French village up in arms over Prince Charles D-Day 'snub'

20th May 2014, Comments 0 comments

A French village where British parachutists fought an epic battle during the D-Day landings is in uproar after learning Prince Charles will not, as they had hoped, be visiting for next month's 70th anniversary commemorations.

Children in the Normandy village of Merville have spent weeks learning the words to "God Save the Queen" in anticipation of a visit by the heir to the British throne.

Charles, who is also Colonel-in-Chief of Britain's legendary Parachute Regiment, had been expected to attend a ceremony in the village on June 5 but the visit was dropped from his finalised programme, which was announced last week.

Merville mayor Olivier Paz is so outraged by the perceived snub that he plans to travel to London on Wednesday to personally deliver a letter of protest to Charles at his official residence, Clarence House.

"We have been working for weeks to welcome Prince Charles," Paz told AFP. "I must admit I blew a fuse when I learned he was not coming."

The letter, which has been signed by 1,000 people, expresses the dismay felt in a village which features on the Parachute Regiment's 'Battle Honours' -- the list of battlesites emblazoned on the regiment's colours.

It notes that Charles will visit a number of other battlesites in the area but not Merville, leaving it as the only Battle Honour site of the regiment not to have been visited by its Colonel-in-Chief.

"As a result, the last survivors of the ninth battalion, those who distinguished themselves on D-Day with their selflessness and pugnacity, will never have the honour of a visit by their Colonel-in-Chief," Paz writes in the letter.

"We cannot believe it and we want to inform you of our distress and great sadness."

Merville was targeted on D-Day because it was the site of major German gun battery. The British paras succeeded in putting it out of action, but at a huge cost.

"Out of 700 men only 75 emerged alive after the assault," Paz said.

"I have seen hundreds of people weeping at ceremonies there. When you see the handful of veterans put down their walking sticks to march in front of the casemate, it gets you right in the guts.

"I really regret that Prince Charles will not be able to see it as it's something that moves you to the core."

© 2014 AFP

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