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Heroic War Time Channel Crossing Commemorated
On Saturday 16th November a small party led by the Mayor Cllr Michael Thompson and Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd visited Fort Mahon Plage in France to take part in a commemoration ceremony.
The ceremony was a follow up visit to one made in September 2012 by a party led by the Mayor of Fort Mahon Plage Alain Baillet to Beachy Head to unveil a commemoration plaque.

The plaque in both locations commemorates a crossing of the English Channel in open canoes on September 16th 1941 by 5 young men aged under 20 who were residents of Fort Mahon Plage which was under German occupation at the time. The crossing by Reynold Lefebvre and two sets of brothers Christian and Guy Richard and Jean Paul and Pierre Lavoix took over 30 hours and they finally landed at Beachy Head. The young men were welcomed by the townspeople of Eastbourne and eventually they were presented to Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle in London.

Their story at the time was held up as one of great courage and determination and lifted the spirits of the occupied French. The planning of the crossing took over a year with canoes having to be prepared for the crossing and kept hidden from the German occupiers.

The Eastbourne civic party was met at Fort Mahon Plage town hall by Madame Yvette Bonnet the First Deputy Mayor. The party along with French party was transported via a Dotto train to the Fort Mahon Plage seafront and welcomed by the town band and local townspeople for the commemoration ceremony. Before the Mayor's opening speech, Gerard Tabary and Pierre Gosselin gave a short summary of the 5 young men's achievement in 1941.

Eastbourne’s Mayor Councillor Mike Thompson said “We were very pleased to be able to renew our ties with our friends from Fort Mahon Plage to commemorate the heroic voyage made in 1941 of five young citizens of their town, we thank them for their hospitality on the day and we look forward to meeting up again in the future”.

Speeches were made by Alain Bailet the local mayor, Eastbourne mayor Councillor Mike Thompson, Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, Monsieur Jean-Claude Buisine the MP for Fort Mahon Plage, Monsieur Daniel Dubois, Senator for the department of the Somme. A plaque was unveiled and the parties were thanked by Philippe Lavoix (the son of Pierre Lavoix) and Hugues Lavoix (the son of Jean Paul Lavoix) who thanked everybody on behalf of the Lavoix family.

After the ceremony the party returned to the local hall where around 90 persons sat down to lunch and were entertained by a bagpiper and fiddle player.
28 January, 2014

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