Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Armistice Day

We walked across a rain-drenched St Jean de Luz, past the harbour across the river and into Ciboure for the Armistice Day memorial. Since we arrived slightly early we milled around with various soldiers, sailors and police constabularies. They were all very amiable but looked so young, particularly the soldiers, which made me feel very morose not because I am getting older but in consideration of what we were here to remember. Although battle thankfully never ravished this area (although there are various German pill boxes along the cliffs used as lookout posts) many young men gave their lives or as they said after reading their names "mort pour France". Around four hundred locals joined the forty or so servicemen as the mayor gave a short reading thanking the families and those other countries who came to the rescue of France 90 and 70 years ago.
Imagine having been 17 and fighting in World War I, the war to end all wars, and then on your 39th birthday, after enduring years of Spanish flu, WWII breaks out. It is worrying that kids these days moan about stress and are want to create their own violence. However, we need to remember that there do remain less fortunate innocents in countries such as Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan who are mixed up in daily bombardments between two sides they neither support or condone. I always feel very proud and hopeful on days like today, not patriotism as such, more a collective belief that were things to become terrible again we may still be able to band together and vanquish evil.
After the mayor's short piece, local children read the names of those from Ciboure who had died. Following the drummers and servicemen who marched ahead we proceeded back across the bridge into St Jean de Luz where the names of the fallen Luzien's were read out. Once the ceremonial aspect had finished everyone went back to the Hotel de Ville for an aperitif and some fabulous Bayonne ham (jambon). A real sense of community still pervades here. Many of the names read out shared the same family name, names which are still highly prevalent today.