Combined French and SAR participants
Left side of Wreath presenters
Right side of wreath presenters
It may not be unusual for a SAR event to draw 150 attendees; however, it is unique when more than half of the attendees are French. Such was the case at the 241 Anniversary of the Battle of the Virginia Capes Commemoration held on Saturday, September 3, 2022 aboard Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek - Fort Story in Virginia Beach. The event hosted by the Norfolk Chapter honored the French naval forces under command of Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, that defeated the British Royal Navy.
The base, located on Cape Henry, the first landing site of Virginia’s 1607 settlers, hosts a small National Park honoring both the first landing of the Jamestown settlers on Virginia soil and Admiral de Grasse’s victory.
There were no Americans involved in this decisive sea battle fought on September 5, 1781. The French victory prevented the British navy from supplying or supporting Lord Charles Cornwallis who was preparing his defenses at Yorktown, where he ultimately surrendered on October 19, 1781. It was one of the most strategically important naval battles in the history of the world. Appropriately, Rear Admiral Hilaire Ducellier represented the French Navy while Colonel Aymeric de Maleissye, serving as the French National Liaison Representative to Allied Command Transformation, represented the French Military.
Other distinguished guests included NSSAR Chancellor General Mike Elston and VSSAR President Bruce Meyer as well as past presidents Pat Kelly and Bill Schwetke. Also included were Will Elston, President and Anne Cabrié Forsythe, Senior President, V.S.C.A.R., and Mike Lyman, past president of both the Virginia Society Order of Founders and Patriots of America and the Society of the War of 1812 in Virginia.
The VASSAR Color Guard commanded by Norfolk Chapter member, CDR Kimball Thompson USN (Ret.), and included French flag bearer, Premier-maitre (SCPO) Aline Oger, French Navy, Presented the Colors. Both the French and United States National Anthems were played. VASSAR Color Guard Commander, CAPT Christopher Melhuish USN (Ret.), was speaker and gave an impeccably delivered narrative of the sea battle. There were twenty-seven wreaths presented by various chapters of the SAR, DAR, C.A.R., and other patriotic organizations. To honor the French who made this a very special event, NSSAR Chancellor General Mike Elston presented Rear Admiral Hilaire Ducellier with the SAR International Medal.
Concluding the ceremony Admiral Hilaire Ducellier and Colonel Aymeric de Maleissye hosted an open air social complete with French beverages where many greetings were exchanged on this bright sunny Virginia day.
Guest speaker C. A. Melhuish, Capt, USN (Ret) Rear Adm. Ducellier giving remarks
in front of statue of Adm de Grasse
VASSAR President Bruce Meyer Michael J. Elston presenting Rear Adm Ducellier Society plaque