Twin Town Liberation Celebrations
Monday 1st September 2014
Representatives of Hebden Royd Town Council – including the Mayor Cllr Jonathan Timbers, and past Mayor's Cllrs Karl Boggis and Robin Dixon, will be celebrating the liberation from Nazi occupation, of our twin town, St Pol St Ternoise on 3 September 2014. They will be laying wreaths to mark the occasion, seventy years ago, when British troops, including at least one man from Hebden Bridge, pushed the Nazis out of the town. They will be accompanied by the son of that brave soldier, John Armstrong, who rediscovered the story whilst looking through his father's possessions after he died.
When his father passed away John Armstrong discovered a not seen before diary. The diary, which was originally written by his father's comrade Billy Church, was left to Peter Armstrong when he passed away.
The diary recounted Peter and Billy's time serving in the Second World War and John decided that coupled with his love of France he should revisit some of the locations his father had visited while serving with the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats having originally served in the Reconnaissance Core. During his service with the Reconnaissance Core he drove a Bren Gun Carrier taking it in turns to lead the line, 30mins a time, at the front.
John visited Arromanche (Gold Beach) where his father landed 2 weeks after D-Day aged only 20 yrs & the site of the Battle of the Falaise Pocket (12–21 August 1944), the decisive engagement in the Battle for Normandy on his journey before eventually reaching St Pol Sur Ternoise, a small provincial town, in the northern region of Pas de Calais.
While exploring the town John came across the Towns Information Centre and was greeted by a lady who turned out to be the Towns Deputy Mayor, Claude Rousseau. While looking at a map of St Pol John noticed a familiarly named street that of Rue de Hebden Bridge and in amazement explained where his father had come from.
John and his father came from Hebden Bridge and were unaware of the long standing (35 years in 2015) twinning agreement between the two towns and John could not believe that his father had been so directly involved with the Towns Liberation on the 3rd September in 1944. They had often seen mention of Twinning in the Hebden Bridge Times but did not realise that his home town was twinned with one of the places him and his fellow servicemen helped liberate during the war.
As the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation draws close the People of St Pol have presented the People of Hebden Bridge with a commissioned piece of artwork by Eric Denudt depicting the arrival of the Desert Rats in Place Mal Le Clerc on the 3rd September 1944 in an armoured tank.
The painting, presented to the Mayor of Hebden Royd, Cllr Jonathan Timbers at the French Celebrations marking the anniversary of the Twinning Agreement is currently on display in the offices of Hebden Royd Town Council, in the Town Hall Hebden Bridge.