Commemorations of the Centenary of Armistice, 1918
The French Ambassador of France to India, Alexandre Ziegler, attended the commemorations on November 10th and 11th.
The commemorations began at 5 pm with the inauguration of the exhibition "Clemenceau, War Chief" in the presence of Catherine Suard, Consular General of France in Pondicherry and Chennai.
The French Ambassador of France to India was present at the evening vigil on the evening of November 10th. He read the message of the President of the Republic. During this event, the Defense Attaché, Colonel Ludovic Dumont read the names of soldiers from French India dead dead for France. Finally, the students of the French International School of Pondicherry have proclaimed Paul Eluard’s 29 poems for peace.
At 11 am, at the War Memorial, the diplomatic, civilian and military authorities laid wreaths at the foot of the Monument. A large crowd was able to attend this exceptional ceremony held with the assistance of the Pondicherry Police and the Choir of the French International School of Pondicherry.
At 6 pm, the exhibition "The Heroes of the Great War" was inaugurated at the Foyer du Soldat in the presence of Catherine Suard and Mr. Balaramin Bichat, Consular Counselor.
The day ended with a reception in the gardens of the Residence.
Honourable Chief Minister of Puducherry, Mr V. NARAYANASAMY,
Honourable Representative of the Lieutenant-Gouvernor, Mr SUNDARESAN S. D.
Members of Parliament from the Union Territory of Puducherry,
Mr RADHAKRISHNAN and Mr GOKULAKRISHNAN,
General Officer commanding Dakshin Bharat Area,
Major General K. UMAMAHESWAR, VSM,
Deputy Director General of the National Cadet Corps Directorate, Commodore Vijesh K. GARG, VSM
Commander of Coast Guards of the Union Territory of Puducherry, Mr K. AJAY
Representative of the Director General of Police, Mr Rahool ALWAL, IPS
Ladies and gentlemen, representatives of the diplomatic and consular missions ; and I welcome in particular the presence among us of :
The Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mrs Karine STOLL
The Consul General of the Russian Federation, Mr Oleg N. AVDEEV
The Consul General of the Republic of Singapore, Mr. Roy KHO
The Consul General of the Kingdom of Thailand, Mrs Rakcharoen KRONGKANIT
The Consul General of the United States of America, Mr. Robert G. BURGESS
The Deputy Consul General of Australia, Mr. Michael COSTA
The Head of Consular Services of the British Deputy High Commission,
Mrs Beula JOSEPH
who came especially from Chennai;
Madame et Messieurs les Conseillers consulaires ;
Messieurs les représentants des Associations d’anciens combattants
et victimes de guerre ;
Madame la Consule Générale ;
Monsieur l’Attaché de Défense ;
Chers compatriotes, chers amis ;
Permettez-moi tout d’abord, de vous remercier, madame la Consule générale, de m’avoir convié à cette cérémonie qui revêt une importance particulière pour nos deux pays. Merci à toutes les associations qui entretiennent la mémoire des enfants de Pondichéry tombés pour la France d’être présentes, et merci à vous tous d’être réunis aujourd’hui.
Votre présence témoigne de la vitalité d’une communauté française qui n’oublie pas son histoire, même cent ans après, et des liens qui unissent la France à l’Inde.
11th November 1918, it was at 11 am – the same hour that symbolically brings us together today - that the ceasefire marking the end of the First World War came to effect and the entire nation learnt of that by the ringing of the bells – similar to those that marked the beginning of this ceremony.
The Armistice was signed the same morning at 5:15am, in the glades of Rethondes, in The Forest of Compiègne (in the north of Paris), putting an end to a conflict that left the warring parties with more than 18.6 million dead, disabled and mutilated, including 8 million civilians, and far beyond the European borders.
In this Great War, France will always remember the remarkable contribution of Indian soldiers alongside the Allied forces. Almost 1 500 000 (15 lakh) Indian soldiers fought on all fronts: in the Somme, in East Africa, in Iraq, in Gallipoli, etc.; 74,000 of them lost their lives in it.
France particularly remembers the commitment of the Indian contingent of soldiers on its soil, who landed in Marseille only six weeks after the declaration of the war to fight in the autumn of 1914 in Flanders in the battle of La Brassée and in spring 1915, in the battle of Neuve-Chapelle.
Ever since the Great War, France has commemorated the fallen Indian heroes by dedicating memorials such as the Neuve-Chapelle Memorial which was erected more than 90 years ago. Yesterday, His Excellency Shri M. Vendkaaiah Naidu, Vice-President of India, inaugurated the new memorial of Villers-Guislain which pays homage to the Indian cavaliers, who returned to the warfront in November 1917 and stopped the Germans’ advance.
Among these fighters from India, there were many French soldiers from the trading post of the time. While the mobilization and loss in the French trading posts in India were thankfully lower than that of the rest of the Empire, Pondicherry mobilized 800 men, 500 of whom were sent to the warfront, 75 meeting their death.
It is in their honour and in their memory, that this Monument in front of which we are gathered today, was erected. These are their names, which we called out last night, during the vigil which many of you attended.
It is important to remember these young soldiers from Puducherry, Karikal, Mahé, Yanaon and Chandernagor who defended a homeland that belonged to them at the time.
I particularly recall the former students of Lycée français who were involved in the Great War, whose names are engraved forever in the walls that saw them grow. For example young Victor Simonel, whose name is familiar to many of us here, was a former student of Lycée français International de Pondichéry and after whom is named the street that borders the school.
I would like to felicitate the remarkable gesture of remembrance, carried out by the Consulate General of France in Pondicherry, the Institut français de Pondichéry and Lycée Français International de Pondichéry, with the support of the the Office of Veterans and Victims of War and the Centennial Mission, which will lead to the publication of the book «Inde Française et la Grande Guerre » based on this subject.
Europeans, especially the French, accept the responsibility of a memory with great steadfastness because they know that it is the foundation of living together today, and tomorrow, and the condition of a peaceful Europe.
This responsibility, like the Great War a hundred years ago, does not stop at European borders, nor is it limited to memory.
On the contrary, it must be translated into collective action.
This is the meaning and the aim of the Paris Peace Forum, to which the President of the French Republic today has invited the heads of States and governments.
Today, when nationalism has resurfaced and the temptation for unilateralism has rekindled, we must remember that they are the ferments of the war and action. In Paris today, France will promote a renewed vision of multilateralism, which promotes multi-faceted cooperation, leaves room for all and is effective for new challenges (climate, migration, inequalities in the economic system, etc.).
I am pleased that India is participating today at a high level in this major event. This commitment shows that our two countries will be beside each other to face the challenges of the future, as they were, one hundred years ago.