Therefore heavier munitions were dropped, thereby intensifying the bombardment.
- The tragedy of the Vermughen family.
Adrien tortured in front of his wife
Adrien Vermughen (photo left) and Yvonne Vermughen (photo right) were proprietors of the ferme de la Bergerie, a big farm.
In common with other farmers they had experienced the difficulties of insufficient grazing for their animals.
Their problems stemmed from Rommel’s orders to flood the low-lying lands around the River Dives. There was simply not enough pasture.
His farm was almost unviable, and this worried Adrien Vermughen.
The ferme de la Bergerie was located a few kilometres to the East of the Merville battery. On the night of 5th June, Adrien Vermughen, being used to the sound of anti-aircraft artillery fire and repetitive bombings, suddenly pricked up his ears at the sound of unusual aircraft approaching. The flak seemed to get worse. He decided to go out into the yard. He looked towards the sky and he was sure he saw parachutes, men on parachutes. He was sure that the Invasion had begun. Knowing the marshes, he decided that, come daybreak, he would send his herdsman in a boat into the flooded waters and look for stranded paratroopers…
As dawn broke, the Vermughen’s herdsman brought his boat close to Terry Jepp who, with several others, was in great difficulty.
These men had, since around 0030 hours that night, been struggling in the icy water, trying to avoid drowning in the trap set by Rommel. They had been making for the only feature they could see, the Vermughen’s farm, as best they could in the darkness.
Once in the boat they quickly made for the ferme de la Bergerie. They did not want to remain in the open because D Day had begun and soon enemy reinforcements would be in the area. Adrien and Yvonne Vermughen had just enough time to hide the paratroopers. A German patrol came into the farm. Cold sweat, hearts pounding, restricted breathing… The Germans wanted food supplies and as soon as they got what they came for they departed. Over the next few hours more British and Canadian paratroopers arrived at the farm.
During the days that followed, Adrien and Yvonne Vermughen turned no Allied soldier away. Then the 5th July arrived, and it was to be a sad day for them. Rumours had spread and the Germans arrived in force at the farm. The Paratroopers had long gone and the Germans found nothing. They exacted a terrible punishment. Adrien Vermughen refused to talk and was tortured and shot in front of his wife. Yvonne Vermughen was put in prison and the farm was razed to the ground.
- Terry Jepp
Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps
When Terry Jepp jumped from his Dakota his mission was to establish a First Aid Post at the Merville battery.
He asked himself during his descent whether he was about to land in the English Channel, because there was so much water beneath him.
He touched down and immediately plunged below the surface of the icy flood water. He struggled for a long period, trying to escape the foul sucking mud of the marshes. With several others around him as mentioned above, he arrived at the ferme de la Bergerie in the Vermughen’s barge.
He did not stay long at the farm and left that same night to rejoin the 9th Battalion, not wanting to endanger either himself or the Vermughens.
On a road leading towards the battery hed came across a German patrol, which immediately opened fire on him. He was seriously wounded in the leg and was taken prisoner. He was taken to Paris and received treatment. He escaped and made his way back to England.
He returned to Normandy and met again Yvonne Vermughen, who had been imprisoned by the Germans for 6 months.