The thought of World War II brings back memories of death, loss, courage and sacrifice. It was also a time when a small piece of humanity and kindness was treasured for a lifetime.
One such act of kindness took place over a jam sandwich, and is what made the brief encounter with Huguette so special for Reg Pye.
He Kept Her Photo Safe in His Wallet for 78 Years
The British soldier, Reg Pye, served with the 224 Field Company, Royal Engineers as a driver carrying sappers, mines and ammunitions during the Battle of Normandy. In June 1944, while assisting the Allied invasion of mainland Europe against the German enemy at an unknown village in the area known during the war as the Falasie Gap, he spotted an unknown French teenage girl.
“There was also a slice of bread. He put margarine on with a paintbrush and we also had a dollop of red jam. We walked back to where I had parked my van and I shared the pilchards (a small sardine) between me and this other chap. Then I looked up and there was a girl standing in front of me. I didn’t see her coming.”
Pye recalls her wearing a “shabby white dress” and staring at him. He offered her the pilchards he had but she denied and continued to stare. Confused, he wondered what she was staring at and looked down to his bread. He offered her the bread but does not remember if she took it. What he does recall vividly is how she ran across the village square and into the church. He never saw her again.
The next morning, he found that she half filled his mess tin with milk and left a picture of herself outside a French presbytery with her name and a message written on the back. And that was the photograph he kept safe for all these years in the hope of finding her one day.
“In the bleakest of times this bit of humanity interaction made a huge mark on my life,” Reg said.
Reg was 21 years old and Huguette was 14 when they met each other.
A Social Media Campaign Brought Them Together
When Reg’s wife of 72 years died, he tried to find Huguette with his son’s help but failed. Twenty years later from then, after hearing the story, a volunteer Paul Cook, from the Taxi Charity for Military veterans, an organization run by black taxi drivers which arranges free trips for veterans to Belgium, Netherlands and France, started a social media campaign that successfully reunited the pair.
Reg, 99, showed Huguette, 92, a mother of three, the picture he kept safe for 78 years and shared a jam sandwich with her. He also offered a can of pilchards which she denied just like all those years ago, now with a smile on her face.
“She was very prim and proper. We had a good welcome, the best 4 to 5 hours of our lives.”
Huguette was “extremely touched” to know that Reg had tried to find her. Extended family and friends helped translate their conversation as they sat and drank Champaign together. At the end, they hugged and kissed each other on the cheek. Huguette laughed and said they would have to get married now. Red accepted her proposal as she “vowed” to break up with her current boyfriend in the care home to be his wife.
When Fate Designs the Perfect Happily Ever After
We meet so many people in our life. Some stay and continue to make our life special. But some are like characters in a book, who come in momentarily and leaves a strong impression. They make us want to meet them again and complete that story left unfinished.
Sometimes fate helps to complete those stories and for Reg, it helped to give a beautiful happy ending.