it's that time again, with Remembrance Day looming what has your commune arranged for the commemorations ?
In the Haute Vienne most communes have something going on from a simple ceremony with the statutory speech from the Elysées palace to more adventurous rituals. In my town of 11000 inhabitants the 11th is treated with respect of course but without any great 'pomp' whereas just down the road at Rochechouart, a town of about 3000 inhabitants the Mairie push the boat out with a parade through the town centre led by the local award winning 'Banda' with all official bodies and general public following the streets down to the war memorial next to the chateau. A solemn ceremony then follows with more music from the brass band with apéritifs at the Mairie to finish off the morning. It's meaningful, convivial and thought provoking which to me ticks all the boxes for such a ceremony. A good british presence is guaranteed with poppies displayed proudly.
It means something to me and never fails to raise the gooosebumps. Long may it continue and long may we continue to enjoy relative peace in our time.
I'm not really a peotry buff but certain War Poets catch my attention, here's probably my favourite poem from that era. Lest We Forget...
On Receiving News Of The War
Snow is a strange white word.
No ice or frost
Has asked of bud or bird
For Winter's cost.
Yet ice and frost and snow
From earth to sky
This Summer land doth know.
No man knows why.
In all men's hearts it is.
Some spirit old
Hath turned with malign kiss
Our lives to mould.
Red fangs have torn His face.
God's blood is shed.
He mourns from His lone place
His children dead.
O! ancient crimson curse!
Give back this universe
Its pristine bloom.
This year, like last year, I have been very involved with the celebrations to take place in our two "Monuments aux Morts". I have located on a map all the battles where our soldiers died, I have indicated their name on the side of the map. We always have large turn out, and afterwards we serve Pineau and fruit drinks in the Salle des Fêtes .
There's always an excellent turn out at Rochechouart (and St Junien) with loads of expats proudly wearing poppies as well as the locals of all ages.
You pay your money and take your chances with the weather and i've been stood there shivering in the snow and soaked in the downpour but the drinks in the Mairie aterwards always taste sweet..
Lest we forget the vin d'honneur too !!
Thanks for your kind words to Simon and me on the other post.
Same as you, I stand through the ceremonies in belting sun or pelting rain. These ceremonies are important from a civil and civic point of view. Lest we forget.
Or as I always add in my own mind. Lest we forget and be damned. I always take it as a cue for some deep reflection.
Nathalie organises the school children to be there too, but it dwindles every year, in much a correlation with the number of old soldiers, sadly.
Anyway Pete, glad you will be doing your bit, as I will.
We have a very limited time on this planet and we shouldn’t really spend it killing each other.
Looks like this particular 11 Novembre will be the hottest ever, well in this corner of France anyway. Whatever the weather the ceremony has the same impact on me at least.
The message from the President is read out at all the ceremonies across the Hexagon and it's interesting how that message has been 'manouvered' over the years to include a host of other conflicts past and present. Until last year Presidents have 'generalised' the speech making it suit all countries and creeds with the emphasis on world unity and the like but last year saw a bit of a 'U Turn' with the emphasis more on La France and the need for patriots to work for La France. It was almost unashamedly a rallying call for the nation to mobilize and be patriotic. Well that's how I read it anyway.
I believe Mr Hollande was giving us a party political broadcast. Shame on him or good marketing ?
Have a good one wherever you are.
Yep, I think we mentioned it last week. The euphoria that swept GB in the first weeks of the war was amazing apparently. It was projected as a great adventure and a 'must do' for kids at the time. The war was supposed to 'over by xmas' so what the heck, have a couple of months in France or Belgium and get back for the festivities.
I was reading this week about the young lads who went and there were even photos. They were accepting 14 year old boys. They looked as if they were dressing up in their dad's trousers.
I also remember my nan telling me about her father in WW1 and he only said that one of the main politicians of the time spent a lot of time saying, "I wish I was there with you." Apparently her father's retort was, "Yes, and when I was sleeping in freezing mud with rats running over me I wished the bastard was too."
