An iconic artefact of the Canadian landing on June 6, 1944 was offered to the Juno Beach Centre last Christmas Eve by Marie-Claude Halot and Joëlle Letellier. This folding bike belonged to their father Christian Costil, who died last November. The bike arrived at the museum, according to Christian’s wishes, with its history:
Christian Costil was 14 years old in 1944 and lived in the village of Banville. In the summer 1944, he met with Marius Aubé, a Canadian soldier who landed at Graye-sur-Mer on D-Day. Marius became friends with young Christian and offered him a folding bike.
After Marius left Normandy, 40 years of correspondence began between the two men. Marius wrote to Christian in 1945 when he was in Germany, then throughout his life in Sheebrooke in Canada. Marius often finished his letters with « friendship of someone who will never forget you ».
Christian Costil kept the bike for 76 years. After working at the family farm until he was 28 years old, he worked for EDF (French Electricity) as a meter reader. He would remove the back seat of his Citroën 2CV and put the folded bike into the car. Once he arrived at the destination, he used the bike to cycle from house to house to read the meters. This bike accompanied him during his entire career with EDF, until he retired in 1985. Then the bike was carefully stored, but Christian would never part with it during his lifetime and told to his daughters to donate it to the « Canadian Museum » after his death.
The bikes were used by the British and Canadian soldiers who landed on D-Day. It is estimated that 1,117 bikes landed on Juno Beach on June 6, 1944 as we can see in the famous D-Day photos at Bernières-sur-Mer. The Airborne Folding Bicycle was not only supplied to airborne units but was also supplied to infantry or service units. These bikes allowed soldiers to travel greater distances while remaining silent and undetectable. They were often abandoned when they became more cumbersome than useful. After the Second World War, when Europe suffered from a fuel shortage, civilians used the last military bicycles for their daily commute.
Marie-Claude Halot and Joëlle Letellier also offered 7 letters from Marius Aubé addressed to Christian Costil. The Juno Beach Centre was therefore able to research the Canadian soldier:
Marius Aubé died on July 28, 1988. He had no children. However, his brother, Gilles Aubé is still alive and was able to tell us some anecdotes about Marius. Gilles was adopted in 1945 by the Aubé family because the mother had said that if her son Marius returned home after the war, she would adopt a child. Gilles therefore knew Marius very little because of their age difference. He remembers a “branchless bird,” someone who lived an independent life.
Marius was a member of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. The Juno Beach Centre is looking for specific information on his service record and his home unit in order to understand the context of Marius’s presence in Banville. Marius returned to Normandy at least twice. However, due to unfortunate circumstances the two men did not see each other again. Marius is buried in the St Michel cemetery in Sherbrooke, in the section reserved for veterans.
Thanks to the donation and research from the Juno Beach Centre, Christian’s daughters, Marie-Claude Halot and Joëlle Letellier, and Marius’ niece, Nadia Aubé, are at the beginning of a correspondence that will perhaps continue the friendship of two men.
At the reopening, the JBC visitors will discover the folding bike exposed in the museum hall.
Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.