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Europe

France and Germany honour the first fallen soldiers of the Great War

media Cemetery Vieil Armand in Alsace. REUTERS

Family members of the first fallen soldiers from France and Germany in World War 1 gathered in north-eastern France on Saturday to mark the centenary of their deaths.

French Lance Corporal Jules-Andre Peugeot and German Sub-Lieutenant Albert
Mayer died in a fire exchange on August 2, 1914, one day before Germany formally declared war on France.

The commemoration took place in the north-eastern French border town of Joncherey, near Belfort, where Mayer led a small group of mounted soldiers as they crossed over into France.

Upon meeting face-to-face with a local surveillance unit on the morning of 2 August, Mayer opened fire on Peugeot.

Mayer then died as the French returned fire, marking the first two deaths of the Great War.

France’s entry into the war had already been brewing for two months and the French army conscripted 3.8 million soldiers to join the 800,000 soldiers already in active service.

While the French town remembers Peugeot every year, this year marks the first time representatives from the two countries joined together.

French President François Hollande is also set to travel near the German border on Sunday to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the country’s entry into the war.

He'll be accompanied by German president Joachim Gauck in what his office is calling a sign of the two countries' friendship.

The commemoration will take place on the Hartmannswillerkopf Mountain in Alsace, which was then part of Germany and is now part of France.

Between 20 and 30 thousand soldiers from each side lost their lives in fierce trench battles on the rocky ridge throughout 1915.

For the French Presidency, the ceremony is about two former belligerents taking a common view of a dramatic shared history.

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