Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Liberation of the Mayenne... a lesson to learn

   Sometimes its about what you learn from the French view on things that makes you stop & think. Last Sunday was the celebration of the Liberation of the region of Mayenne by the Americans in 1944. In honour of this there was an American camp set up in our local town of Gorron. Military vehicles of the era, men, women and whole families in full dress of the period.

They camped out for the weekend in  tents, using equipment from the 1940s, catering & eating food from that time; a whole community living in a time bubble from sixty years ago All this to show the admiration for the troops of ordinary young men & women & resistance families who put themselves on the line back in 1944.

Three things were poignant. First the demonstration of the Sherman tank, why...well because of the effect this vehicle had. Apparently in in a nearby village is a house whose shutters are never opened, because as a girl the old lady who lives there opened the shutters to see German tanks rumbling down the main street. So traumatised was she that she shut the shutters and they  have remained shut ever since. I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if by chance she opened them that weekend as the vehicles toured the area, but this time she would see an American convoy and an American tank.

Second was the image of an elderly gentleman clambering on board the tank desperate to get to the top & be taken for a ride round.The look on his face as that great machine rumbled around the field  made you wondered how long he had waited to fulfill that ambition...what memories did his internal camera run?

All this celebration...being back in an American war time camp, but not a single American in sight. Care in the detail and such passion for the accuracy of the memory. And who organised it? Well, the participants were all ages, but the committee and the chairmen and the organisational people were in their twenties, now that's impressive .

Some memories jump time and the people touched by them are transformed by them.I think on Sunday the French taught me a little about time travel