Main planner : Jean Bordes,
Etienne Doléac Setting : Jean Bordes,
Antoine Fontanet Wiht contribution of A.N.A.C.R. President :
Copyright to A.N.A.C.R.
Ceremonies of July 9 and 10 1999
In May 1998 Mr. Bordes meets Mr. Al Gaudet, this Canadian resides in Bordes de Rivière 31210. Mr. Gaudet immediately proposed to do some research with regards to the Canadian family of Pilot Officer Leslie Arthur Peers who was the aircraft commander of the Halifax. He is buried with the 6 members of the RAF at the Pic du Douly. He like his comrades was considered as MIA. (Missing In Action)
Al Gaudet will very rapidly find the family in Chatham et Ottawa Ontario . Following this, the Canadians will prepare a trip to France so as to accompany the family to the cemetery in the Haut Nistos. They planned to come over in early July 1999.
The Prefecture of Tarbes organizes ceremonies atop the Pic du Douly in their honor.
Will participate in the planning the Prefect of the Hautes-Pyrénées , the military attaché of Canada Colonel Desrocher of the Canadian embassy, the civil and military authorities of the department, the mayors of Nistos and Sacoué, the Souvenir Français of the hautes-Pyrénées, French Résistance veterans and the veterans of the 3201 FTPF of Nistos and Esparros
On Wednesday February 25 and Tuesday April 28 1999 it was decided that there would be 2 ceremonies at the cemetery.
- A private one organized by the Canadians on July 9.
- An official one organized by the Prefecture on July 10.
A 40 strong Canadian delegation arrived at the Tarbes airport on Monday July 5 and was welcomed by Mr. Fadat , the mayor’s deputy. The delegation was led by Mr. Pickard, the delegated Minister of Defense, accompanied by DGL Pearson, the Chief of Protocol History and Heritage of the 1st Air Division (CFB Winnipeg) and by the Grand President of RCL 28 Colonel Lawson.
The private ceremony of July 9, with the inhabitants, the mayors of Nistos and Sacoué and the veterans of the Résistance was very moving.
The ceremony of July 10, and the speech of Shawn the grandson of the aircraft commander . When he spoke he really struck the assembled gathering really when he spoke of the feelings of his grandfather that gave his life , far from home and to defend freedom. These words of thanks for their hospitality and having maintained the cemetery keeping alive the memory of his grandfather and his 6 comrades buried with him struck a deep cord in the assembled crowd of Nistos.
On July 10 at the end of the ceremony a meal for 200 guests was served at the community hall of Nistos. The Canadians offered many gifts to all the dignitaries.
An emotion filled moment, when the Peers family arrives at the cemetery on July 9 1999 at 10H . The son accompanied by his wife cannot contain their tears. They find where the Pilot Officer met his death and rests in peace after 55 years.
Leslie Arthur PEERS converse avec André Bordes.
Ce dernier est un des rares survivants qui ont inhumé
les aviateurs le 18 Juillet 1944. A droite sur la photo,
Shawn PEERS, petit-fils de l’officier pilote du halifax.
Handing over by the Canadian authorities of a commemorative plaque to the 2 mayors of Savoué and Nistos
From L to R. Julien Plantat former Résistance fighter, son of Plantat who created the Maquis de Nistos, Bordes André, Louis Cabau, Colonel Desrochers Military Attaché of the Canadian Embassy, Louis Nasare leader of the 15 Résistance fighters who buried the aircrew on July 18 1944.
MP Pickard took this picture as a souvenir . From left to right Shan Peers; Jean Bordes, Arthur Peers, Alain Gaudet
From L to R Colonel Desrochers, Madame Simone de Lassus who the day before welcome the Canadian delegation at the Château de Valmirande and gave a champagne aperitif. On the right the son and grandson of Leslie Arthur Peers
The two pipers that accompanied the Canadian delegation
From L to R: Mr. Pickard Delegated representative of the Minister of Defense of Canada , Jean Bordes and Colonel Desrochers Military Attaché of Canada in France
Plaque in memory of Leslie Arthur Peers of the RCAF, given to Mr. Jean Bordes. It will be set in place on the stele by him and François March of Montréjeau on August 1st 1999.
