Private EDOUARD GERARD (photo added)

Serviceman Headstone thumbnail image Serviceman grave marker Serviceman thumbnail
Rank Private
Forenames EDOUARD
Surname GERARD (photo added)
Initials G
Place of Birth DINANT, WALLONIA, BELGIUM
Date of Birth Unknown
Date of Death Wednesday, 16 August 1944
Age 20
Nationality Belgian
Residence or Entered Service From DINANT, WALLONIA, BELGIUM
Service Number 2553
Force Belgian Army
Service/Corps/Regiment Piron Brigade (1st Belgian Brigade)
Unit / Ship / Battalion / Squadron 3 Motorised Company, 5 Assault Platoon, Piron Brigade (1st Belgian Brigade)
Military Honours and Awards
Place of Burial/Commemoration RANVILLE WAR CEMETERY
Roll of honour
Grave/Memorial Location V. A. 12
Previous Place(s) of Burial Unknown
Epitaph MORT POUR LA BELGIQUE NE A DINANT TOMBE A L'ENNEMI A SALLENELLES
Family Details Unknown

Additional Information

 

 

EDOUARD GERARD was from Dinant, in the Upper Meuse Valley, in the region of Wallonia, Belgian.

 

In September 1941, he introduced himself to Captain-Commandant George Houbion, who would later become his commanding officer in Normandy, while they were interred in a camp in Miranda de Ebro, Burgos, Spain. EDOUARD GERARD told the Spanish authorities that he was a Canadian citizen, supported by the English, he was released and went to London, via Gibraltar.

 

In 1942 EDOUARD GERARD met Captain-Commandant George Houbion in London. After expressing an interest in becoming a fighter pilot with the Belgian Section of the Royal Air Force, Captain Houbion helped arrange for EDOUARD GERARD to enroll in the training centre for the RAF. Without the required qualifications, EDOUARD GERARD returned to his unit, 2 Infantry Battalion. A few months later he was transferred to 1 Belgian Group and came under the command of Captain-Commandant George Houbion. Keen to fight for his country, EDOUARD GERARD also tried to volunteer as a paratrooper and requested to join the navy 1

 

On 15th April 1943 Major Jean-Baptiste Piron, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and takes command of the recently formed 1st Belgian Brigade, to be also known as the Piron Brigade. Captain-Commandant George Houbion becomes part of the brigade staff and is appointed Aide-de-Camp.

 

On the 3rd August 1944, the Piron Brigade move to a marshaling area at Tilbury Docks, and board 3 Liberty Ships. On the 6th August the Piron Brigade leaves Britain and heads to Normandy, France.2

 

The Piron Brigade came under the Command of 6 Airborne Division in Normandy. It was on the 14th August 1944* that Captain-Commandant George Houbion went to the small village of Sallenelles with Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Baptiste Piron. It woud be the last time he would see him alive. At Sallenelles, 5 Assault Platoon were preparing for action and an attacking raid on a German position between Sallenelles and Franceville. Private EDOUARD GERARD was next to a farm building on the northern edge of the village. He was in a trench, positioned to protect the flank of the attack. As the attack began a German mortar bomb hit the side of the farm building. Shards of steel shrapnel blasted down around the trench and Private EDOUARD GERARD was killed after being hit in the back. He become the first Belgian soldier to die in the Normandy Campaign.3

 

 

 

 

Memorial plaque, to Private EDOUARD GERARD in the village of Sallenelles,
where he was killed on the 16th August 1944.

 

 

Memorial plaque, in the village of Ranville, to the men from the Piron Brigade,
and their comrades in 6 Airborne Division who were killed in August 1944.

 

 

Headstone and grave of Private EDOUARD GERARD,
the first Belgian soldier to die in the Normandy Campaign in 1944.

 

 

References
* Captaine-Commandant George Houbion records, in his testimony, states the date that he heard Private EDOUARD GERARD had been killed was the 15th August 1944. Commonwealth War Graves Commission records have the date of death as the 16th August 1944.
1. Testimony of Captain-Commandant George Houbion, via Piron Brigade archive and website.
2. Information form History of the Piron Brigade via Piron Brigade archive and website.
3. Testimony of Captain-Commandant George Houbion, via Piron Brigade archive and website.

 

Acknowledgements and Credits
Source of original data: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Headstone photograph: Carl Shilleto
Cross marker photograph:  
Individual photograph: Batterie de Merville Museum and Kris Michiels
Additional photographs provided by: Batterie de Merville Museum, Kris Michiels and Carl Shilleto
Additional information provided by: Batterie de Merville Museum, Piron Brigade archive and website, Kris Michiels and Carl Shilleto

 

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