Recognized for his bravery, leadership and tactical skills ‘Old Blood ‘n Guts’ has secured a well-earned place in the annals of WWII History. In 1944 according to legend, while in France, the late General George S. Patton III returned to the village of Bourg and paid his respects to the ‘grave’ of a ‘national hero.’
Patton had not been here since 1918, when as a colonel, he established a Tank School between Metz and Dijon. “The place had no shortage of mud, of which there is a magnificent supply”, he wrote in his diary (later published by his widow Beatrice in 1947). When scouting the area back in 1917, Patton encountered the local mayor, who through floods of tears explained that the Americans had failed to inform him of the death of one of their soldiers.
A slightly confused Patton recalled, “Being unaware of this sad fact, and not liking to admit it to a stranger, I stalled until I found out that no one was dead. However, the Frenchman insisted that we visit the grave.”
The mayor escorted Patton to a recently closed latrine pit, neatly formed into an oblong shaped earthen mound complete with a makeshift cross, upon which were stenciled the words ‘Abandoned Rear’. Realizing that the French had inadvertently mistaken the backfilled lavatory for a provisional field grave, Patton, offered his very deepest sympathies before making a rather embarrassed but hasty exit.
Twenty-six years later, during a nostalgic visit to his former Brigade HQ in Bourg, the now legendary General was shocked and surprised to see that the ‘grave’, “Abandoned Rear,” was still being maintained by the local population, who viewed the ‘unknown warrior’ as some kind of a national hero!
Patton sheepishly stated at the time that, “I never told them the truth”!
By Reg Jans, you can tour with Reg to see key places in our WWII history – check out his website here www.regjans.com
Reg Jans’ deep passion for WWII began as a boy after talking to his grandfather (who had been wounded in 1940 while fighting in France with the Belgian Army) and watching moving picture footage of the D-Day landings, parachute drops over the Netherlands and snow-covered foxholes in the Ardennes. His grandfather’s death signalled a turning point for Reg, along with the realisation that freedom does not come for free and historical knowledge should be preserved and passed on.