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Prince William, May mark centenary of key French WWI battle

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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and Prince William (R) in Nottinghamshire, England on June 21, 2018. OLI SCARFF / POOL / AFP

Britain's Prince William and Prime Minister Theresa May will travel to France on Wednesday to attend a service marking the centenary of the Battle of Amiens, which rang in the beginning of the end of World War I.


Families of soldiers who took part in the lightning Allied advance, which marked a definitive shift in the course of World War I, have travelled to Amiens from across the world for the ceremony in the northern French city's cathedral. Thousands of people are expected to attend.

Representatives of the Australian, British, Canadian, French and US governments will commemorate the tens of thousands of troops killed in the four days of fighting, along with former German president Joachim Gauck. Media reports say Macron, a native of Amiens, is not himself scheduled to attend.

Prince William will also address the proceedings. He and May are set to meet with soldiers' families, including descendants of the Canadian and Australian troops who led the Allies into battle, according to media reports.

Wednesday's service marks 100 years since the beginning of the four-day assault that broke down German defences and morale, precipitating the end of the war. It left more than 45,000 Allied soldiers dead. The German side suffered higher casualties, with some 75,000 killed.

The Battle of Amiens sounded the start of the Hundred Days Offensive on the Western Front, which led to the Armistice in November 1918.

It marked a shift away from trench to armoured warfare, with the Allies deploying hundreds of tanks to push deep into German lines on what German General Erich Ludendorff called "the black day of the German army" in the war.

May boosts French visits

May's visit is her second to France in under a week, coming days after she held talks with Macron over her Brexit plan at his presidential summer residence on the Mediterranean.

The British premier is under pressure to win allies on the continent for her Brexit strategy. May has just a few months before an agreement on Britain's divorce from the European Union -- set for March 29, 2019 -- must be forged in principle ahead of an EU summit in mid-October.

France is seen as taking a particularly hard line in the Brexit negotiations, especially on financial services, with Paris already expecting to get about 3,500 new banking jobs as leading players move operations out of London.

 

(With AFP)