France commemorates WWI centenary on Bastille Day
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French President François Hollande on Monday reviewed the annual Bastille Day military parade attended by soldiers from 76 nations once involved in World War I as France commemorated two events that changed the course of history.
Soldiers bearing the flags of the 76 countries marched down the majestic Champs-Elysées avenue in Paris in a symbol of peace 100 years after the start of the Great War.
Reporting from the Champs-Elysées, FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris-Trent noted that this year’s events involved extraordinary levels of planning and preparation.
“France is hosting delegations from around the world commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I. It’s also a chance for France, on this day, to show off its continued military might,” said Norris-Trent.
The Bastille Day celebrations came days after France announced it was officially ending its military offensive in Mali that rid the north of the country from the grip of Islamists, replacing it with an operation spanning the wider Sahel region to combat extremist violence.
In a message delivered ahead of the parade, Hollande noted that, “Ten million soldiers were killed or died of their injuries on countless battlefields. We owe them gratitude.''
Along with international guests, more than 3,700 soldiers, 50 aircraft, 280 military vehicles and 240 horses of the French National Guard participated in the parade – the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe.
Transport and fighter planes flew before the start of a ground parade on the Champs Elysees as thousands of onlookers cheered.
Bastille Day marks the Fete de la Féderation on July 14, 1790, which was a celebration to commemorate the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.
July 14, or le quatorze juillet as it’s commonly known, is celebrated across France with festive displays of fireworks and parties.
At night fireworks, exceptionally fired from the Eiffel Tower, will be dedicated to the theme of war and peace.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)