60th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony
This took place in June 2004, again at the graveside. Following is a translation of a contemporary newspaper report.
June 18th 1940 - June 18th 1944
TWO DATES WE MUST NOT FORGET
Last June 6th, 142 veterans accompanied the 147 heads of state for the celebration of the 60th Liberation Anniversary.
"We must pay much homage to these 142 heroes, but not forget the ones who gave their lives for our liberty" said the mayor of Gannes, Georges Vanvynckt, “to restore the local history in the national history”.
June 18th, the occasion of Charles De Gaulle's call from London in 1940, is an inescapable date in WWII. On Friday evening, in the small cemetery of Gannes, with the elected members of the village, the mayor Georges Vanvynckt welcomed the General Council, Frans Desmedt and the Veterans Associations. The occasion was to lay a wreath on the War Memorial in memory of the Free French men who enlisted to prove their determination to not give in in the face of the enemy.
FOUR YEARS APART
But at Gannes, June 18th has a particular interest. This year, like 10 years ago, the municipality would celebrate the anniversary of a tragic event which occurred in the village. On June 18th 1944, 12 days after the Normandy Landing, while the Battle of Normandy continued to rage and while the British, American, Canadian and Australian bombers pounded the rear of the enemy to disorganize them, seven airmen, Australian and British, met their deaths near the Gannes station. Their Lancaster of the RAF was shot down by German anti-aircraft defences placed near the town of Montdidier and crashed in the village.
"Their remains were reassembled in a room in the town hall turned into a temporary morgue and festooned with flowers" remembered the mayor.
Almost all of the village inhabitants attended the funeral which occurred on the following Wednesday.
"60 years have passed since this day which is marked in our local history, 60 years which have seen the French-German reconciliation...Today, among those who have come with us, many have not known those dark years and June 18th 1944 seems to be far for them. But it's to them that I speak in order that they don't forget these heroes who came from all the continents to sacrifice themselves for our liberty" said Georges Vanvynckt.
The procession which was gathered in the cemetery stopped a long time in front of the graves of the 7 Commonwealth airmen, on which flew the flags of their countries. The mayor and the General Council laid a wreath just in front of the commemorative plaque given by the municipality 10 years ago to mark the 50th anniversary of this event, well fixed in the memory. June 18th in 1940 and in 1944 combine in the plural at Gannes. Yesterday, like today, these two dates are an integral part of the history of the village.