Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Remembering Victory in Europe Day


French village diaries 8th May victory in Europe day
Our Maire at the village monument
Today, the 8th May is Victory in Europe Day, and a public holiday in France to commemorate the end of the Second World War for Europe. Every year, as for the 11th November, we have a small ceremony in our village. Our Maire reads out a passage from the defence minister, the few veterans who are still with us proudly wear their medals and stand with the village flag and a small number of villagers gather to remember. This is followed by a vin d’honneur (wine of honour) in the Salle des Fetes accompanied by some boulangerie made savoury nibbles and lots of chat before everyone heads off for lunch.

French village diaries 8th May victory in Europe day WWII
My Grandfather Albert
My Grandfather (who genetically passed on his love of veggie growing) was in northern France during the Second World War and although we can’t be certain, Dad believes he was here for the liberation. He was certainly involved in the repatriation process afterwards and we have a very fragile flag that was given to him by a grateful French villager as they passed through – or so the family story goes. We always ensure Ed joins us at this small service, despite the number of children present never being many and some years he is the only one. Happily today the younger generation were slightly better represented than normal and two young girls were delighted at being asked to carry the flowers to the monument, something they undertook with great seriousness. The younger generation remembering is something we feel is very important.

French village diaries 8th May victory in Europe day
The girls with the flowers
French village diaries 8th May victory in Europe day
The Bois-Cambert monument

The weather is often a little unsettled on this date, but today although umbrellas were present and we have had rain, the sun shone at the right moment. For our village the 8th May ceremony alternates between the village monument and a site just outside of the village in the woods of Bois-Cambert. Here, a monument stands in a small clearing to mark the death of three young men who were executed by the occupying German troops on 24th July 1944. Members of the local Resistance, they were captured in the vicinity that morning and held in a convoy of lorries that was patrolling the area. A local lad spotted the convoy as it passed through our village that evening and as a refugee from the forced German labour camps he was lucky not to have been seen. The convoy stopped at the corner of the Bois-Cambert woods where the three men, one from our local town, were executed. Their bodies were found the next morning by a 19 year old from a nearby hamlet. Unfortunately, monuments like this one are a common sight in this area. This information has come from ‘Histoire de nos Villages’ by Marcel Daniaud.

The rest of this week is officially holiday, for the schools at least, despite only returning from a two-week break at the beginning of last week. Tomorrow is Ascension Day, another bank holiday and Friday we are ‘making a bridge’ and taking another day off to join the bank holiday to the weekend - a very French idea that I just love.