Mrs. GASPARD-MUTSCHEN, Remichampagne

Testimonies collected in 1993 and 1994 by Patricia Lemaire and Robert Fergloute. Published with permission of Patricia Lemaire.

Testimony of Mrs GASPARD-MUTSCHEN, civilian, 14 years old in 1944.

I lived with my parents, my brothers and sisters, my grandparents, in a farm on the road to Assenois (currently near the “drive in” Wenkin) in Bastogne. When the first shells fell, we left for Remichampagne. Papa had hitched the two horses to the wagon loaded with the bare necessities. My grandfather (85 years old) pretended not to follow us. He wanted to stay to take care of the cattle. So he stayed alone with us. One night, while he was sleeping, a bomb fell in front of the house. He felt dust falling on his face. He took shelter under the sheet, turned over and went back to sleep immediately. The next day, however, he deemed it more prudent to seek shelter with the Franciscans.

The area on a 1943-dated map.

In Remichampagne, we lived in the Zabus farm and, when it burned down, we were welcomed by Mr. Delhaize.

Old people from Bastogne had taken refuge with M. Thiry. They would have liked to go home and begged Papa to drive them home. He gave in after much hesitation. We reloaded the cart and made the trip in the opposite direction, while the artillery bombarded the area. Arrived in sight of the fort (Boggess), a young German soldier, crouched in a trench, called out to us in impeccable French, but very slowly:

-“Where are you going?”

-“We are going back to Bastogne.”

-“Where are you from?”

– “From Remichampagne.”

– “Well, go back to Remichampagne. You will come back tomorrow, because we will have taken Bastogne.”

“Fortin Boggess” or the Assenois bunker. Now part of the “Patton Route”. Photo by Erwin Verholen.

We had to turn around. On the hill overlooking Assenois, the fighting had intensified further. It was clear that the Americans were preparing to retake the village. Shells and bullets whistled above our team; houses were burning. Dad had difficulty controlling the panicked horses. To continue bordered on unconsciousness? However, we ended up reaching Remichampagne where the military situation was very critical.

We witnessed the return of Americans to our host village. We were in Mr. Zabus’ vaulted cellar. Through the opening which was used to feed the animals, we saw that the house was on fire. Terrified, we left. Amazement and joy: the Americans were there, in the yard!

However, Dad was upset that he had left his father alone. So he took advantage of the corridor opened up by Patton’s army to prepare for our return.

Elderly couple walking on the newly opened corridor into Bastogne while ambulances evacuate wounded out of Bastogne. December 27, 1944.

When he reached the Assenois bridge, near the Laval farm, he received several small pieces of shrapnel in his stomach. He did not fall, but he had a thousand difficulties in seeking help. Fortunately, two Americans saw him. They loaded him onto a jeep and drove him to Martelange to a field hospital. The doctor and dad could speak German. Contact between them was thus facilitated. They operated on him: five perforations in the intestine, two perforations in one arm. For his convalescence, he was taken to Arlon where there were wounded from the region of Bastogne, including Mr. Zabus de Chenogne.

The Bastogne corridor today, looking towards Assenois and Bastogne. Aerial view by Ivan Steenkiste, A1/A3 drone license.

But we didn’t know any of that at that time. Mr. Albert Simon from Warnach sent us a letter from dad via two nurses from Grandru. It took time, but we were reassured.

When the whole family was reunited again on our farm in Bastogne, my grandfather said that he and American soldiers had observed, through the rear window, the comings and goings of an enemy patrol hidden behind a hundred-pound millstone, several meters from the house. The German soldiers went no further, but they were only three hundred meters from the Square (Place McAuliffe).