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Guernsey's Finest Hour: 'RGLI men knew it would be hellish'

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THE brave soldiers of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry knew they were heading into hellish conditions in the trenches, Royal British Legion Guernsey branch president Major Bob Place has said, as he praised plans for two memorials to the hundreds who died on the French battlefields.

Our Guernsey's Finest Hour appeal, launched on Friday, is in support of plans put forward by the RGLI Charitable Trust to establish lasting memorials in Guernsey and France for the 327 RGLI men killed and 667 injured in the notorious WWI Battle of Cambrai, which in November will mark its centenary.

Major Place said it was an excellent project, which would also acknowledge how there had been a landmark change in Guernsey's stance on having a military unit.

'People don't realise how big a change it was,' he said. 'It had to go through the States, to get into a position to be able to fight abroad. Before that we were basically

designed for home defence, so they had to get the law changed.

'It's the only time a Guernsey regiment has been deployed abroad.'

Guernseymen did sign up to other regiments earlier in the war, but the island's own local regiment was formed in 1917.

Major Place said while men signing up at the start of the war thought it would be a short conflict and that they would be home for Christmas, by 1917 the full horrors of trench warfare were known.

Despite this, these local men still banded together and went to fight.

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'Everybody lost somebody,' Major Place said. 'It wasn't a case that you knew someone, who knew someone. Most families lost someone.

'Those going were young men and they knew what they were in for. It was horrendous. I think they were patriots. There was a lot of people wanting to do their bit.

'It is hard to think about it.'

OUR 'Guernsey's Finest Hour' appeal aims to help the RGLI Charitable Trust raise £30,000 for their project to fund a piece of Guernsey granite being placed in France, in November, at the spot where the men fell, as well as for a Portland stone plaque in the Town Church to be installed next to the battalion's colours.

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The Royal British Legion is involved with organising a special march on 4 June to commemorate a century since the RGLI left Guernsey. It would re-enact the march from Belvedere House, down Colborne Road and Fountain Street, and then through Church Square and the High Street to the White Rock. There a service will be held.

It is planned that 1,000 schoolchildren will take part – to represent the 1,000 soldiers who left in 1917 – as well as military veterans.

Donations can be made to Lloyds Bank, St Peter Port, quoting sort code 30-93-73, account number 32700168 and The Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Charitable Trust.

If you want your reason for donating to appear on a Roll of Honour, which will appear in the newspaper, please email chris@lesemrais.com.

Government House used its Twitter account to show its support for the Trust's project and our 'Guernsey's Finest Hour' appeal.

It wrote: '100 years on, time to pay tribute to this brave generation who made the ultimate sacrifice. GH strongly supports this important project'

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