The small French village of Colombey-Les-Deux-Eglises today (Wednesday) began early preparations for the funeral tomorrow of General Charles de Gaulle, who died there on Monday night (November 9).
The small French village of Colombey-Les-Deux-Eglises today (Wednesday) began early preparations for the funeral tomorrow of General Charles de Gaulle, who died there on Monday night (November 9). The day started quietly, but by afternoon thousands of people had arrived in the village, surrounding the De Gaulle home as President pompidou arrived to pay his respects to the widow of his former chief, also his last farewell to the General.
The village graveyard has had one wall taken down, in preparation for the many more mourners who are expected to flock to tomorrow's funeral in spite of the General's request for a simple and quiet ceremony. And, as France prepares in various ways to say her last farewell to "Le General", a local carpenter makes the simple white oak coffin - measuring 2.10 metres (6 feet 7 inches) - to carry the former President's 1.88-metre(6 ft 4-inch) body.
During the morning, special Post Office vans set up additional telephone lines into the village. The square and Church where the De Gaulle family worshipped, were empty except for the flags and candles placed there during the previous twenty-four hours. General de Boissieu and Defence Minister Debre were there early to make arrangements with local officials.
But by midafternoon, the population of 400 of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises had begun to swell, with people, police and press crowding round the entrance to "La Boisserie". It was estimated that by the end of the day, as President Pompidou's motorcade arrived from Paris, some 10,000 people had poured into the small village.
Meanwhile, as General de Gaulle had asked that no Presidents or officials ceremonies be carried out at his funeral - Heads of State, Foreign representatives and personal mourners were arriving in Paris for the Memorial Mass to be held in Notre Dame Cathedral tomorrow (Thursday), the same day that the private funeral itself takes place in Colombey.