Colonel Antoine de Loustal, Army Attaché at the French Embassy in London, with UK Heritage Minister David Evennett on the Promenade de Verdun in Purley (Photo: Centenary News)

Britain's Verdun Centenary tribute to French war memorials

Posted on on 24 February 2016
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Three memorials in the UK dedicated to the bravery and sacrifice of French First World War soldiers have been given added conservation status to mark the centenary of the Battle of Verdun.

The setting for the British Government's announcement was the Promenade de Verdun, a memorial landscape in Purley on the southern outskirts of London.  

Heritage Minister David Evennett was joined at the site by Colonel Antoine de Loustal, Army Attaché at the French Embassy.

An avenue of Lombardy poplars, leading to a slender stone obelisk, was created by a chartered surveyor, William Webb, in 1922 to commemorate the French war effort on the Western Front.

Inscription on the Promenade de Verdun obelisk (Photo: Centenary News)

The other two 'listed' sites, also in the London area, are:

*Marshal Ferdinand Foch's equestrian statue opposite Victoria Station.

*La Délivrance, a figure of a naked woman holding a sword aloft in Finchley, North London. Located near a major road junction, the statue commemorates the Allied victory at the Battle of the Marne. 

Heritage Minister David Evennett said: "As we commemorate the centenary of the First World War, it is important that we in Great Britain remember the extraordinary courage and sacrifice of the French in their defence of Verdun in 1916.

"These important memorials act as a poignant reminder of the impact of the First World War on the people of France, and the bravery and determination they showed as a nation in defence of their homeland."

Britain's tribute comes as commemorations are being held in France to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle on Verdun on February 21st 1916.

The statue commemorating Marshal Foch, Allied Commander-in-Chief during 1918, in Grosvenor Gardens, London (Photo: Centenary News)

The three monuments have been 'listed' and upgraded for their special interest following advice from conservation body Historic England. The move gives them protection from future development. 

Dr Roger Bowdler, Director of Listing for Historic England said: "After centuries of rivalry, France was our principal ally in the First World War. Hundreds of thousands of British and Empire troops still lie in French soil, and are honoured over there with a number of outstanding British war memorials. 

"We are now proud to bring attention to the small number of English monuments to French valour. We wish to help safeguard their future by bestowing a fitting level of protection through listing. They form a fascinating episode in the story of the Entente Cordiale."

Soil was brought from the French battlefields for the creation of the Promenade de Verdun in the 1920s, symbolising the unity of Britain and France during the Great War.

Sylvie Bermann, French Ambassador to the UK, said three quarters of French soldiers had been called upon to defend their homeland in the 'inferno' of Verdun, a battle that lasted 300 days. 

"A hundred years on, Verdun remains, for France, the symbol of an entire nation’s resistance and collective mobilisation.  It is natural for parallels to be drawn with the Somme, which, five months later, left a very similar mark on the British people," she commented.

"In this centenary year, let us remember, together, the sacrifice of all those soldiers."

Marshal Foch's words inscribed on his memorial (Photo: Centenary News)

Source: UK Government (Department for Culture, Media & Sport)

Images: Centenary News

Posted by: CN Editor