Shared ceremonies and elementary school letter exchanges among list of planned activities for Friendship City Partnership with French village

Memorial in Thorey en Plaine where six airmen, including Jim Giles, crashed during WWII (Photo courtesy of the Executive Committee agenda)

The friendship between the City of Prince Albert and a small French village will continue to grow after Council heard an update on planned future activities between the communities at Tuesday’s Executive Committee meeting. 

In early 2020, the Village of Thorey en Plaine, located just outside the regional capital of Dijon with a population of just over 1000 people, requested a twin city project with Prince Albert. The primary focus was honouring six Canadian Soldiers who died during the Second World War after being shot down while flying over the village.

One of the victims, 22-year-old Jim Giles, was born in Prince Albert and lived south of the City in Red Deer Hill. 

Thorey en Plaine looks after the graves of these soldiers, as well as a monument that was unveiled during a ceremony in 2018 with the names of the six airmen who perished in 1944.

Family members of Jim Giles supported the idea of a partnership between the two communities and believe it is a way to “honour their memory and preserve history”, according to a report written by Judy MacLeod Campbell, Arts and Cultural Coordinator for the City of Prince Albert.

The City of Prince Albert entered into a Friendship City Partnership with the village of Thorey en Plaine, France in October of 2021 and have since been actively working together and with their individual communities to develop a charter and committee.

Members of the Prince Albert and Thorey en Plaine Friendship City Committee include Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick, Prince Albert Historical Society Director and Jim Giles’ nephew Michael Gange, and Principal at Ecole Valois Catharine Topping, amongst others.

The committee had its first meeting on March 23 and discussed a number of projects for the future. These activities include sharing ceremonies where tribute is paid to the Canadian Soldiers; Thorey en Plaine has three annual ceremonies on July 26, November 11, and May 8 and Prince Albert has one on Remembrance Day.

An elementary school classroom exchange is also being planned between Thorey en Plaine and Ecole Valois with children ages 10 to 12, where they will send letters to penpals. 

Campbell highlighted the main aspects of the newly created Friendship City Partnership charter during her presentation to City Council, which include “developing and maintaining respect and understanding between the two communities”, “developing human and cultural relations”, and “perpetuating the memory of those who gave up their lives for freedom”. 

Coun. Ogrodnick moved the recommendation and also stressed the importance of the partnership.

“I think it’s only going to lead to further appreciation by our young people of the sacrifices and contributions that the men and women of World War Two made for our freedom and our liberty,” he said.