Veterans

WW2 veteran who shared food with French girl in Normandy reunites with her 78 years later

Reg Pye finally meets Huguette Geoffroy after 78 years (Video: Emma Newton).

A Second World War veteran who shared his food with a young French girl in France in 1944 has finally been reunited with her after a 78-year search.

Reg Pye, now aged 99, was so touched by the encounter with the girl during the Normandy campaign that he has carried a picture she gave him in his wallet ever since the war ended, hoping to one day meet her again.

The emotional reunion, thanks to a media campaign launched by the Taxi Charity, saw the two hugging and looking through photos together, surrounded by their families.

During the Second World War, the veteran, from Burry Port in Wales, had served with the 224 Field Company, Royal Engineers, as a driver carrying sappers, mines and ammunition.

Two weeks after D-Day, Reg's convoy was held up in Vrigny in France for an evening. 

Their food that night, the first in two days, was simply a piece of bread with jam and a tin of pilchards. 

Famished and desperate for sustenance, Reg, 21, was keen to eat but he noticed a 14-year-old French girl who seemed to be incredibly hungry herself as she stared at him with his food.

The photo Huguette Geoffroy gave to Reg Pye in 1944 CREDIT Huguette's family
The photo Huguette gave to Reg in 1944 (Picture: Huguette's family).

Without hesitation, Reg offered her the tin of pilchards but it was clear she was more interested in the jam sandwich which he immediately shared with her.

Speaking before being reunited with Huguette, Reg spoke of their brief encounter in 1944. 

He said: "She was staring, a young kid, you see. 

"It was sweets to her, weren't it? 

"She hadn't seen jam perhaps?" 

The next morning, he awoke to find his mess tin half filled with milk plus a picture of her, with a message on the back saying: "Huguette Geoffroy, 14 ans, au Presbytère, Vrigny, Orne." 

Reg standing with Huguette at their emotional reunion (Picture: Huguette's family).
Reg standing with Huguette at their emotional reunion (Picture: Huguette's family).

These were the only details Reg has been able to use in his long search for her, which included an unsuccessful trip back to Normandy to try to find her about 50 years ago.

He said: "When I went to the lorry the following morning... in my cab down by the pedals, was my mess tin half full of milk and this photo. 

"I never saw her again." 

During the annual Taxi Charity trip to Normandy in June 2022, volunteer taxi driver Paul Cook heard Reg's incredible story and how he had been searching for her ever since, to thank her for her kind gift. 

The Taxi Charity, which celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023, is run by London black cab drivers who, since 1948, have volunteered their time to support thousands of veterans by arranging free trips to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, for acts of commemoration and comradeship. 

To help Reg find Huguette, now 92, Paul and the Taxi Charity joined forces to launch a media campaign to try to find her. 

Speaking in June, Reg expressed just how important finding Huguette was for him. 

He 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." 

WWII veteran Reg Pye paying his respects on the Normandy beaches (Picture: The Taxi Charity).
WWII veteran Reg Pye paying his respects on the Normandy beaches (Picture: The Taxi Charity).

Aided by people who had read the request for help, and with the help of Nathalie Varnière, the Taxi Charity's French advisor, Huguette was finally found and, earlier this month, Reg travelled to Normandy to be reunited with her and meet her family. 

At the emotional reunion, almost eight decades later, Reg presented Huguette with a jam sandwich, just as he had when they first met. 

Reg also brought a can of pilchards but, just as she did in 1944, Huguette rejected them again with a smile. 

He then showed her the faded picture that he had faithfully kept in his wallet, leaving many around him in tears. 

Thanks to friends who could translate for each other, Huguette said she was "extremely touched" Reg had tried to find her. 

She said: "Nice to see you again after such a long time. 

"We got older but we're still the same." 

Paul Cook, London cab driver and Taxi Charity volunteer, hears many Second World War tales while driving veterans to and from Normandy for D-Day commemorations but Reg's story really pulled at his heartstrings. 

He 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."