A WARTIME link forged more than 70 years ago was celebrated by Pirbright residents with a drinks reception and exhibition of memorabilia at Lord Pirbright’s Hall.
Arranged by the Pirbright Twinning Association that connects Pirbright with the village of Cagny in the Calvados region of Normandy, the event was held to mark the 25th anniversary of the association – although the link goes back to the Second World War.
It was attended by more than 40 people from the village, including Dr Mike Johnson of the Pirbright Institute who donated the original commemorative plaque, and Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Green, commanding officer of the Pirbright ATC.
He is also an officer of the Grenadier Guards, the regiment that liberated Cagny on the 18 July, 1944, whose actions were the origin of the link between the two villages.
Guests at the event were welcomed by Philip Barralet, Cagny Liaision and Parish Council Chairman.
A feature of the event was an exhibition of memorabilia acquired during the quarter century of the association during which time there has been a busy annual calendar of visits and events.
“The actual forming of the association goes back to 1990,” says Philip, who was vice-chairman of Pirbright Parish Council at the time.
“The trigger was a visit that year by Pirbright resident Colonel Oliver Lindsay, a Grenadier Guard, who had been making an annual trip to Cagny in Normandy with other wartime veterans to celebrate the 1944 liberation of the village by the regiment.
“While he was there he was asked by the Village Council of Cagny if he knew of any town/village in the UK that might like to ‘twin’ with Cagny.
“On his return, Oliver put the suggestion to the Pirbright Parish Council who organised a series of reciprocal meetings between representatives of the two villages – and the association was born”.
Philip said that in the intervening years there have been exchange visits by schools, the tennis clubs and many other smaller groups, as well as annual trips of between 30 and 40 people to each other’s villages every other year.
In 1992 the road across the Pirbright village green was named as the Avenue de Cagny, and in Cagny the square outside the church where there is a memorial plaque to the Grenadier Guards was named Place de Pirbright.
“On the 10th anniversary Cagny gave us three Metasequoia trees which are planted in the grounds of Lord Pirbright’s Hall, and we gave Cagny a memorial bench. On the 20th anniversary we planted a ‘Tree of friendship’ a Tilia (Lime) tree in Cagny”, Philip said.