Armistice 2006

On Parade The Regimental Colours The Regulars wear the kepi The Reserve only get a beret The Colonel makes his inspection The pair of us
Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture

And then the sun came out

11 November 2006

L'hôtel de ville, Arras

L'hôtel de ville, Arras

Every year I make the effort of going somewhere for Armistice and a few days before hand I had also attended the Newfoundland Ceremony in Beaumont Hamel.

This year Jean-Jacques was parading in Arras with his Squadron from the 601st Regiment so my choice of location was easy made.

His mate Stan had come down from Amiens the night before thinking that he was going to get a lazy weekend. Pour soul little did he realise that we would have to be up for 0600 hours and on the road within the hour.

We left JJ at the barracks to spend the standard military hours of rushing to wait, and Stan and I did a quick tour of the local battlefields to while away the time.

Stan knew nothing about the First World War but was happy enough to pick up some of my stories as we pottered about the area.

It was throwing it down with rain and I was a bit concerned that JJ was going to get absolutely soaked through as he marched the few kilometres into town.

I was impressed at the Loos British Memorial to find a group of the local villagers formed up with an Honour Guard of Sapeurs Pompiers (Firemen) in their shiny helmets. They laid wreaths to their fallen allies and played The Queen before setting off to hold their own ceremonies in the village.

Our soldiers are not forgotten by the French by any means.

We headed back into Arras to meet up with Sandra and Peter and following a coffee went off in search of a commemoration.

The Place d'heros was cordoned off so it was obvious that something was going to take place but there was no sign of anybody apart from us casual onlookers. We asked a policemen and he informed us that yes there would be a parade here but it would be after the ceremonies elsewhere in the town.

The sun came out and 1100 came and went. Some disgruntled English visitors complained about the lack of French organisation, but in fact the Maire and his cohorts were probably at the War Memorial near the Station.

At last a military bus arrived and soldiers started to form up behind the Town Hall. March into town when it might rain - apparently not. The second bus load brought the reserves in their berets rather than kepis.

JJ explained afterwards that not all the reservists had been issued with the parade trappings and so some of them who did had been told to remove theirs in order to even up numbers.

French military drill always appears a lot more relaxed than the British and they definitely seem to march in an odd fashion. They were however smart enough and marched past in good order.

The ceremony though was so slow with huge pauses as people milled about waiting on other people to decide what to do. As always, the soldiers just had to stand there and wait.

At least the weather remained dry and afterwards I went back to the barracks to collect JJ and we met up again in town to have a beer and a sandwich with the others.

Another week and we would be off to Egypt.


See also

Our trip to Egypt

Egypte: Les pages de Jean-Jacques

Simon's Masters Graduation 2006