- Lucy Vladiv
Reg Bay has kept Huggett’s picture in his wallet for nearly eighty years.
Huguet left the picture in a Reg’s truck, thanking him for sharing a jam with her while he waited for the advance in France as World War II raged.
The meeting happened by chance amid the horrors of war near the shores of Normandy, a few weeks after D-Day, but the memory lasted a lifetime.
So much so that Rigg, 99, wanted to meet her again, and they dated after 78 years.
“Here’s the jam sandwich,” Rigg said with a chuckle as he greeted Huguet at her nursing home in northern France.
“It’s good to see you again after so long. We’re getting old but we’re still the same,” Huggett, 92, replied with a laugh.
This was an opportunity for Rigg, who had traveled from West Wales, to introduce himself properly, as their fleeting encounter in the summer of 1944, when he was twenty and Huguet at fourteen, lasted only a few seconds.
The British soldier had just landed at Swords Beach, to aid the Allied invasion of mainland Europe against German forces, when he stopped to take a break.
“A truck driven by a young man named Jordi gave us a can of sardines,” recalls Rig, the military truck driver, recalling the unknown village in an area known during the war as Falaise Gap, when he met a French teenager.
“There was also a slice of bread, and some red jam.”
“We went back to where I had parked my truck, and I shared (food) with the other guy.. Then I looked and there was a girl standing in front of me. I didn’t see her coming.”
“She was wearing, I shouldn’t say, a tattered white dress. She didn’t want sardines.”
“She was staring at me and I thought what she was staring at. I looked down and it was bread. So I gave her bread.”
He doesn’t remember her eating bread, but he does remember her “I ran across the village square and entered the church. I didn’t see her anymore.”
The next morning, he was in his carriage with a load of milk, a picture of the girl.
“And this is the picture I kept in my wallet all that time.”
It was not just a black-and-white photo of Huguet outside the French church that had stayed close to Rigg all this time, but the hope was that she would one day be tracked down.
“In my darkest times, this part of human interaction made a huge impact on my life,” added Rigg, who is from Berry Harbor in Carmarthenshire.
Reg, whose wife Merwin died aged 72 in 2015, had previously tried to track down Huguet with the help of his only son, but had failed.
And this time, with the help of the Taxi Veterans Association, Reg was once again able to share a jam sandwich with Huguet, now a mother of three.
“I’ve had this for 78 years,” Reg said, handing her the faded old photo.
In addition to bread and jam, Reg also brought a can of sardines. And just as in 1944, Huguet rejected her again with a smile.
But they shared champagne, and friends helped translate a conversation in which Huggett said she was “extremely touched” that Reg tried to find her.
“She is still alive!” Reg said with a smile. “Because I thought she was dead now, because they had a hard time when they were young.”
“It was fantastic and very decent. We had a very good welcome, the best 45 hours of our lives.”
At last they hugged and kissed, after which Huguet laughed and said they would have to marry now.
Reg agreed, and Huggett vowed to keep her current boyfriend in foster care.
“That’s what they said through the interpreter, she’s going to marry you,” Reg added.