The Marne Pilgrimage 2012

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REPORT OF RRF ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MONDEMENT PILGRIMAGE COMMEMORATING THE 98TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 1ST BATTLE OF THE MARNE
It was my pleasure and privilege to again organise and lead this year's event. being an important one in the regimental calendar.

Our coach left Balham early on Thursday 30th August picking up at the Tower and along the way to Dover. A midday ferry crossing saw us en route to Epernay arriving late afternoon.

Including wives and friends we totalled 32. With us were a contingent of Grenadier Guards Association members, one ex Middlesex Regiment and one ex Ox & Bucks Light Infantry.

Epernay, the capital of the Champagne Region of France, is truly delightful. The weather was excellent as usual. Reasonably priced bars and restaurants abound.

On day 1 we travelled the short distance to La Ferte sous Jouarre where, or nearby, our former comrades crossed the Marne in 1914 at the outset of the battle which resulted in the Germans being crushingly defeated. At La Ferte is a large and impressive British War Memorial on which are inscribed the names of 3700 names of the fallen of the BEF at Mons, the retreat, Le Cateau, Marne and Aisne who have no known grave. Wreaths were laid at a ceremony organised by the town who are most friendly appreciating as they still do, the sacrifice of Fusiliers all those years ago. We were entertained to Vin d'honneur afterwards.

We dined together that evening back in Epernay.

Day 2 in the morning the coach took a group of us to Reims for sightseeing and shopping etc. In the late afternoon we went to Sezanne to honour the memory of our fallen French allies alongside whom our former comrades fought. A short ceremony followed by Vin D'honneur.

Day 3, Sunday, saw the main event at Mondement. Where the monument to the battle is, it being the centre of the start line. An impressive panoramic view of the width and depth of the battlefield is gained from the site. A short religious service followed by raising of flags, playing of National Anthems etc with speeches from dignatories. The Marne battle effectively saved France from early defeat in the war and it cannot be overestimated how much they genuinely appreciate the fact that our former comrades fought alongside them to gain the victory. Despite being invited, no other regiments attend.

This is very much a European affair these days with Military Attaches from Paris attending. Great Britain was represented by Colonel James Murray-Playfair RRF whom we were all delighted to see together with his wife Pippa.

Then followed a terrific banquet lunch of high quality where the wine flows. Before returning to Epernay we attended a short ceremony to honour the German dead of the battle. This gesture is much appreciated by the German representatives.

Day 4, Monday, we returned home. A supermarket shop in Calais preceded us boarding a ferry that saw us back in Balham early evening.

In summary this is a popular and extremely enjoyable long weekend enjoyed in relaxed fashion by a friendly group at reasonable cost. It is comradeship of the highest order.

Dates for 2013 are 5th to 9th September. For further information and hopefully to express interest in coming with us please contact Richard Adams on 01608 662328 or richardadams5@hotmail.com

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photos taken by Mark Forster