At 11.00 hours on Saturday 21 May, Lord Petre, Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Colonel Charles Thomas, Colonel Stephen Foakes, retired Major Dick Gould, Councillor John Aldridge, Chairman of Essex County Council gathered in the square of the church with the local Mayor, M Zéchel, the Secretary of the Prefect and the Sénatrice for that area, to commemorate a memorial dedicated to the Essex Regiment and the Essex Yeomanry.
This ceremony was to mark the heavy sacrifice of both units in a desperate battle in April 1917 for this small but strategic village on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. The MC for this event was Simon Godly an Ulsterman who lives locally and speaks fluent French as well as organising memorials for Canadians. After welcome speeches by the Mayor and the Prefect’s Secretary, Dr Ted Bailey, whose grandfather fought there as then RSM, 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment, outlined the history in French (!).
After the speeches, Lord Petre laid a wreath as HM Queen’s representative in Essex, Colonel Thomas on behalf of the now subsumed Essex Regiment, Colonel Foakes on behalf of the Essex Yeomanry, Dr Ted Bailey for his grandfather and comrades and retired Major Gould, on behalf of the Royal Anglian Regiment into which the Essex Regiment was incorporated in 1964, followed by the French.
The 10th Essex Living History Group attended in World War One dress marching from the Mairie to the square and presenting arms. The local band played Au Morts, the French version of the Last Post and Andy Smerdon played the British post followed by a minute’s silence. Ian Hook, the Keeper of the Essex Regiment Museum played the Reveille on a genuine WW1 bugle and the French band struck up with the British, French national anthems followed by the European.
The ceremony was also attended by many French veterans in their characteristic black berets and many villagers. The Yeomanry provided two lancers who stood either side of the memorial throughout. The sun kindly shone on us and it was a respectful yet enjoyable occasion in the spirit of Entente Cordiale. We all repaired back to the Mairie where there was a champagne reception. The Essex units gave plaques to the French while they gave plates ascribed with the Monchy town and Essex county badges.
All agreed that it was a suitable event which honoured the brave men from Essex during that engagement. It is in the square directly opposite a bar/cafe and should form a necessary part of any tour. On the 100th Anniversary in April 2017 there will be another ceremony there for the Essex Yeomanry.