France celebrates tomorrow…will you be joining-in??
Most people seem to believe that the US saved France & won the war: at least, those I’ve spoken to here…The Brits, it appears were in there somewhere, probably drinking tea & complaining about the weather.
everyone is different the world over…
I have often been amazed at the reaction from French folk… when I am introduced… and have told some of it here on the forum…
OH and I have been hugged, kissed… and thanked profusely… by complete strangers (French) … because of the gratitude(re the wars) they felt towards us Brits… and this has occurred in various parts of France, so not just confined to one spot…
Jim wore all his family medals to the centenary Armistice celebrations and they caused a lot of interest.
Not a mention of an American!
We’ve been stopped in the street by a French veteran who thanked us as if we, personally, had won the wars.
We were invited to lay a Poppy Wreath at the War Memorial - which bears the name of an American pilot who died here of his wounds in WWII - in our commune.
The first in Brittany and now in Pays de la Loire.
Never heard of the American Saviour.
There are failures on all sides to recognise what really happened in France in the war.
The French army in fact fought heroically - there is so much mythology around Dunkirk in the UK now that disguises the fact that the British army was defeated by the Germans even more quickly than the French - if you read accounts from the real front line, for example, you find extensive praise for “the heroic French Allies whose Marines, under their Admiral Abrial are holding the gateway to safety at Dunkirk, whose Navy is sharing with the British the dangerous task of convoying the rescued soldiers to England, and above all, whose soldiers under General Prioux occupying as they do, the positions of greatest danger in the rear-guard of the Allied retreat, are still hewing their way against overwhelming odds to the coast.”
Churchill himself wrote: “The heroic resistance of the French army saved the British and allowed them to continue the war.”
As for the Americans - obviously they played an important role later in the war - but the French army lost more men during the few weeks of the German invasion than the Americans lost in the whole war.
I find most French people have great respect for the parts played by both the UK and the USA in the war, but the converse - anglo-saxon respect for the French army and later Resistance - is sometimes lacking.
Only one person, the week I arrived here, acknowledged any role the Brits played in France duringWW2.
The image of the “Stars & Bars” is perhaps more glamorous than the Union flag.
In the Basse Normandy bocage where much of post-landings action took place neither the British nor the Americans are much feted, it seems.
At the parades very few Brits show their faces, from what I’ve seen from attending myself in solidarity, and it’s by no means a festive or celebratory event. It ends up with a solemn mass with the standard-bearers, mostly very old men, standing down the aisle.
I’ve always been acknowledged in a quiet way, but certainly not fussed over. Most of the veterans saw action in Morocco or Algeria, not Europe. But most have some recollection of the invasion by the Huns, and of the very mixed experience of capitulation to the enemy. Not everyone was in the resistance.
Stars and STRIPES please , unless you really have nostalgia for those good ol’ confederate days and are just lookin’ to git the old white sheet out again (apologies to Tom Lehrer).
I am looking forward to having a look at my Scottish grandfather’s now declassified SOE file.
My French grandfather spent the war in Indo-China and China and then a Japanese POW camp.
Well, here at least… the Brits do show their faces and are welcomed. The fact that they make the effort to attend (in horrific weather sometimes) is very much appreciated.
All nationalities gather at the Mairie, get our bluets… then march down the street to the Memorial… led by the Standard Bearers, with flags waving proudly in the breeze (please, no rain tomorrow)…
I have to leap ahead to get a photo for the Bulletin… as they round the bend… that is generally the best view … then, later some photos of the flags at the Memorial itself.
After wreaths are laid and various speeches and music… we observe the 1 minute’s silence… then we all sing the Marseillaise … and back to the SdF for drinks and nibbles… yippee…
Reference was Neil Young’s 8th (?) album &
Mr. Young is not a fan of the Southern Man
Just to maybe add context
I nearly bought the presbytère in the tiny hamlet of Hiéville…a very historic part of Normandy, given the proximity of Utah beach.
The hamlet has the dubious honour of having the HQ of a certain Colonel / General (I forget which) whose name was Maxwell. The HQ, which is a private residence has a plaque proclaiming it to be the “Maxwell House”.
A little further down the road , stands a memorial to a chap, or chaps & their ill-fated attempt to do something with a glider (presumably escape ) that crashed killing all those involved…the name is the “Pratt Memorial”…interpret that how you will.
Phew… torrential rain today… we all got drenched right through…
Excellent turnout… 50/50 French/Others
One of the Elders of the Commune was honoured at the Ceremony. I’ve only known her as an interesting “old lady”… but it turns out that, as a young girl, she used to run errands and pass messages for the local Maquis (Resistance) during WW2.
The Village itself was occupied by German troops for quite some time… and in the surrounding countryside the Maquis did their best to disrupt … in difficult and dangerous circumstances…
I’ve been reading in a Normandy newspaper (La Manche Libre) accounts given by French locals of the behaviour of British troops during the liberation in Normandy: including Allied patrols using French workers as human shields against the possibility of German ambush; of British soldiers being briefed by High Command that the majority of French citizens were German sympathisers; and that troops were advised that, if offered bottled wine by French farmers wives, that they should insist on them taking a precautionary swig before accepting it.
They may be apocryphal stories but they do give cause for thought, IMO.
Vive l’Entente cordiale!
A lot of resistance here in the Clunysois.
Also a memorial and a Place named for the Jews who were transported from Cluny.
There is still a family here wh are shunned by the old folk because their parents were colloborators.
That reminds me of a story from my younger days. A friend of mine moved to a Northumberland mining village in the late 1980s, and as he got to know his neighbours, each one warned him about the ‘blackleg’ (strike-breaker) who lived down the road. None of them had spoken to this man since the strike. After a while, my friend caught sight of a very old man going in and out of the house in question - strange, he thought - but of course it eventually emerged that my friend had assumed the neighbours meant the 1984-5 miners strike - in fact they were referring to the 1926 strike!
Village life… is as complicated as any large family…
We are the only English in our small village and we attend absolutely every occasion the village put forward. Most times at these events there are only between 8 and 12 people, so it is a very lack lustre ceremony. We all gather at the commemorative stone statue (not sure what it is, something modern) and the Maire reads out the standard message from the Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, we have a minutes silence then go to the S de F for aperitifs.
After being handed our voting cards, it was pointed out to me, that the European elections were the last that we would participate in. I am pretty sure we can still vote in the Municipal elections and am not sure about the next European elections if we are still here.
Elizabeth… if Brexit happens… and we (certainly me) become non-european… we will NOT be allowed to vote in the local elections or any other elections… here in France.
If you, like me, have been living in France for more than 15 years… thus no longer able to vote in UK either… suddenly one becomes a “lost soul” without a voice/vote of any kind…
so yes, this year’s election will be the last time you/we/ I can vote, anywhere… (if Brexit happens).