John Baptiste De Manio
2nd Lieutenant John Baptiste De Manio, 7th Bn.
This officer, together with Sgt. Hollands, 7 Bn. displayed great courage and coolness when about 1100hrs. on 20 May 1940 an enemy aircraft was shot down one mile from Bray. Both went immediately to the place where the plane had fallen. Sergeant Hollands entered the plane first despite the fact that it was burning fiercely and that ammunition was exploding. He was eventually ordered away by an officer. 2⁄Lt. De Manio then arrived and entered the machine, pulled the pilot out and removed his identification papers and personal belongings. A number of British and French soldiers were standing some distance away and 2⁄Lt. De Manio set them a fine example of courage and coolness under extremely dangerous conditions.
His own irreverent account from his autobiography, “Life Begins Too Early”:
“The Calvados was a great success, however. Almost too much so, because the average British soldier has never heard of the stuff, and as always they start by despising anything with which they are unfamiliar, be it people or drink. We were a merry lot - for a little while.
It was while we were in this orchard that I watched Abbeville, which was close by, being divebombed. It was a pretty horrid sight: everything going up in smoke and flame all over the place, and those ‘stukas’ screaming down like great black birds, getting bigger and bigger the nearer they got to the ground. Not only did their engines scream, but they had special sirens fixed to the wings to make them scream all the more, as if they were not frightening enough already.
One of them got a little bit too cheeky and either he could not pull out of his dive in time, or he got shot up. Whatever happened he hit the ground with a resounding thump only a quarter of a mile from our orchard. It just shows you what a state we were all in because I got a medal just for being nosy. Naturally, curiosity sent me speeding over to this plane to have a look. It was burning merrily and there was a lot of bangers and squibs going off inside, which I suppose was ammunition exploding.
It occurred to me there might be someone still alive in there, so I heaved out a couple of dead Germans, who turned out to be very dead indeed. All I could do was collect up their papers and maps just in case they might be of some help to us. By that time the local populace had arrived. Disappointed though they undoubtedly were at finding their prey dead, they were, nevertheless, not deterred from smashing the lifeless bodies to pieces with clubs, pitchforks, shotguns, boots and anything they could lay their hands on. I was so revolted and sickened by this time that I very nearly shot some of them myself. But looking back on it, I suppose it is not an unreasonable way to behave if your houses, farms, wives and children are being blown to pieces. ”