Troops from Australia and New Zealand were the guests of honour in France's annual Bastille Day parade on Thursday to commemorate their participation in one of World War I's bloodiest battles 100 years ago. FRANCE 24 spoke to some of the troops.
The 85 New Zealanders, some wearing traditional Maori dress, and 140 Australian soldiers were invited to the parade on the Champs Elysées avenue "as part of the centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme", General Bruno Le Ray, the military governor of Paris, told a briefing.
“This is a great opportunity and I’m very proud to be here today,” Dan Booth of the Australian Royal Navy told FRANCE 24. “My grandfather served on the western front in 1917. Only for a short period [because] he was targeted in a gas attack and had to be repatriated.”
Booth and his countrymen participated in the parade of more than 3,000 men and women on foot, and 241 on horseback.
More than 200 vehicles took part, while 55 planes and 30 helicopters flew overhead.
Eight jets from the Patrouille de France aerobatics team formed the shape of the Eiffel Tower to promote Paris's bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was also among the foreign guests, alongside New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
The presence of Australian and Kiwi troops in the display of military pomp and splendour is just the latest in a series of commemorations for the battle.
Britain's royal family attended a ceremony at the Somme battlefield on July 1 to remember the one million who were left dead, injured or missing in the 141-day battle.
South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday inaugurated a new memorial wall to honour both black and white soldiers from his country at the site of the Battle of Delville Wood where some 3,000 fell in July 1916. The battle was part of the fighting in the Somme.
The French government say Australia's invitation as this year's guest of honour for the July 14 celebrations underlines the healthy state of relations between the two countries. France was chosen to build Australia's submarine fleet in a contract worth €34 billion ($37.6 billion).
With France still on high alert for terror attacks, the parade took place under heavy security.
The demands on the French military have risen sharply since the jihadists struck Paris in two sets of attacks last year, killing a total of 147 people.
An increase in recruits for the military as a result of the attacks will be reflected in the participation of officer training schools in the parade.
To watch FRANCE 24's full video, click on the player above.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2016-07-13