Plaque in memory of the airmen of RAF 624th Squadron given to Mr. Alain Gaudet and then handed over to Mr. Jean Bordes. It will be set in place on the stele by him and François March on July 7th 2004.
Mr; Johnson, Director of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission during his visit to the cemetery ,signing the guest book on July 11, 2000.
A plaque is set in place
To inform visitors a plaque has been put up on the wall of the cemetery. It explains the tragedy of July 13 19944, when 7 airmen of the RAF/RCAF died .
It also talks about how the cemetery was renovated in June/July 1994.
This plaque was paid and realized by the Association des Anciens Combattants de la Résistance (the ANACR … association of French Résistance veterans ) of the Hautes-Pyrenées. The text was written by Mr. Fernand Perebosch a veteran of the 3201 FTPF de Nistos et Esparros. The plaque weights in at 40 kilos and was transported up the mountain and forest to the cemetery on November 9 2000, with the help of a stretcher by Mr. Lucien Pomian, Mr. François March and Jean Bordes, all 3 of Montréjeau.
7 airmen of the Royal Air Force rest in peace in this cemetery. 1 Canadian Pilot Officer and Commander of the aircraft and 6 British crewmembers. They died here on the night of 13/14 July 1944 when their aircraft crashed here. The Halifax aircraft came from Algeria, its mission was to parachute weapons to the Résistance Fighters of the 3201 FTPF. They were buried in secret on July 18th 1944 close to the wrecked aircraft by the Résistance fighters of the 3201 FTPF and inhabitants of Nistos and Seich , they were lead by the primary school teacher Mr. Lucien Rumeau. In 1954 they offered a plaque that has the names of the airmen. In 1994 the cemetery was renovated in accordance with a project laid down by Mr. Norbert Delphin, a teacher at the Technical High School of Gourdan and by Mr. Jean Bordes, a veteran of the 3201 FTPF who prepared and directed the building of the memorial.
THIS UNDERTAKING COULD NOT HAVE BEEN REALIZED WITHOUT THE HELP OF MANY VOLUNTEERS FROM THE BIGORRE AND COMMINGES
One must mention in particular Louis Torres and Jean Cebollade former members of the 3201 FTPF. Alphone Juanola and Fernan Garcia of the Souvenir Français; Francis Larregola and Patrick Barrere of Montréjeau.
The Souvenir Français has participated financially to this project.
The cemetery was inaugurated on August 27 1994 by André Rumeau the Mayor of Sacoué, were also present many dignitaries one of which was Mr. Roger Virnuls, Honorary Consul of Great Britain and 32 flags of various patriotic associations (of veterans).
In 1998 the family of Leslie Arthur Peers in Canada was informed of the resting place of the Pilot Officer. Since 1944 he was considered as M.I.A..
On July 10th 1999, a ceremony honoring this Officer and the 6 other crewmen was organized by the Prefecture of the Hautes-Pyrenees the Mayors of Nistos and Sacoué. The ceremony took place with the family of the Pilot Officer with an important delegation from Canada which was lead by the Mr. Pickard an MP to the Canadian Parliament
Handing over of the tricolor of the 3201ème Cie of Francs Tireurs et Partisans Français to the Royal Canadian Legion of Canada
The flag was handed over to the Representative of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Mr. Al Gaudet during a ceremony at Nistos on October 20, 1999 the Mayors of Nistos and Esparrod and and veterans of the 3201Cie FTPF
Handing over of the flag to the authorities of Chatham by Mr. Gaudet. To his right Colonel Lawson Grand President of RCL 28 of Chatham
Minute of silence honoring the flag of the 3201FTPF by the flags of the Royal Canadian Legion
November 11, 1999 parade in Chatham, the tricolor of the 3201 is honored by being
at the center and surrounded by Canadian flags
60th anniversary ceremonies of the death of the airmen on July 2/3, 2004
Overview of the July 3 2004 ceremony at the Clos du Douly cemetery
Pictures by Joël Lécina 31210 Ausson
British honor guard presenting arms.
