CHARLEVAL > SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
By Aurélie Hébert
Charleval will stage an extraordinary memorial, Saturday, September 1. The municipality has teamed up with veterans to organize a tribute to Royal Canadian Air Force Flying Officer Allan Cashion, who died during the liberation of the town in July 1944. A plaque will be affixed to the bridge entering Charleval, mere metres from where the young Canadian soldier was found dead by Charleval citizens after his parachute caught fire, when he ejected of his Spitfire aircraft—pursued by a German Messerschmitt.
But before they could arrange for the commemorative plaque, the municipality and the veterans first had to locate a member of the pilot’s family. For this, they turned to Robert Frank, a journalist for [The Suburban] Quebec’s largest weekly newspaper, who wrote an appeal in its pages.
“Very quickly, readers came forward. Within a month, Robert Frank had found the great-nephew of Allan Cashion,” said Charleval spokeswoman Sanda Men Makoth. His relative agreed to the municipality’s request to name the bridge after his ancestor, though he regrets being unable to attend the upcoming commemorative ceremony, in the wake of his mother’s recent death. The ceremony will nonetheless be very poignant for all Charlevalais.
Charlevalais asked to don period attire
On Saturday, September 1, just before the plaque is unveiled, a dozen members of a paratroop company based in Honfleur, will drop in on the site. “Once the Abeille Parichutiste organization offered to perform, the veterans agreed to cover the cost of transporting the paratroopers.”
To further support the tribute, organizers have asked locals to dress up in period clothing. “In addition, we’re looking for movie footage and photographs of this era in the Andelle valley’s history. This imagery is also of keen interest to the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, which currently has none.” To help recreate the atmosphere of the 1940-1944 period, anyone who owns vehicles from that era are also welcome, to participate in this moving tribute.
First-hand accounts and recollections
After the plaque is unveiled and official speeches conclude, there will be a round table where everyone can meet direct and indirect witnesses of the crash, as well as others who will share their recollections of World War II. “We’re encouraging everyone who wants to share their experiences to participate,” said the spokeswoman.
Next, a vin d’honneur will be held to mark the opening of an exhibition at the tourist centre. It will remain open until September 15, and permit members of the public to view parts of Allan Cashion’s aircraft, which veterans showcase during every remembrance activity, as well as actors wearing period attire, and documents—some them originals—dating back to the conflict.