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On June 22nd, 1918, French President Raymond Poincare presented the Polish tr0ops with their battle flags in a special ceremony near where they were stationed at Villeres-Marmery (Champagne). Present were a number of figures including General Archinard (chief of the Franco-Polish military mission), General Gouraud, General Vidalon, members of both the French and Polish military missions, veterans of the Polish insurrection of 1863 and the son of famed Polish poet Mickiewicz.
The main ceremony followed two previous smaller ones. The first at the headquarters of the Franco-Polish Military Mission on June 15th. M. Ambroise Rendu, Vice President of the Paris Municipal Council had presented Roman Dmowski (Chairman of the Polish National Committee) the colours presented to the 1st Regiment by the city of Paris.
Banners presented to the troops included ones from the French towns of Belfort, Nancy, Paris and Verdun. The symbolic gifts were an expression of the friendship between France and Poland. Paris, remembering that in 1814 a phalanx of Polish heroes contributed to its defense. Verdun, a martyred city, was showing its feeling of brotherhood with the martyred nation of Poland. Belfort and Nancy represented Alsace and Lorraine, to show their sympathy for the Hun savagery suffered in both Poland and France.
After a review by French General Gouraud and Roman Dmowski the troops swore their oath to Poland.
"I swear before the Almighty God, One in the Holy Trinity, to be faithful to my country Poland, One and Indivisible, and ever ready to lay down my life in the hallowed Cause of her Unification and Liberation. I swear that I will defend my flag to the last drop of my blood, that I will observe military discipline, obey my chiefs and ever conform my behavior to the honorable principles of a Polish Soldier. So be it!"
The flags were blessed and mass was held. Shortly after Roman Dmowski presented the Colours to the President of the Republic, Raymond Poincare. This act represented handing care of the army of Poland to France. President Poincare gave a compelling speech. (transcript to come)
After his speech, Poincare approached the Colours. Among them was one particularly tattered and faded - the flag of the Bayonne Legion - a band of 300 or so Polish volunteers in the French Foreign Legion. They had joined in 1914 to aid France against the common enemy. Their fierce fighting in the field had earned them a place in history, and for this the 43rd Polish Infantry Regiment was named after them as well.
Poincare approached their Colours and spoke of them:
He then pinned the Croix de Guerre to the faded and tattered pennon of the Bayonne Legion carried by Lieutenant Sobanski, one of the few survivors of this group of Polish heroes.
He then proceeded to kiss the folds of each flag and then handed them to their units. The emotional effect of this ceremony left many soldiers with trembling hands and teary eyes. The goal of an independent Poland seemed closer than ever and this new Polish Army was ready to fight!
The ceremony ended with a review of the troops present. Infantry, artillery, engineers, calvary and airmen marched across the field.
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