By Jan Jauncey
On 23rd October 1942 a Halifax bomber set off from Linton, for Northern Italy. It crashed just after 9pm in France, south of Dijon, on the edge of a small village called MONTCONY in the Bressane area of Burgundy. The crew of six British and two Canadians were all killed. This was in occupied France, mid way between two major Gestapo-held towns.
The village schoolteacher and others, assembled the bodies in the local school, found a Union Jack and laid them in state. Over 3,000 local people, including the Bishop of Autun, filed past the coffins before the funeral, which was held with great honour and dignity despite opposition from the Vichy. Local children sang our National Anthem as the airmen were buried in Montcony’s churchyard.
Reprisals by the Nazis soon followed – including clearing the area of all debris and parts of the plane, and preventing local girls who’d sung our National Anthem, from attending high school again. Many local people suffered in different ways. As a result, the French Resistance grew in that area, and although painful at the time, has been celebrated ever since.
Each year, on the nearest Sunday to the crash, the villagers of Montcony and survivors from the Resistance from all over the Bressane area meet up to remember the school teacher Monsieur Vincent – or Vic as he was known – and to honour the dead airmen. Representatives from RAFA in Geneva and local dignitaries – even the local MP are present.
In 2007, Brian & Pat Marston and Derrick & Jan Jauncey were on holiday in the area, and were invited by the Mayor of Montcony to join with them.
Sunday 27th October 2007 was a cold foggy morning but over 300 people still arrived in Montcony for the Remembrance celebrations. This began with laying flowers at the plaque on the school wall. honouring M.Vincent. Pat Marston laid a small cross there, on our behalf.
We then processed with the flag bearers, to the church-yard where the English National Anthem was sung once again, and Derrick & Jan Jauncey laid a small cross on each of the airmen’s graves. Then a procession along the road to the crash site where an eye witness read out the names of the airmen helped by local school children, and many floral tributes, including a poppy wreath by Brian Marston, were laid. The salutation was read out in English and in French.
Then we processed back to the French war memorial where La Marseillaise was sung before the last of the two minutes silences, and then the French dignitaries took their leave.
Back at their village hall we had a typical French three-hour meal where speeches were made – in French – and Brian Marston, on behalf of the Parish Council, presented the Mayor with a pair of pictures showing a Spitfire flying over the Minster, and a Tucano taking off from RAF Linton. In return we received a Montcony plate which can be seen in the Memorial cupboard at the Village hall.
It was a wonderful experience as we met many local people, including the present day school teacher – their school has 27 pupils – and exchanged pictures and information on behalf of Linton pupils.
It is hoped that contact can be maintained between the two village schools and that some of the villagers of Montcony will be able to visit Linton next year.