Links forged between Bury St Edmunds and Compiegne
- Credit: Archant
The strong links and bonds between Bury St Edmunds and its French twin town of Compiegne were forged close to the forested area where the Armistice was signed.
For the former Mayor of St Edmundsbury Terry Clements and his wife Vivienne crossed the English Channel to take part in a poignant Remembrance weekend which was also attended by President
Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Centenaire de l’Armistice 1918 was attended by an array of civic dignitaries from all over the world including those from Portugal, Poland, Senegal, USA and Germany and Mr Clements said it was a “very emotional” weekend.
“It was amazing from first thing in the morning to last thing at night,” he said.
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And during the weekend Mr Clements was able to visit the grave of his great uncle Pte Bertie Carpenter, from Beck Row, who was killed in action aged 24 in August 1918 and is buried in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Ecoust St Mein, near Arras.
He said: “Great uncle Bertie Carpenter was our grandfather’s best friend. He is said to have thought so much of him he married Bertie’s sister Ada our grandmother.
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“Grandad Oliver was injured out of the war and it took him three days to crawl back injured, he never spoke much only that he was so upset that he couldn’t help others.”
Mr Clements said that last year when he was Mayor he visited Compiegne in an official capacity to mark 50 years of twinning with Bury St Edmunds.
“We had been there in 1992 as a stopping place on our first family holiday to France. It was a case of picking up our car which we had just bought, loading it up and driving it to Fornham.
“I had to be at the official opening of a Wimpey Homes refurbishment. Then it was back home picking up Viv and the children and driving to France and it was while I was driving through France that I really got the poppy experience.
“There wasn’t one field that didn’t have poppies in flower and I did say in my speech on our last night I hadn’t realised how important this area was to our history.
“It was a very emotional and amazing event for us but also a proud weekend for us.”
And one of the highlights was a visit to Compiegne Rugby Club where teams from different countries took part in the Armistice Centenary Rugby Tribute which was followed by singing described by Mr Clements as “one of the most emotional things that I have seen.”
It has resulted in a “Pipes of Peace” Rugby Festival which will take place in Compiegne during the Autumn half term from 2019 and will be held annually.