Bastille Day 2016 has been overshadowed by the terrible events in Nice, but before that story happened one of our blog readers celebrated in the town where he was holidaying and shared this with us:
Bastille Day Despatch from a Small Town in France
Bastille Day is a public holiday in France which commemorates the storming of the Bastille Prison in Paris on 14 July, 1789. This event is usually described as the start of the French Revolution and the beginning of the French Republic. Today, in Pauillac, a small town set among the vineyards of the Medoc north of Bordeaux, Bastille Day was marked in the town square before the memorial to the men of the town who died in the First World War.
On this day in 1916, while the 8th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment were engaged on the Somme at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, our French allies were in the ‘mincing machine’ of the battlefield of Verdun. The Germans expected to break the French Army, but France’s Commander-in-Chief, General Joffre, was determined to hold Verdun at all costs. It was never captured, but by December 1916 it had cost 540,000 French casualties, many thousands of whom were killed. Wives and sweethearts sent postcards to loved ones at the front, but there was, naturally, some questioning of the cost of the war in human misery as the wounded returned home.
The Bastille Day review in Paris in 1916 was one of military parades in the face of continuing war. In Pauillac, in 2016, the review comprised men and women of the fire service and the municipal police. Two military standards were lowered in salute to the war memorial, and the Mayor, M. Florent Fatin, young and stylish, wearing the mayoral sash and carrying the dignity of the town, led the singing of Le Marseillaise.