Today I was informed of the death of a long time friend Claude Durand. Claude was a retired school teacher in the French village of Hendecourt where he took an abiding interest in the Battle of Bullecourt which was situated virtually on the town’s doorstep.
I first made my acquaintance with Claude in 1984 when I wrote to him after seeing an article about him in the Age newspaper. At the time Claude had expressed an interest in translating the writings about the battle by war historian C. E. W. Bean. We tossed around the idea of pairing Bullecourt and Emerald as sister towns, an idea that never found fruition.
I found I was only one of hundreds of Australians to whom Claude had extended his welcoming hand. My family stayed with his in 1993 as we toured Britain and Europe and I, again, in 2006 while undertaking some First World War research. One could not have wished for better hosts than Claude and his wife Colette as well as from their children Gille and Agnes.
They extended every courtesy and kindness imaginable to make a visitor’s stay a memorable one. I was only too pleased to be able to reciprocate when he and Colette visited Australia some years later. Claude was instrumental in organizing a local Anzac Day ceremony at Bullecourt to remember the Australian sacrifice at that place.
Claude was duly made a Member of the Order of Australia for his efforts in this regard. I shall ever remember Claude’s humour. Often in response to one of my many questions (and here put on your best ‘Allo ‘Allo French accent) he would reply “It is possible” only to add after an elongated pause “but I do not think so”. My sympathy, love and condolences are extended to Colette, Gille and Agnes.