Updated 9 March 2022
See the update at the end.
I found someone who is writing a blog on the Internet. This young lady was a guide in the Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles-sur-Mer in Normandy.
Juno Beach Centre
She mostly talks about her travel experience but she also talks about the Rousseau brothers. This is her introduction. It is written in French but I will translate it for you.
I received an e-mail from Normandy today. It is not that my homework were not unexpected, but there they were. My first task consisted in finding a Canadian soldier fallen in battle and buried in one of two cemeteries near Courseulles-sur-mer. I had…
1) To find a soldier
2) To try to find some facts from his past to get any sort of factoïdes
3) To try to find of members of his family still living for a little chat
4) Prepare a 5 minute presentation.
I spent all morning long looking on the Internet for a French Canadian fallen in Normandy. I stumbled upon Lieutenant Philippe Rousseau, a native of Montmagny, a paratrooper who died on June 6th, 1944, the night of the landing in Normandy. His brother Maurice died 3 months later in Normandy also and they are buried one next to the other in the Ranville cemetery.
By writing to the Canadian Parachute Regiment, I was put in touch with Jan De Vries, a veteran who belonged to the 1st Canadian parachute battalion.
Mr De Vries had only little information about the Rousseau brothers, since he did not know them personaly. He refered me to Andrew Roy, another veteran who was in touch with three brothers and sisters of the Rousseau three years ago.
I call Mister Roy. He first told me that the Rousseau family was not interested in sharing the story of the brothers when he met them. He told me not to get in touch with them, which limited my opportunity for additional information for my biography. He refered me instead to Alain Sillas.
Mister Roy told me that while he was placing Canadian flags on the graves of the Rousseau brothers in Ranville cemetery in 2004, a man, Mister Sillas, asked him if he knew them. He answered he had served with them during the war. Mister Sillas told him he was writing a book with a few chapters about the Rousseau brothers . The father of his wife had served with Maurice in the British Special Air Service, a paratooper commando group who were called on the most dangerous missions. Maurice Rousseau had died allowing his father-in-law and two other men to escape. This is why Mister Sillas wanted to honour all these Canadians who had come to Europe to fight and who had died.
I got in touch with Mister Sillas and he invited me to visit him during my stay in Paris. Meanwhile I visited the library and I browsed through books on the Normandy landing and on the paratroopers to find any information that could help me in my research.
I arrived in Paris for 24 hours. I went to suburbs to meet Mister Sillas. I have already shown you the pictures of his apartment and his fascinating and impressive collection of war artefacts,
During our stop in Ranville cemetery during our training, I made my small five minute presentation. In fact, I believe it lasted maybe a little more because I found it was important to talk about Philippe, but also about his brother Maurice because their stories were intertwined.
Come back next week.
Update 9 March 2022
Emails from a relative
I wanted to thank you for the great page you have so kindly dedicated to my great uncles Philippe and Maurice Rousseau.
I grew up hearing their valiant stories which always remain with me.
Regarding the picture in which you originally believed to be Philippe (with his 2 sisters) was actually a soldier in Philippe’s division called Moffat (I have never seen the name spelled and I do not know much about him)
After Philippe was killed and the fighting died down, the rest of the platoon was captured including Mr. Moffat. He came by the family residence to tell the story of Philippe.
Interesting tidbit, Moffat and the rest of the platoon were moved to a prison camp in the mountains where they remained for quite some time. One of the German guards was looking for a skiing buddy and Moffat was his man. He spent a portion of his internment skiing. The German officer did say that if he tried to escape, he would be shot. Nevertheless, Mr. Moffat was able to tell our family of the heroism of Philippe.
The story I had been told was that Philippe’s battalion had been dropped at the wrong place. All of the soldiers were frightened as they eventually figured they were behind enemy lines. Philippe insisted on leading the platoon. That is when a German ambush killed him.
With regards to Maurice, I have heard various accounts of what had happened. His mission was to meet up with a Maquis agent also named Rousseau who would have been a distant relative. They never had the chance to meet as the Maquis agent had already been killed by the time Maurice arrived.
The story about the priest showing the room to the German soldiers, I had been told that Maurice was hiding behind the door that the priest had just opened. He had his knife in hand. The Germans had checked several rooms and had asked about the one that Maurice would be in. The priest insisted on showing the Germans the room in question. Due to the instance of the priest, the Germans only took a peek inside the room instead of the more thorough verifications that had been done in other rooms.
In any event, I heard that Maurice died while providing cover to other allied soldiers. Another story I heard was that he did not die but was wounded and captured. He would have been likely tortured for info and would have been executed as part of Hitler’s “Commando order”. However, I do not know if this is true, just what I have heard and read.
On a side note, both men were against the draft as they thought no-one should be forced to go to war. They were volunteers.
In any event, it is nice to see these young brave men remembered and honored. Me and my family truly appreciate this.
Have a wonderful day.
In any event, I attached a picture of Philippe with my mom and uncle. While there is no year for the picture, this I am told, may have been one of the last times that my mom would have seen her uncle. I have been told that this may have been taken shortly before Philippe’s final departure to Europe.
My mom remembers waking up one morning to find her dad (Philippe’s older brother Jacques) crying. He was holding 2 letters, which would have been from the military. The 1st letter was the news that Philippe had been killed in combat. The 2nd letter stating that Maurice was missing and the worst was feared. My poor grandfather found out that he lost 2 brothers in a single day. It was one of the most striking moments of my mom’s life as my grandfather was not at all prone to publicly emoting.
Among my mom’s things are the silver “Airborne” division wings pin. This was one of my mom’s most precious belongings.
Again, thank you for your work
Have a fantastic day.