France marks the liberation of Provence

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The Independent Online

Two British warships and 14 heads of state yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the Provence landings - the larger but lesser-known of the Allied operations to liberate France at the end of the Second World War.

Two British warships and 14 heads of state yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the Provence landings - the larger but lesser-known of the Allied operations to liberate France at the end of the Second World War.

President Jacques Chirac, who headed the commemorations in Toulon, aimed principally to use them to recoup favour with France's former African colonies which provided about 400,000 soldiers to General Charles de Gaulle's liberation effort.

But on Saturday, the African focus was overshadowed by references to the fight against terrorism in a speech by the US commander of naval forces in Europe, Admiral Gregory Johnson. At a ceremony at a US cem-etery in Draguignan attended by the French Defence Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, he said: ''Freedom can never be taken for granted. Today, we are at war against an enemy who respects no borders, with no norms of conduct to spare innocent lives.''

On Saturday at La Motte, which is considered the first liberated village in Provence, nine British veteran paratroopers received the Légion d'Honneur from the Mayor of Toulon, Hubert Falco. However, a commemorative British para "drop" was cancelled due to strong winds.

Ten weeks after the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944, the Allies landed in Provence on the night between 14 and 15 August. The two forces forged through occupied France, linking up on 12 September at Montbard near the Swiss border.

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