Post-1918 adoption of French towns and villages

Imperial War Museum photograph Q7047. Ruined buildings in Quéant, 7 September 1918. This village was abandoned by the Germans during the night of 2-3 September following the successful advance of the British 52nd, 57th and 63rd Divisions. It was one of many towns and villages devastated by the fighting on the Western Front.

“Charity begins at home – but it should not end there”
Leamington Spa Courier, Friday 16 December 1921
in an article announcing the adoption by the town of Biaches, a Somme village in France

British League of Help for the Devastated Areas of France

This organisation was founded at a meeting at the Mansion House in London on 30 June 1920, largely due to the efforts of Lady Bathurst. It agreed an intention not to rebuild the devastated areas, for funds for that were to come from the French Government and reparations paid by Germany, but to provide practical help. Invitations for participation were sent to the councils of the major towns in England, Scotland and Wales (I have been unable to confirm whether this was also extended to Ireland, although I found one reference to Belfast having a relationship with Fayet near St. Quentin).

The adopted towns and villages

By 30 June 1920 the League was able to report that 27 French towns and villages were now adopted by home locations, and by the first Annual General Meeting in 1921 the total had risen to 59. By December 1922 it was reported that 97 French locations had been adopted.

The table below is accurate (mainly drawn from many newspaper reports) but may not be complete.

UK placeadopted 
AldershotMartinsart
Bexhill-on-SeaBayencourt
BirkenheadCambrai
BirminghamAlbert
BlackburnPéronne
BristolBéthune
CambridgeVermand
CanterburyLesboeufs and Morval
CheltenhamEnglefontaine
ChesterSoissons
CirencesterPassil-Ville (Oise)
DerbyFonquevillers
DoncasterSt Leger
EastbourneBray-sur-Somme
EdinburghBéthune
Eton (Windsor)Eton (Spincourt)
EveshamHébuterne
ExeterMontdidier
FolkestoneMorlancourt
GlasgowVouziers
GloucesterOvillers-la-Boisselle
HastingsSailly-au-Bois
HertfordVerquigneul
HoveBourlon
HuddersfieldHavrincourt, Hermies, Metz-en-Couture and Ruyaulcourt
IpswichFricourt, Bazentin-le-Grand and Bazentin-le-Petit
Isle of WightMonchy-le-Preux
Jersey (Channel Islands)Soyécourt
KeighleyPoix du Nord
Leamington SpaBiaches
LiverpoolGivenchy-les-la-Bassee
LlandudnoMametz
London (City)Verdun
MaidstoneMontauban
ManchesterMézières
Newcastle-on-TyneArras
PlymouthEstaires
PortsmouthCombles and Flers
PrestonLa Bassée
RyeCoigneux
SandwichFramerville
SheffieldBapaume, Serre and Puisieux
SouthamptonGueudecourt and Martinpuich
South ShieldsCatillon
TonbridgeThiepval
Tunbridge WellsBouzincourt
WandsworthVillers-Plouich
WarwickLongavesnes
WinchesterAuchonvillers, Beaumont-Hamel, Engelbelmer and Mailly-Maillet
WolverhamptonGommecourt and Berles-au-Bois

Refusals

It was reported that Macclesfield Town Council rejected the proposal to support the British League of Help, citing that it could not afford to do so.

Nature of support

Newspapers report donations of money, gifts, implements, tools and supplies. There were, over the next few years, school trips to see the devastated area and exchange visits of British and French schoolchildren.

As part of its aid for Givenchy, Liverpool funded the construction of a memorial hall in the village, opened on 28 September 1924 by the city’s Lord Mayor. This photograph was reproduced in the “Liverpool Echo” on 11 April 1987.

Links

Worcester and Gouzeaucourt

Reconstruction in France (downloadable book)