Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Peals of thunder and mortar shots

A violent storm broke the heat wave on the Cote d'Azur during the night of 2-3 September 1944. It was reported that the peals of thunder were answered by mortar shots as war ships fired volley after volley into the hills around Monaco. When dawn finally broke and the sun rose in a clear blue sky, not a single German soldier was to be seen. I can only imagine what the residents felt when American soldiers arrived at 2pm that afternoon, confirming that The Principality was free.

Rene Borghini's grave

Yesterday at 5pm the occasion was commemorated in Monaco with a ceremony that began at the cemetery gates. A cortege formed, led by Archbishop Barsi, with flag-bearers, dignitaries and uniformed folk, their jackets heavy with medals and ribbons. They walked in silence along a path lined with marble stones and memorials for beloved family members. Beneath the white obelisk of the Monument aux Morts the flag-bearers lined up, whilst men in dark suits laid wreaths of red and white flowers. The Archbishop made a quiet speech, barely audible above the ubiquitous noise of traffic and construction. A sad bugle call sounded, then, punctuated by military commands and salutes, the band played five national anthems: Monaco, Britain, USA, Belgium and France. The Archbishop said a benediction and the procession moved on. More wreaths were laid at the grave of Rene Borghini, member of the resistance, shot by the Gestapo 15 August 1944, the day the allies landed in Provence.

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