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We In France Honour the R.A.F.’s Glorious Dead

Discussion in 'War44 General Forums' started by Jim, Sep 11, 2010.

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  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    A citizen of a French village wrote the following moving tribute to the R.A.F men who lost their lives while flying over his country. The message was smuggled out of France and was received by Fighting French Headquarters in London at the end of February, 1943

    It was 8.40 p.m. The sky was full of the rumbling of many planes. Suddenly I saw a great red flame to the north of Louhans. It was a British bomber which had just crashed at Moncony, a small village six miles to the north. All the people who saw this were in a state of anguish; we learned that it was a Halifax bomber No: 42,036. The plane had ten Britons aboard, nine of whom were killed. Only one baled out. On the following day the catastrophe was the only subject of conversation at Moncony, The whole population was terribly upset. The funeral of the heroic victims was to take place on Sunday at 4.30. A crowd of ten thousand had come to follow the dead to their last resting place, when an order coming no doubt from Vichy, postponed the ceremony to the morrow; the authorities were afraid of patriotic demonstrations.

    On the Monday, at 2.30, the funeral Procession left the village school towards the cemetery. The nine coffins were pulled by horses from neighbouring farms. The procession was led by a lieutenant from Bourg, representing the French Army. Military honours were rendered by a section of a local regiment, and then followed a Crowd of two thousand carrying wreaths with the following inscriptions: “To our liberators.” “To the Defenders of the World’s Liberty.” “To the Heroes who fell for us.” “You are far from home but you are close to our hearts.”

    The entire population of a French country district paid homage to the memory of nine British airmen who lost their lives when flying over France. They were buried with full military honours at Moncony, and this photograph shows the oak coffins surrounded with flowers.

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    The massive oak coffins were covered with an avalanche of flowers, that of the Commanding Officer of the bomber being draped with a big Union Jack which a young girl of Louhans had made by working all night. The coffins were lined up on the ground in the cemetery in front of a large ditch, then the cure of the parish uttered a last prayer and a last goodbye to the noble victims in simple, moving and, Christian words. We then saw an unforgettable thing, a choir of young girls from the village singing “God Save the King” slowly, majestically and perfectly executed, and then the Marseillaise which was taken up at once by the whole crowd, The eyes of all were filled with tears and we all thought of the families of the dead back in England, families who perhaps are still unaware of those for whom we were weeping. Let those families know that the entire population of the district gave the same honour and attention to their dead as they would have given to their own dearest relatives.

    Let them know that their tombs until the day when they may be taken back to England will be daily surrounded by prayers and by flowers from real French men and women, those who do not forget. Before finishing, allow me to mention in the name of the innumerable patriots who attended the funeral, some of those who risked much and spent so much effort to see that the sad ceremony should be as dignified and impressive as the circumstances demanded. Civil Servants of the district, the various groups who brought flowers and wreaths, the young girls of St. Germain-du-Bois who achieved the tour de force of learning overnight the words of “God Save the King” in, English, and the unknown young girl who had so well made a British flag with the red, white and blue cloth which she had at home. Finally, don’t let us forget the thousands of people who covered twenty to thirty miles on foot or on bicycles in order to do their duty as good Frenchmen.
     

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