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Montreuil-sur-Mer au Coeur de la Grande Guerre


angelab
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The lovely fortified town of Montreuil has produced a free illustrated brochure called "Montreuil-sur-Mer au Coeur de la Grande Guerre", alongside its current exhibition (on until 15 Nov 2009), which shows the impact on Montreuil of its becoming a garrison town in the run-up to the Battle of the Somme.

I think I already gave a heads-up on the exhibition, but I have just come across this brochure that describes lots of locations in and around Montreuil and the purposes they served during the war. Among them are:

- l'Orphelinat (orphanage) a French military hiospital from Oct 1914, and then the Officers' Club under the British occupation of the town.

- Caserne Duval (Duval barracks, now partly destroyed), a military training centre for the French in the run-up to WWI; a British military hospital in Aug 1914, then an Indian Army hospital from Dec 1914 to early 1916. After that, in greatest secrecy, it was transformed into the British GHQ, until April 1919.

- Citadelle (citadel) Its semi-subterranean 19thC casemates held the telecommunications centre for GHQ. The brochure also mentions the "Scottish Churches Hut" which once stood at the entrance, where services were held on Sundays and soldiers could relax at other times when off duty. (I don't think this still exists.)

- Theatre Just before WWI this building was being transformed intgo a theatre from its previous existence as a market-hall. Work stopped at the outbreak of war, was resumed and then finished in August 1915. The Allied Army thus had a brand-new theatre at its disposal, and were the first to make use ot it. They put on a big show with and for the people of Montreuil in December 1915.

- Haig's statue, of course, which stands just outside the theatre, on the edge of the market square. Inaugurated in 1931, it was removed by the Germans under the Occupation in 1940. It was re-cast and re-inaugurated in 1950. But apparently in 1953 Haig's diaries were published, containing some very virulent passages against the French Army. These caused an outcry in the town, and demands to have the statue removed. This did not happen, but patriotic celebrations were scaled down, and Haig does have to look out over "Place du General de Gaulle".

- Chateau de Beaurepaire, a private property outside town, was one of the many large houses requisitioned by the Army. This was the C-in-C's residence from 1916 to 1918, and saw the passage of the King George V and Queen Mary, French president Poincaré, Aristide Briand, Winston Churchill, Georges Clemenceau and Marshal Foch.

- Chartreuse Notre-Dame des Prés, outside town, had been transoformed into a 700-bed civilian Belgian hospital from 1915, and received thousands of Belgian refugees who were transported to Montreuil by rail via Hazebrouck. A nearby Belgian cemetery contains 603 graves from this time.

- Indian Military Cemetery, a small cemetery at Neuville sous Montreuil. Although 50 Indian soldiers died in the hospital at Montreuil, only 28 are buried here. Hindu graves are found alongside the hedge; Muslim graves are in four groups, facing Mecca.

- Chateau de Recq, at Brenxent-Enocq is a private property that became a Belgian military hospital from July 1915 to Dec 1917, and had hospital huts built in its grounds.

- Etaples, a few miles north-west, is of course the site of the largest Commonwealth War Graves cemetery of France (more than 11,000 soldiers), inaugurated on 14 May 1944 [EDIT: Whoops! I mean 1922; thanks Martin (see below)], in the presence of George V and Haig. The brochure also evokes the vast training camp, which made Etaples a target of much German bombing in 1917 and 1918, and the massive complex of military hospitals with a total of 20,000 beds.

The brochure, with several interesting IWM period photographs is all in French; I did not see a copy in English, though I would have thought that one might exist. I picked mine up at the exhibition, but I am sure you could get one from contacting the Montreuil tourist office http://www.tourisme-montreuillois.com/ or the local heritage association (who put on the current exhibition) http://www.2p2m.org/reseau.php.

Tourist office 21 rue Carnot, BP 13, 62170 Montreuil-sur-Mer, France (tel : 03 21 06 04 27 - Fax : 03 21 06 57 85; email: accueil@tourisme-montreuillois.com )

Heritage association contact details here http://www.2p2m.org/contact.php

Angela

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Something wrong with the date of the inauguration of the cemetery at Etaples. :o

Haig and George V were long dead by 1944!

Martin

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Angela,

thank you for alerting us to this, I love Montreuil and will try to get a copy of the brochure. I have visited the Indian Cemetery and its a lovely peaceful spot, did not know it faced Mecca!

Regards and best wishes,

Scottie.

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Only the Moslem graves face Mecca, according to the brochure - which is logical...

It sounds a lovely spot, Scottie; I must look it out next time I am over.

Angela

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Musée Rodière Montreuil

The leflet is only in french but you can founded it in the Museum of Montreuil and in lot of tourist's offices.

The exhibition :

Montreuil-sur-Mer au coeur de la Grande-Guerre"

1916-1919 GHQ in Montreuil-sur-Mer during WW1

"At the dawn of the first wold conflict, Montreuil-sur-Mer seemed to be carefree. In 1916, the british general headquarters in Montreuil-sur-Mer. Decision centre of the whole imperial army during the war, the GHQ decided to settle in Montreuil-sur-Mer for its tractical, geographical abd sociologic qualities. The head of GHQ was field Marshall Douglas Haig. He frequently welcomed in the mansion of beaurepaire a lot of famous people such as HRH king George V, Raymond Poincare, president of the french republic. The GHQ dramatically changed the daily routine of the Montreuil-sur-Mer population.

This exhibition will give the opportunity to revive the deep links that still bind the people of Montreuil-sur-Mer and the british people."

The exhibition is in english.

Book : La violette HS n°4 "Montreuil-sur-Mer au coeur de la Grande-Guerre" English texts and photos of IWM inclued

Every day except monday 10h-12 14h-18h

3€, réduit 1,5€€ groupes personnes > 10: 1,5€€

Musée Roger Rodière

Hôtel Saint-Walloy

62170 Montreuil-sur-Mer

FRANCE

03 21 86 90 83

musee-rodiere@orange.fr

www.2p2m.org

facebook : Musée Rodière

www.musee-rodiere.blogspot.com

montre10.jpg

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  • 4 years later...

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