Every September since we’ve lived here we’ve read the invitation to the ceremony at Le Bois de la Rosiere but we’ve never been able to go to it until today.
We thought it would be a similar occasion to the ceremonies marking the end of the war but we were wrong.
It started off in the same way. We met up with some neighbours half way down to hill to the church and they said they were waiting for the procession to the cemetary to pass to save walking down and then up again. More people came and parked their cars along the road. We thought it was strange because they didn’t live that far away.
Eventually the band struck up and led a large number of people up the hill. There were eight flag bearers, about twenty children skipping and laughing and then a more serious group of adults including soldiers and police. We joined in and followed to the cemetary where a drummer and trumpeter from the band played during a short ceremony at the tomb.
The we all followed the same music back down the hill. people started getting into cars.
“Do you need a lift?” Mary-Paule asked .
“Why, where are we going? I thought the memorial was in Rue du Bois de la Rosiere.”
“Oh no, it’s too far to walk.” insisted Mary-Paule.
We got into her car and drove out of the village and along the bypass. The gendarmes were on hand to stop the traffic while everyone turned left. Parking was haphazard and very tight as a large number of cars squashed into a farm. Then there was a long wait for the Prefet (or his deputy) who always arrived late.
During this pause Mary-Paule told us the history. It seems that eleven prisoners who were being held in Charleville prison for being members of the Resistance were taken out near the end of the war and, instead of being released as they had expected, they were taken to the woods and shot.
One young man was still alive when the villagers came to remove the bodies but he died soon afterwards. Among the victims were the parents of a teenage girl, who had also been in jail. She is now a little old lady in a wheel chair and she comes every year to pay homage. Another silver-haired lady was pointed out to us. One of the young men who was murdered was her fiancé. She eventually married someone else but she always comes back to remember him.
The Prefet’s representative finally turned up in her chauffeur driven car and more time passed as she chatted to our Mayor while the band shuffled in position ready for the off.
Finally we all set off (with the band playing the same old tune) along a winding path towards the memorial at the place where they were killed. Here there was a laying of wreaths, the band played the Marseillaise and then the children sang it (unaccompanied). The Mayor gave a speech that no-one could hear because the microphone didn’t work, the band played a slow dirge which was badly out of tune, and then we made our way back towards the parked cars, following the same march at a lively pace.
The morning ended with a Vin d’Honneur at the Salle de Fete accompanied by pizza and quiche.
To mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of this event, the two ladies who survived the tragedy were presented with medals and flowers.
!t is surprising that it has taken us seven years to discover this sad story and to take part in the simple but moving ceremony of remembrance.