On Sunday 11 September 2016, a ceremony was held at the Chapel of Remembrance and Cemetery of Rancourt – Bouchavesnes-Bergen in remembrance of the Frenchmen who fought and died in the Battle of the Somme
As we remember the tragic events that took place in New York in 2001, the 11 September was a symbolic day for delivering a message of peace and reminding every generation of their duty of remembrance.
“Because a person without memory is a person without life, a population without memory is a population without future,” stated the Chairman of the Somme Departmental Council, Laurent Somon.
A mass was held at the Chapel of Remembrance, followed by ceremonies at Bouchavesnes-Bergen at the memorial to Maréchal Foch, the German and British cemeteries, and finally at the French National Cemetery of Rancourt in remembrance of all the nations that fought during the war.
Philippe Varlet et Séverine Mordacq, conseillers départementaux de Péronne, Serge Barcellini, Président général du Souvenir Français, Laurent Somon, Président du Conseil départemental, Odile Bureau, sous-préfète de Péronne, Céline Guerville, maire de Rancourt, Régis Gourdin, maire de Bouchavesnes-Bergen, Maryse Fagot, conseillère régionale des Hauts-de-France représentant son président Xavier Bertrand, et le représentant du gouverneur militaire du Nord de la France
Serge Barcellini, chairman of the Souvenir Français Association
What makes the site of Rancourt – Bouchavesnes-Bergen so exceptional?
There are many reasons:
1) It is a place of remembrance for the French troops who fought in the Battle of the Somme, who, if we are not careful, will be forgotten. It was built for this reason, with its cemetery and chapel dedicated to the men who fought in the battle.
2) In terms of heritage it is exceptional because it attests not only to public remembrance of the men who died for France, but also to private remembrance. The private chapel is one of the rare religious buildings of the 'between-war' period. It was built by the Du Bos family with their personal funds. Deeply saddened by the French losses in this sector and the loss of their own son, this family dedicated the chapel to all the Frenchmen who had died for their country in the sector.
3) These two reasons are strong grounds for listing it as UNESCO World Heritage, in the context of funeral and memorial sites of the First World War (Western Front). The three cemeteries and the Chapel of Remembrance were designed with remarkable thought for the landscapes and preservation. The words “never again” are tangible in these areas.
4) Lastly, it is the property of the Souvenir Français Association. In partnership with the Somme Departmental Council, the municipalities and the Heritage Foundation, we thus have the obligation to make this site memorable. Together we seek to enhance and raise awareness about the site.
What are the next projects?
“In 2018, we are planning to renovate both the exterior and the interior of the chapel. The adjacent buildings will become a gateway to learning more about the site. We want to make it a site for understanding our history, which is shared with over 50 other nations that fought in the Somme.”
Céline Guerville, mayor of Rancourt, and Régis Gourdin, mayor of Bouchavesnes-Bergen
“There were more visitors than normal in 2016, even if there are always many who come on the second weekend of September in remembrance of the French soldiers. What is good is that there are younger visitors. Marking the commemorations of the Battle of the Somme this year has been magnificent. With other municipalities, we are going to have a think about how to develop remembrance tourism here."
“Our sites are adjoined. We are waiting for more information before working with several partners to raise awareness about the chapel and encourage visitors to follow the Remembrance Trail.”
Delphine Choquet, director of the Inter-communal Educational Group.
In the Somme, the soldiers who survived the Great War never spoke of it. They wanted to take up their former lives, rebuild their homes and try to forget. Then the Second World War began.
“The younger generation has never known the trauma of war. It has a different outlook. With the children we helped plant the “Rose Somme 2016”. How well commemoration is taught in the classroom was illustrated by the children’s' active involvement and the presence of their parents."