France’s Bastille Day celebration of the 1789 revolution that led to a republic has been combined with a commemoration of World War One.
In Paris, President François Hollande’s motorcade left from the Arc de Triomphe. Under the arch lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; French military deaths in WWI totalled 1.4 million. Including other nations, there were a dozen times as many.
‘Poilus’ marched down the celebrated Champs Elysee in hundred-year-old uniforms. Others bore flags and traditional dress.
Hollande invited 80 countries to participate, all, one way or another, involved in WWI… South Africa, Algeria (anti-French-colonialists, controversially)… Vietnam…
Britons in bearskins and Greeks in pompoms rumoured to hide steel toes converged on Place de la Concorde, and the obelisk dating from pharaoh Ramesses II.
Above the some 3,700 marchers, flew the Patrouille Acrobatique de France, Rafale jets, transports and refuelers… examples of aircraft active in global theatres today.
Some 20,000 French men and women are deployed abroad both temporarily and permanently. Women make up nearly one-fifth of the French military and can serve in all posts except on submarines and in riot-control (gendarmerie), though most choose not to serve as combat infantry.
France was one of the largest contributors to the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan, and it rejoined the Atlantic Alliance’s integrated command in 2009.
The proud parade wrapped up with Mozart and doves. Dancers from all the invited countries evoked the suffering of 1914-18, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia mobilised against Germany, it declared war on Russia, France and Belgium, and then Britain declared war on Germany.