This morning, as on every 8th May morning, the anniversary of the day the Second World War came to an end in Europe, our village stopped to remember the lives that were lost. It took a united world to end the war and it was fitting that, as usual, we were a united mixed-race bunch who took the time to remember; French, English, some of us with Irish ancestry, Welsh, and this year, two visiting Americans.
One of the benefits of blogging and sharing your life online is meeting people from the other side of the world, even if it is usually only an online kind of a meet. Today I finally got to meet in person writer and blogger Paulita and her husband Earl, all the way from Ohio, although their journey today to take part in our village remembrance ceremony was only about an hour from their current base on the river Charente. Paulita and Earl are almost halfway through their adult gap year in France, and they have probably visited more locations in the last four months than I have in the last four years so I’m rather jealous. We have been following each other’s blogs for more years than I can remember and as we sat on the terrace of our village bar, just minutes after saying hello, the conversation flowed, and the caffeine made sure we were ready for our walk to the woods.
As well as our village memorial in the square, about two kilometres from the village, in a small clearing in the woods, we have another memorial marking the spot where three young men were shot by the Germans in July of 1944. This year the weather was warm and dry, so some of us decided to walk to the woods for the ceremony and Paulita and Earl joined in too. The maire said a few words and then read out the sad story of 24th July 1944, taken from ‘Histoire de nos Villages’ by Marcel Daniaud. Three members of the local Resistance 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. The gruesome discovery of their bodies was found the next morning by a 19-year-old from a nearby hamlet.
None of them were much older than Ed, a sobering thought for me during the minutes silence that followed, especially as he was stood next to the Maire, and proudly holding the village flag. The ceremony finished off with the Resistance call to arms anthem, Les Chant des Partisans, and then all that remained then was to retrace our steps back to the village, where a kir and aperitif nibbles (from the village boulangerie) were waiting to reward our efforts.
I am so pleased Paulita and Earl were able to share for real a little piece of my French village life. You can follow Paulita's blog here to read more about her adventures in France this year.