A glittering event held in the magnificent ballroom of York’s De Grey Rooms was attended by a capacity crowd of 130 guests on the evening of Wednesday 2nd July 2014. The event was a collaboration between the Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum, City of York Council, York Theatre Royal, Jurade de St. Emillion and Marie Curie Cancer Care, organised to both commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the arrival in York of the unique two French Squadrons of RAF Bomber Command, based at nearby RAF Elvington and, due to the fortuitous timing, to provide a chance for the city to celebrate the Stage 2 Grand Départ of the Tour de France taking place in the city on Sunday 6th July.
Attending the event were the York Civic Party of the Rt. Hon. Lord Mayor of York Cllr. Ian Gillies, the Lady Mayoress Mrs. Pat Gillles, The Sheriff of York Mr. John Kenny and the Sheriff’s Lady Mrs. Jill Kenny; City of York Council’s cabinet Ministerfor Leisure, Tourism & Culture Cllr. Sonja Crisp representing the city as Lead Cabinet Member for the Tour de France York and the TdF Cultural programme; Kersten England, Chief Executive of the City of York Council and Jane Lady Gibson, Chair of Visit York and her guests. The Mayor of the Borough of Harrogate, Cllr. Jim Clark was also present.
We were all delighted that the French military were well represented by the presence of Colonel Nicholas Chambaz, French Air Attaché to the United Kingdom, Lt. Col. Dominic Caligaris, French Liaison Officer, HQ RAF High Wycombe and Major Olivier Renard, President of Souvenir Français UK, all attending in full uniform.
Our star celebrity was television presenter, actress and researcher Jan Leeming, was was in great form as Master of Ceremonies for the event, in her capacity as a Vice President of the Allied Air Forces Memorial, who arrived in style in a 1930’s Citroen Traction Avant Cabriolet, which will be taking part in the cavalcade preceding the peleton on 6th July and expected to travel all the way to Paris! Accompanying her was Ian Reed, Director of the Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum and Genevieve Monneris, author and daughter of an Elvington French veteran. The French Officiers were transported in a rather smart Citroen DS5 saloon.
The evening was focused around a champagne reception, followed by a superb four course meal, carefully created to complement the fine wines generously provided for the occasion by the Jurade de St. Emillion, to the sound of well known French Crooner Jean Jacques Delaunay and his band who delighted the crowd with their renditions of many popular favourites, bringing a real French ambience to a stylish, yet relaxed and enjoyable occasion. They had arrived just hours earlier, direct from Montmartre, Paris, following recent performances in Las Vegas. Many couples rounded off the night on the dance floor, poignantly echoing the times the room was full of French and other allied airmen romancing their girlfriends in perhaps one last moment of bliss before departing once again to an unknown fate.
Most satisfying however, was the fact that one of the events main ambitions, to raise funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care, the official charity of the Grand Départ 2014 was duly realised. Through an auction of gifts generously provided by a number of organisations along with cash donations and other support, several thousand pounds were raised, a magnificent show of support from the guests.
All in all, a magnificent occasion during the build up to the biggest sporting event the city is ever likely to witness which will be long remembered by those fortunate enough to be there.