I spent many of my younger years in Normandy, in and around Caen so I learned quickly the impact the war had on the local people. I'm always emotional about both WWs. I think I had visited all the WW2 cemetaries by the 70s which was thought provoking and i'm trying to visit as many of the WW1 cemetaries as possible. WW2 in France for me was about liberation where WW1 was carnage and a waste of human life.
Kipling is a special author who never ceases to amaze me!
I've found the war to be of much greater significance emotionally since moving to France. It somehow doesn't feel so distant here even though it is nearly 100 years away.
An old chap I met a while back knew I was English - unfortunately he was deaf and didn't know I couldn't speak French. But all the words and mimicry were of war (he did a fair old impression of a machine gun) He was pointing all over the place and trying to explain things to me. I really, really, really wish I could have understood him!
Rudyard Kipling for me (although Owen was a braver poet!)
Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!
Thanks Véronique, thats what I was trying, called the Tourist office in the end.
Our village is small - around 300 inhabitants - but about 50 turned up for the march past and reading of the names of the dead. A group of young children laid a wreath. Very moving for such a small community to make this effort.
Our ceremony went down well tho' they tried a new format which was less inspiring for me. The ceremony was an hour earlier which caught many on the hop. Rule no.1 - check the public announcements !
The ceremony was held away from the town square for some strange reason, away from the memorial tho' the content was much the same with the silence impeccably respected as usual. The banda did the required marches etc but this year they didn't do an encore ! The plan instead was to 'bus' those present to an adjoining village to perform another service. I assume they played their mini concert afterwards.
A very decent crowd of about 500 turned out in the spring-like conditions. Encouraging to see people of all ages in attendance.
We attended the church service and laying of the wreath in St Palais (64).
A note about the Royal British Legion, There are several Legion Branches in France and all are welcome to order poppies to take around their local markets to sell to Expats and wreaths are also available. The Poppy Appeal Organizer for SW France is Brenda Vockings:- email@example.com If you would like to help with next years poppy appeal Brenda would love to here from you.
Regarding local ceremonies, we have found that we have been warmly welcomed when asking if we can share the commemoration. The French particularity appreciate it if the "we shall" is said in french!
Cérémonie au Monument aux Morts + place name I should think, or poss Anciens Combattants + place name. I hope this helps!
Grr, i am having a disaster finding the times of our services, What is the french phrase I should be tapping into our friend Google please?
We will go to our war memorial, we are a very small commune just about 270. It is a very simple affair.
I found it ironic that yesterday Berlin was celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, which was there as a direct result of the Russian occupation following World War II,as Britain was having its March past the Cenotaph to remember the dead and wounded of the two wars, both caused by Germany.
We all need to remember that one of the main aims of the founders of the EU is to avoid war in Europe.
There was a lot of that 'stolen identity' thing with the International Brigades too. Young lads from Liverpool or Glasgow making their way by hook or by crook to Spain. Orwell gives a few examples in "Homage to Catalonia".
Talking about euphoria and the fervour which rocked the nation as british kids raced to the exitement of the front line. I visited the Bécourt cemetary near Albert about ten years ago. Tucked away was a grave belonging to Maurice Hinchon of The Buffs. There was a photo with an email address. I contacted the email and was told by a great great grandson from the family that Maurices brother James was too young to join-up so he 'stole' the identity of his elder brother Maurice in order to book his passage to France. Remarkably James survived almost all the war only to be killed in action in august 1918 by which time he was 21. The grave is marked as Maurice even though it was James who was killed.
Yes, I knew he fell in the last week of the war. I reread Graves's "Goodbye to All That" the other week, that is definitely one of the best accounts of the trenches. I have a few others on the shelves : notably Erich-Maria Remarque, "All Quiet on the Western Front", two splendid works by a French officer taken prisoner about his japes with his mates to play up the prison officers, Jean des Vallières, "Kavalier Scharnhorst" and "Spartakus Parade", and most comical Jaroslav Hasek, "The Brave Soldier Schweik" and its follow-up. There are some excellent works on the post-war mayhem in Russia, the Baltic States, Germany - and Ireland, of course.