Mr. Sévera Mayor of Nistos and M. Portepan Deputy Mayor of Sacoué laying wreaths
The dignitaries at the beginning of the ceremony.
The Canadian Consul and the Canadian Military Attaché of the Canadian Embassy in France lay a wreath
Jade and Pastor Alain Gaudet do the “ roll call” . The pastor will then read the 23 Psalm
Mr. De Clarens the Président of the Comité Départemental of the Résistance of the Hautes Pyrénées representing around 20 associations lays a wreath. He is accompanied by Mr. Jean Bordes who represents the former Résistance fighters of Nistos and Esparros.
On July 11, 2000, Mr Johnson, the Director of the C.W.G.C France area visits the cemetery and made it known that a Tribute at the Pic du Douly in early July 2004 would be organized so as to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the death of these RAF/RCAF airmen.
The City Hall of Lannemezan will be responsible for the planning and organization of the ceremonies. The representative of the Commonwealth asked that they take place on July 2 and 3 so as to not come into conflict with the Bastille Day ceremonies in France.
A working group has been set up and is in charge of all the planning and organization; it is made up of City Hall authorities, the department’s military authority, veterans, former Résistance fighters of the Hautes-Pyrénées, Flight Lieutenant Gary Vickers RAF 4624 Squadron of RAFB Brize Norton and representatives of the Maquis of Nistos and Esparros.
Planning this ceremony will take 7 months of work.
Tasks will be split up as follows:
Mr. Gaudet the local CWGC representative will organize and be responsible for:
- The welcoming at the Toulouse Blagnac airport of dignitaries from England
- 27 civilians representing the families of the airmen
- 23 veterans of RAF 624 SD Squadron
- An armed honour guard of the RAF
- 1 RAF Air Marshall and 6 Superior officers of the RAF
- The housing in Saint-Gaudens and Tarbes of all these guests as well as their transport plan to attend the many different ceremonies.
- Finding car rentals for these honoured guests
The City of Lannemezan’s technical services will arrange various installations for the nigh time ceremony of July 2 and for the ceremony of July 3, at 12:30H at its war memorial monument. The community hall was set up to welcome 200 guests for the noonday meal. The aperitif was also prepared for all who attended and participated in the ceremonies.
Former Résistance fighters were tasked with preparing the material side of the July 3 (10 AM) ceremony atop the Pic du Douly :
- 3 flagstaffs of 6 meters in height and removable pulleys plus ropes.
- setting up the flagstaffs cement support base, these flagstaffs having to be brought down after the ceremony due to high winds and snow at this altitude.
- setting in place on the cairn of the bronze plaque of RAF 624 SD’s memorial plaque - painting the crosses and tombstones
- setting up of the podium with French colors
- setting up the sound system (transport up the mountain of the batteries)
11 volunteers from the Aure and Nistos valley participated in these endeavours.
Because of the high number of elderly people and elderly veterans of the RAF who were not accustomed to walking in the mountains, the oldest being 91, precautions were taken for their safety.
To avoid unfortunate incidents Colonel Paul Pécheur willingly organized all the Red Cross staff for this ceremony. He will set up an impressive and organized Red Cross group that will indeed impress the British participants.
All these ceremonies were a success thanks to Mr. the Colonel BOMETON and Madame Stocklin who were the Master of Ceremonies.
At the end of the meal at the community hall the Commonwealth authorities gave superb gifts to the many important guests and former Résistance fighters.