Tag Archives: RCAF

Prelude: A Sentimental Journey to Metz, Lorraine

About the only memorial to Joan of Arc in Metz was a little “Place Jeanne d’Arc” and a Bar of the same name. Metz was an autonomous Republic within the Holy Roman Empire during the One Hundred Years War  and the Joan of Arc era. It remained as a trade and finance center removed from warfare or occubation by the English or the Burgundians.

Metz France does not have much to do with Joan of Arc even though Domremy is also in Lorraine. The only connection may be that Jean de Metz, a minor noble who accompanied her to see the Dauphin at Chinon and then fought at her side till the end, was from this city. We are here because we met here in 1954. (Joan was seven years old and Arch was thirteen so he did not pay much attention to her at that time.) We were in Metz because our fathers were in the RCAF Air Division HQ at the Chateau de Mercy just outside the city.

Metz is steeped in “History”. It was founded some 3000 years ago by our Celtic ancestors, the “Mettis” who gave Metz its name. It was a center of the Roman Empire. It has the oldest church in France. It was a major trade and financial center throughout the Middle Ages. For some 300 years until 1552 it was a Republic within the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by the major families of the city. In the Middle Ages, it was larger than Paris, and much of the old town has changed little since Joan of Arc’s era. While the 100 years war was raging, it seems to have been busy as a trade and money-making center of a large area from Troyes to Trier.

Place St. Louis, heart of the Medieval financial and trade activities of Metz and of the Republique Messine 

It was captured by the Germans in the Franco-German War in 1870 and held until 1918, so that much of the Belle Epoque architecture and the innumerable military barracks and installations date from this era. Returned to France after WW I, it continued as a major military center before and after WW II.

 The Chateau de Mercy, RCAF HQ, Metz, 1955

Reviewing a “March-Past”, 1955 or so

The Chateau, 2012; fallen into disrepair, all other buildings replaced by a new regional hospital.

Joan at the Chateau de Mercy, 2012

The PMQs (Permanent Married Quarters), 1955, Anne Ritter buying groceries. The whole region of Fort Bellecroix, at the edge of Metz, is now a major residential area.

Above, the Globe Hotel, August 1954, the Ritter family; below, Joan in front of the the Globe which is now derelict and awaiting renovation

 

Jessie and Anne Ritter at the Roman aqueduct at Jouey aux Arches, 1955.

By the Moselle River, St. Etienne Cathedral in the Background

Our parents, Arch and Anne Ritter with Marg and Al Gamble, at the PMQs, Metz, 1955    

Joan at the Porte des Allemands, one of the entry gates to the city in Joan’s time

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