ARTOISUD 14 - 15
Posted on 2nd Nov 2011 by Mel Gould
BERLES AU BOIS AND THE LEICESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
The Association ArtoiSud 14-15 was formed in November 2005 by friends living in and around Berles-au-Bois, situated near to Arras, who were anxious to preserve the history of events which took place in their area during World War 1.
The active members of the Association are Emmanuel Riche, Mme Annie Damiens, Mme Marie Gabet and Mlle Pauline Delvigne. They were particularly interested in the events of 1915/16 involving the men of the 6th and 8th Battalions of The Leicestershire Regiment who were billeted in Berles au Bois and who, being welcomed by the villagers, formed strong friendships between the respective bodies. In particular Dick Read, a member of a Lewis Gun Section, who so fondly remembering the inhabitants of Berles and his comrades, subsequently wrote his memoirs 'Of Those We Loved'. This was a quotation from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam and which, on the annual anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, until his death in 1971, he had inserted in the Leicester newspapers in memory 'of those we loved'.
He visited Berles on occasions, perhaps between the Wars, but certainly after the end of the Second World War.
His son Chester had the memoirs privately published and it is generally acknowledged that they are amongst the best published personal histories of the time. Chester Read visited Berles after his father's death and presented a copy of his father's book to the Community representatives. Such was the affection felt for the men of The Leicestershire Regiment, emphasised by the book, that in 2009 The Royal Tigers' Association was contacted by Emmanuel Riche as President of ArtoiSud , advising that in memory of Dick Read and the men of the Regiment, a Square in the centre of Berles was to be commemorated and named ' Dick Read Square' - additionally inviting members of our Association to attend the Commemoration.
Thus on the 26th and 27th September 2010, together with many members from the Read family, a strong contingent from The Royal Tigers' Association, with partners and friends, visited Berles to attend the Commemorations and to parade the Association Standard.
It was a proud day for everyone involved, the Mayor of Berles, members of ArtoiSud, many French ex servicemen representing a wide range of their Associations parading their Standards, and large numbers of the general public. The parade was led by The Somme Pipe Band and the Band of L'Harmonie Wanquetin who splendidly played our Regimental March.
A Regimental wreath was laid at the Berles War Memorial by Major General Tony Pollard, as were many other floral tributes by our French friends. Speeches were made at the Commemoration in 'Dick Read Square' by members of the Read family, General Pollard and the Mayor of Berles.
Generously all present were then entertained to a Champagne Reception where presentations were exchanged between the Community of Berles and The Royal Tigers' Association. The following day, after a tour of local sites including a visit to the small Military Cemetery at the rear of the Berles Civil Cemetery, and in which thirty five members of the Leicestershire Regiment are buried, we were entertained to a splendid buffet lunch .
Many are the fond memories resulting from this now established contact, which will ensure a long standing relationship well into the future.
Later in 2011 a museum, planned by ArtoiSud and the Civic Community, will be opened in Berles, in which The Leicestershire Regiment will be fully featured .