Saturday, 30 March 2013

A hat, a hat, my kingdom for a hat

Did you ever get stuck in one of the narrow through roads of Buxy, held up by a huge tank lorry trying to wind its way through the same streets? We see them quite often, these huge trucks painted in camouflage colours, and quite often there is a whole column of them. They are driven by learner drivers, and we never knew where these guys were actually based. Until recently.

Hats for sale, hats for sale!
I said until recently, because a couple of days ago there appeared no parking signs in the centre of town for a certain morning between 8h00 and 12h00. The signs explained that this had something to do with a military parade. Starting to get to know the French a bit in terms of their attitude towards punctuality, we decided that it would be useless to arrive there before 10 o'clock. When we came there at 10h15 we were still 15 minutes early.
On a street corner we saw a handful of soldiers carrying stacks of white military hats. At the same time we heard from another street the muffled sound of marching soldiers singing, something I only know from American movies about commando trainings. Soon the square filled up with brass, whom started to boss the spectators around and telling them where to stand and where not, and around 10h30 the show started. From one side a group of young soldiers marched toward the square, wearing clothing in camouflage colours and black berets. From the other side approached a similar group, but dressed up in dark blue full dress and white hats, each one of them holding a spare white hat under his or her arm.

Groups 1 (left) en 2 (right)
Both groups were lined up next to each other in four files. after a lot of hoo-ha 3 boys from group 1, most likely platoon commanders, were told to come forward and to receive from some of the big shots a brand-new flat white hat, in exchange for their black beret, by the way.
After this, the files of group 2 stepped in between the files of group 1 and started to distribute their spare white hats.
The hats having been dished out some rather muddled drill took place involving some high placed brass and a regiment's banner, and finally both groups of youngsters were marched off to the church. By this time we also had enough of the whole show, and we in our turn marched ourselves off to where our car was parked.
In the mean time we have found out that these guys are quartered in the barracks of Carnot in Chalon, and that they are part of the Base Pétrolière Interarmées. When they are about to finish their training, they still have to do some manoeuvres around Saint-Gengoux. Once the manoeuvres are over, the ceremony in Saint-Gengoux incorporates them as real soldiers in their regiment and they are then allowed to wear full dress, including their brand new white hats.
Anyway, whenever we get stuck again in Buxy, I know now who are to blame for it...

Oi, it's not my size!

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