IT was an overwhelming moment that brought Ruth Bettle to tears.
As she retraced her late husband’s steps in Normandy in the D-Day operation, she found an inscription of his name he had written in a French barn.
The writing on the wall had remained untouched for 71 years since Sergeant Vic Bettle wrote it.
He had parachuted into Normandy on June 5 and helped to drive off the Germans as his battalion secured villages one by one. As he took shelter in the barn of a chateau in Putot en Auge, he wrote on the wall ‘Sgt Vic Bettle, 7th Parachute Battalion, 19th August 1944. We chased them out this morning’.
Mr Bettle, from West Leigh, Havant, died three years ago at the age of 93 and never got to see the inscription for himself. Like so many veterans, he did not speak much about his service during the Second World War.
But he knew about the inscription’s existence after a French man staying at the chateau wrote to him in 1998 after finding the wall message.
Wanting to find out more, Mrs Bettle and her daughter Karen French went on a coach tour of Normandy.
They mentioned the inscription to their guide, who led them to the barn where Vic had stayed in 1944.
Mrs Bettle said: ‘Walking up the path towards the manor, I kept thinking “What if it’s not there?”
‘When I got to the barn, I could not open the door – the French lady had to open it for me. I just went to pieces.
‘It was happiness and sadness. I wished he could have been with me to go and see it. The emotions just ran wild.
‘It’s all I have been able to think about. With the VE Day and D-Day commemorations, it’s still so vivid. It was lovely – I will never forget it.’
Although Mr Bettle never talked much about the war, he did get to go back to Normandy in 1998 when he visited Pegasus Bridge, a landmark his battalion helped to take.
He lost many of his comrades in the D-Day assault.
After surviving the war, Mr Bettle spent the rest of his life working for Tarmac in Portsmouth.
Mr Bettle’s daughter Karen French, 51, of Hemsley Walk, Waterlooville, said: ‘Dad would have been really proud.
‘He would have loved it. He did not like to talk about the war. He would just say that everybody did what they had to do and he was just lucky to come home alive. He was quite humble.’