2016 ASSOCIATION PILGRIMAGE 1st BATTLE OF THE MARNE

The party of 57 Fusiliers and wives - full coach - left Balham on Thursday 1st September for this annual event. A quick journey to Dover via pick up points at the Tower and in Kent saw us at Dover for an early lunchtime ferry to Calais. We were in the glorious Champagne Region of France through which the River Marne flows by early evening checking into our hotel in Moussy near Epernay.
Some dined in the Auberge Champenoise Hotel which we were using for the first time and excellent it was in all respects. The hotel bar served also as the village pub . Others spent the evening in lovely Epernay which is well appointed with bars and restaurants.
With the social comradely aspect off to a flying start, the Friday morning was spent at a short ceremony in La Ferte sous Jouarre. where the British Expeditionary Force re crossed the Marne at the start of the battle having endured the long Retreat from Mons. Situated at La Ferte. is the War Memorial bearing the names of the 3600 members of the BEF who fell at Mons, during the Retreat and at the battles of the Marne and Aisne.
After another delightful afternoon and evening we awoke on Saturday when some chose to visit the very nearby small Champagne Houses to sample their wares and buy bottles to bring home. Others favoured a day and lunch in Epernay. Late afternoon we attended a short ceremony in Sezanne to remember French soldiers, our allies, who died for France in the battle.
That evening we all dined together in our hotel. It was a fairly early start on Sunday to attend at Mondement where the memorial to the 1st Battle of the Marne is situated. A short ecumenical service was followed by the main ceremony of the weekend attended by many dignatories, military attaches etc. As always it was splendid and a champagne "vin d'honneur" followed in the grounds of the Chateau Mondement.
We then adjourned to Fere Champenoise . for the as ever magnificent lunch of friendship. Several courses and the wine flows. When this banquet ended we attended a short ceremony commemorating the German soldiers killed in the battle. There is very much an atmosphere of reconciliation about this French organised weekend.
Then it was back to our hotel for reminiscences and to finally drink the bar out of beer! On the Monday 5th September - we returned to London getting back to Balham early evening.
The cost of the trip per person was a mere £220 including everything described above meaning only cash for drinks and Thursday and Friday night dining was required.
Recruiting for the 2017 trip from 31st August to 4th September will begin in January. It has now become very popular and those wishing to join us should not therefore delay in contacting the organiser Richard Adams . The coach will likely fill fast. Contact him on 01608 662328 or <richardadams5@hotmail.com>