Sunday, June 16, 2024

French town issues apology for D-Day snub and insist British are ‘friends’

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A Town hall official in Normandy has apologised for a failure to fly the Union Jack along with other flags as the 80th anniversary of D-Day approaches.

In previous years the picturesque town of Carentan has been festooned with flags of all of the countries involved in huge allied operation, which marked a crucial turning point in World War II.

However, photographs in the town this year appear to show every European Union member state, the flag of the EU itself plus those of the US and Canada – but no British one.

The revelation prompted an angry response from British visitors to Carentan, while there were also suggestions that the UK was being punished for Brexit.

Seébastien Lesne, the town’s deputy mayor, today offered an apology on behalf of its residents for what he called “an honest mistake”.

In a statement sent to Express.co.uk, the deputy mayor said he found the reports about a “lack of friendship” with “our British friends” “unacceptable” and “hurtful”.

Mr Lesne said: “As far as the banners are concerned, we admit to a simple and ‘honest’ mistake. As it was no longer possible to order plastic banners for environmental reasons, we opted for fabric banners as a matter of urgency.

“We didn’t know that the Union Jack wasn’t there. We decided to put them up anyway and ordered banners with the English flag, which have not yet arrived.

Mr Lesne said suggestions Brexit was the reason for not including the Union Jack flag were “perfectly laughable as such a question does not even occur to us”.

He added: “I mentioned a few reasons for our attachment to your country. Our twin town of Selby is one of the most obvious. Members of the Twinning Committee were in Selby last week to maintain the friendship between our two towns.

“I should add that many British citizens have chosen to live in Carentan les Marais or its immediate environs and can testify to the appreciation and gratitude we show to all our allied countries.

Tansy Forster, a resident of Carentan les Marais, had created cascades of poppies incorporating the Union Jack which have been displayed on the walls of the town hall and church since 10 May 2024.

With her association, The Longuest Yarn, Ms Forster had created an 80-metre tapestry recounting the D-Day landings, which will be on display in the church until September.

Mr Lesne continued: “The landing of the British troops is well mentioned. The exhibition will then travel to other locations, notably in England.

“God save the King is played every year at our official ceremony, as are the Star Spangled banner and other hymns.

“Although no British troops were directly involved in the fighting to liberate Carentan, we do not exclude any of our allies in our continuing effort to preserve the memory of ALL our liberators.

“When we heard the story of RAF pilot Raymond Dean, shot down by German flak on 17 November 1941, we had no hesitation in proposing and dedicating a plaque in Brévands, on our territory, to honour a great freedom fighter who fell near Carentan.”

Speaking The Sun at the weekend, engineer Neil Geddes, 59, from Fleetwood, Lancashire, said of the Union Jack snub: “It’s wrong, considering our involvement in France’s evacuation and liberation.

He also questioned why the flags of Ireland, Switzerland and Sweden, all neutral during the war, were on display, adding: “They have no right to flags here when it was us who battled the Nazis.”

Referring to the town hall, Carole Zarb, 54, of the town’s tourism board, suggested: “We think it is because of Brexit.

“We are not behind their decision.”

Carentan was the scene of fierce fighting after the Normandy Landings – officially known as Operation Overlord – on June 6, 1944, with the town’s bell tower and some houses destroyed.

The town, which has a population of just 6,000 was liberated by the 101st Airborne Division, and a monument has since been erected in their honour.

The events are depicted in the third episode of Steven Spielberg’s 10-part 2001 miniseries, Band of Brothers.

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