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British World War 2 veteran, 99, reunited with French woman he shared his food with 78 years on in touching moment
19 November 2022, 09:27
A British veteran of the D-Day landings in World War 2 has been reunited a French woman with whom he shared his meagre food rations, nearly 80 years on.
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Reg Pye, 99, was a driver with the Royal Engineers as the Allied armies made the perilous landings in occupied France in 1944 in the war against Nazi Germany.
Mr Pye, from Burry Port in Wales, was driving through Normandy in northern France after the landings when his convoy was held up in the town of Virgny for a night.
He and his fellow men had not eaten for two days - and their only food that night was a meagre piece of bread with jam and a tin of pilchards, a kind of fish.
As Mr Pye was about to eat his food, he saw a young girl staring at him, looking very hungry.
Without hesitation, he offered her the pilchards, but he saw that she was staring at the bread and jam, so he gave her that instead and she hurried away.
He woke up the next morning to find a picture of her with a message on the back, and his mess tin was half full of milk, but the girl was nowhere to be seen.
Mr Pye survived the war and has kept the young woman's photo in his wallet ever since. He went back to Normandy in the 1990s, but was unable to find the woman.
In June this year he revisited Normandy again with Taxi Charity, a charity run by London cabbies.
He told the story to Paul Cook, a volunteer with the charity, who launched a campaign to find the young woman so they could finally be reunited.
And a few months later volunteers found the woman, who was called Huguette, in Normandy, where she still lives. Mr Pye travelled out there to meet her and her family in November.
He presented her with a jam sandwich and a tin of pilchards again - and again she said no to the pilchards.
Mr Pye also showed her the faded photo she had left him, and there was not a dry eye in the room.
The two shared champagne as their moving conversation was translated between them.
Huguette said she was "extremely touched", telling Mr Pye: "Nice to see you again after such a long time. We got older but we're still the same."
Mr Pye said: "The memory of my very brief encounter with this young girl will stay with me forever. In the bleakest of times, this bit of human interaction made a huge mark on my life. I have carried her picture in my wallet for 78 years, always hoping we might meet again.
"I went back to Normandy about 50 years afterwards to try and trace her but unfortunately I wasn’t successful. I cannot believe that she has finally been found and I wish to thank everyone, including our friend Emma, our cab driver Paul and the Taxi Charity’s French advisor Nathalie Varnière, who have helped to make my dream come true."
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Paul Cook, London taxi driver and volunteer for the Taxi Charity said: "There are no words to describe how elated I am that Reg has found Huguette.
"This is like a Hollywood blockbuster and I wouldn’t be surprised if this beautiful story was made into a film."