Today is Remembrance Sunday and across the world, people are gathering in cities, towns and, in my case, small villages, to remember those who died during wars. There are two monuments in Montmelard and, as a consequence, there were two services of remembrance today. The anticipated rain held off and the first gathering took place as the bell from the village church struck 11. A few kilometres outside the village is the memorial at Combrenot. Here on the 11th September 1943, the first exchange took place between the resistance fighters and the germans. Four yound villagers lost their lives and there were further reprisals when the germans burned a number of homes and deported Jean and Jeanne Labrosse to concentration camps from which they never returned. I was able to speak to their daughter in law, an elderly lady now, who keeps their memory alive by posting the story of what happened to them on the monument every armistice. Her father in law was almost 70 years old, a frail man, who had moved to the farmhouse, just a few hundred yards from this monument, some 10 days before the nazi soldiers arrived. After killing all the farm animals (even the cats and dogs) Jean was sent off to Mauthausen in Austria whilst his wife ended her days in Ravensbruck, Germany. Both were dead within the year.
But as we stood by the roadside, listening first to a local band and then to the mayor before accompanying an elderly 'combatant' to lay a wreath, there was an air of quiet and peace about the gathering, a feeling of camaraderie and closeness.
Once the fallen from the second world war had been honoured, we returned to the Place des morts in the village centre. A repeat performance was given before a slightly larger crowd before, in time honoured tradition, we moved into the village hall for wine and chocolate biscuits. A lady moved among us collecting for the French equivalent of the British Poppy appeal, here known as Le bleuet - cornflower. Instead of a flower, we were given a small sticker to display with a picture of a cornflower on it and the words: La memire se transmet, l'espoir se donne - Memory is handed down and hope is given.
I don't have any great words of wisdom to offer on all this, I just know that as I walked back down the lane to my home, it was hard to imagine mans inhumanity to man, great suffering and great heartache. I feel for the lady who lost her in laws and for anyone who has lost someone they love. I am just grateful that, whilst conflict rages in many parts of the world, here we are safe and protected. I am also glad that so many children and joung people were present today, I hope this acts as a reminder to us that we have a lot to be grateful for.