In the Centenary year of the Armistice that brought the Great War to an end Remembrance was the motive for The Royal Sussex Regimental Associations visit to Priez in France, and Reconstruction was the village’s focus and contribution to the event that took place on the 10th September 2018.
Invitations were sent to all branches, association officers, English and French dignitaries and Priez casualty relatives. This was to be another opportunity, and quite possibly the last, where The Association could parade in numbers, with standards flying, to the Regimental Memorial for a wreath laying ceremony.
At 1130 hours members from Brighton, Mid Sussex and Chichester Branches had formed up and marched into the Priez Church for a joint English and French service led by the Very Reverend Nicholas Frayling, Dean Emeritus of Chichester, and Father Gard, Priez parish priest.
Under a cloudless sky the Association paraded together with French veterans to our memorial in front of the Marie, where wreaths were laid by The Mayor of Chichester, The Mayor of Priez, The High Sheriff of West Sussex, The Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Sussex and the British Military Attaché, together with a number of personal contributions from casualty relatives, all in remembrance of those from the Regiment who lost their lives during the Great War. The ceremony was concluded with the singing of both countries national anthems and the association marched off to the strains of ‘Sussex-by-the-Sea’.
All was not over, for it was at this point that a separate ceremony took place in front of the schoolhouse where the Association, through Chichester Branch’s late President’s widow, Sheila Kirkpatrick, presented to the village a replacement Croix de Guerre for the one originally awarded to the village but subsequently lost. In tandem with this presentation an exchange of medals took place between the Mayor of Priez and the Mayor of Ludon-Médoc, who had been the village’s ‘War Godmother’, an arrangement whereby a community unaffected by the War gave moral and financial support to one that had been.
The village Lavoir had been wonderfully decorated with articles and photographs from over one hundred years ago as part of the village’s ‘exhibition trail’ which took in several locations all presenting artifacts and memorabilia redolent of the period. It was at this point that an original taxi of the Marne appeared and gave rides to those fortunate enough to be on hand when, or where it stopped.
A final act of remembrance was made in Priez village cemetery where the joint standards of The Association and the French veterans paid their respects to the Royal Sussex and Loyal North Lancashire men within the Commonwealth War Graves section and to the four French soldiers interred within the cemetery.
Finally, it was time to loosen ties, remove jackets and open the Royal Sussex ‘Priez Memorial Ale’ in the courtyard of the Mayor’s Farmhouse and enjoy a delicious buffet, conversation, and camaraderie amongst our friends in France.
We cannot thank the community at Priez enough for their hospitality and to the generosity of those organizations and individuals in the UK who contributed to our fund raising that made the trip possible. For those who went the memories will remain with us for a very long time.
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