At Peace in a Foreign Field: Albert Eustace (1915-1944):
As the month of remembrance ends, it seems appropriate to recall the poignant
story of another young soldier who gave his life for his country.
The year 2004 marked the 60th anniversary of the death of Private Albert Henry Eustace, of the 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment (Tigers), who was killed in action at the age of 29 at Normandy.
His son, Graham Eustace, has written to me, saying that the family has always commemorated his father’s sacrifice, along with that of his uncle, Private Norman H. Barratt, who was killed in action, aged 19, in the Mercury’s Roll of Honour column.
Mr Eustace who, with his brother Robert, joined the Royal Leicestershire Regiment in 1962 and saw active service in Borneo and South Arabia, sent me details of his father’s last days, from which I quote:
”Private Eustace was with his battalion in Norfolk, where they trained in readiness for operation Overlord, as the invasion of Normandy became known.
”The battalion was in reserve on D Day and did not go to France until July 3, landing at Courcelles on the Normandy coast, and disembarked overnight. They relieved the 6th battalion, the Duke of Wellington’s regiment, who had received a huge number of casualties. The battle for Normandy officially ended on August 22.
”To the south of Caen, the German Army was in full rout, but to the north, it was fighting a tactical retreat eastwards with rearguard action delaying the allied advance. It was around Lisieux where the action was on August 23 with the Highland Division taking the town.
”To the north, the Leicesters were liberating the villages and clearing enemy units from strategic positions. It was at the village of Rocques, three kilometres from Lisieux, where a section of 18 Platoon, D Company, were approaching a hedgerow bordering an orchard on a rise to a crossroads where two members of the unit entered. Incoming fire was received from the crossroads and only one soldier returned to the section.
”That day, August 23, 1944, when Rocques was liberated, the battalion lost 12 men during this action and Albert Eustace’s body was recovered from the orchard by local men of the French Resistance who interred it in the village cemetery at the crossroads.
”Monsieur Lamot, a member of the local community said the location and event was not immediately reported as it was their wish that he remained there as a memorial to remind them of their day of liberation.
”At the crossroads, Albert Eustace’s remains lie today along with his hopes and dreams - and love of life - long since gone.
”A lone headstone and a plaque marking the Commonwealth war grave identifies the spot, even now separated from his fallen comrades.
”Out of the rank and file, he lies a lone sentinel symbolic in its purpose of liberation and the path and advance of the men of the Leicestershire Regiment.”
Graham Eustace and his brother Robert took their mother to Rocques on August 21, 2004, returning on the 24th for the 60th anniversary commemoration.