Day 3: Farewell to Paris…onwards!

Today we said au revoir to Paris and bonjour to Lille!
We jumped on the bus early, keen to begin our next stage of our 10 day tour, and on the way, we stopped at the Musee de l’Armistice in Compiegne.
The clip below, by Tony, captures the trip well, and you get a chance to hear the first piece of singing from our choir abroad!
The museum was so interesting – it was the site where the Armistice was signed at 5am, but came into effect at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
The Armistice was signed by the French, British and German to end the fighting and therefore accepting Germany’s surrender. It was the prelude to the treaty of Versailles which was signed six months later to ensure peace among the nations.
The signing took place in an especially built railway carriage, (it’s historically known as the Wagon of Compiegne) of Marechal Foch, a French general who played a role in negotiations with Germany…(on a side note – there’s now a red wine grape named after him..).
We learnt that Adolf Hitler used the same site on 21 June 1940 during the Second World War. He sat in Marechal Foch’s chair as he accepted France’s surrender – a turning the tables moment.
He then had the same carriage, no. 2419, taken to Berlin (we think to really rub salt into the wound of the peace process) where it was burnt! Today at the museum, there is a replica of the carriage and it is called no. 2419 D.

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At the museum, one of our choristers, Belinda, found a blue cornflower badge to pin next to her poppy and French and Australian flags on her back pack.
‘It is the French remembrance flower that symbolises delicacy and timidity. These flowers continued to grow in the battlefields of the Somme and were often the only sign of life and colour in the trenches,’ she discovered.
Belinda_1
After exploring the museum, it was off to Lille to check into what will be our home for the next four nights, with one of our musicians, Matthew Farrell intrigued by the vintage cars on the roads.

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The afternoon was spent at the VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles (about 20 minutes’ drive west of Lille) for our first rehearsal with the Australian Army Band, in preparation for the service on Tuesday, 19 July.

It was such a surreal environment for our choristers, as we soaked in the sombre atmosphere of the memorial. Between 19-20 July, 1916, more than 5,500 men of the 5th Australian Division died, were wounded or went missing here, during the division’s attack on German lines. More here.

Some consider it was the ‘worst day in Australian military history‘. The small cemetery is known as the only one without headstones,  with no epitaphs to honour the individual soldiers.

A stone wall near where the choristers will sing, has 1,299 names of the Australians who died in battle, with two mass graves nearby.

This site further amplified the gravitas of this experience for our choristers, as they prepare to sing at the events paying tribute to those who endured the horrific sacrifices of World War One in this region.

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No doubt this is only the beginning of what our choristers will discover in the coming week.
Thanks for reading…more soon!

#vobwfchoir

(Keep up to date with our Western Front Anzac Day & Centenary Choir Project via the Facebook group – Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours.)

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