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Saturday, 12 June 2010

Sarkozy apologises to Queen after vandals desecrate British WWI graves in France with racist slogans

Nicolas Sarkozy has personally apologised to the Queen after a cemetery commemorating thousands of  British war dead including one of her uncles was desecrated.
The French President said it was ‘revolting’ that Nazi graffiti should have been daubed in bright pink paint  around the graveyard in Loos-en-Gohelle, near Lens.

Mr Sarkozy said he also wanted to say sorry to the ‘entire British nation’ which had fought so hard to free France during two world wars.

A dozen graves were covered in swastikas and SS symbols, as well as a monument commemorating more than 20,633 soldiers who died in the infamous Battle of Loos but have no known graves.
They include Fergus Bowes-Lyon, brother of Elizabeth, who went on to marry George VI and later become the Queen Mother.

Captain Bowes-Lyon, of the 8th Battalion, the Black Watch, was 26 when he was gunned down as he led an attack on the German lines in one of the most infamous battles of World War I.

Also commemorated is author Rudyard Kipling’s only son, John, who was just 18 when he was killed on his first day of fighting with the Irish Guards.

France’s veterans minister Hulbert Falco said: ‘The British and Canadian soldiers buried in this cemetery are, mostly, those who fell during the Battle of Loos-en-Gohelle in October 1915.

'They came to die on the soil of France and they made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country.’

Mr Falco described the attack as a ‘wound on their memory’ and ‘an insult to France.’

There are some 3,000 graves in the Loos cemetery, with the vast majority of those buried being British troops who fell during the battle.

Canadians and a small number of 1939-45 war casualties are also commemorated, but it was just British graves which were attacked.

Last year Mr Sarkozy pledged to provide 24-hour protection to the last resting places of British and Allied troops who died during the two world wars.

Hi-tech security devices including thermal imaging cameras were installed at Notre Dame de Lorette, the largest war cemetery in France, but others have yet to be made secure.
War cemeteries are often targeted in the area, with those carrying out the attacks attributing them to everything from support for the defeated Germans to the highlighting of ‘war crimes’.

The Battle of Loos took place between September 25 and October 8, 1915, and saw British forces using poison gas for the first time. It is otherwise remembered for the wholesale slaughter of thousands of brave young men from the UK.

Robert Graves, the poet, also took part in the battle and later immortalised it in the military memoire ‘Goodbye to All That’.

The devastating effects of the Battle of Loos on future members of the Royal Family were typical of those experienced by thousands of ordinary Britons.

Just before Fergus’s death in action, 14-year-old Elizabeth had started nursing badly wounded British officers at Glamis Castle in Scotland, and news of her beloved brother’s fate left her inconsolable.

Two years later another brother, Michael, was reported missing in action from his regiment, the Royal Scots, leaving the family suffering huge anguish for three months before he was located in a German prison hospital.

Fergus’s death almost robbed his mother, Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, of the will to live, and she did not return to public life until Elizabeth’s marriage to the future King – the current Queen’s father – in 1923.

Rudyard Kipling, renowned for his brilliant books celebrating marital glory at the height of the British Empire, was also left a broken man when John – a chronically short sighted teenager – was cut down in the mud and rain of northern France.

In his letter to the Queen, Mr Sarkozy said the vandalism was even more upsetting because it took place days before he travels to London to celebrate Charles de Gaulle's famous June 18, 1940 appeal from the BBC, in which he called on the French to resist Nazism.

Daily Mail