WW1 1914 Surgeon, French Red Cross
MAYORAL ROBES IN FRICOURT 25th March 1921 – S.C.A.M.
IPSWICH DEPUTATION TO FRENCH DEVASTATED AREAS.
The villages of Fricourt, Bazentin-le-Petit, and Bazentin-le-Grand, which have been adopted by Ipswich under the scheme of the British League of Help, were recently visited by the Mayor (Mr. Frank Mason), Dr. Hossack, and Mr. A. Moffat. The deputation was cordially received by the inhabitants of the three French townships. The pitiable plight of the district may be gauged from the fact that when His Worship was entertained to lunch at Fricourt it was necessary for his hosts to collect cutlery and napery from such inhabitants as possessed articles of this nature. The villages are terribly war-scarred, but the inhabitants are settling down, with a cheery optimism, to overcome their difficulties, and to re-establish themselves.
The deputation left Ipswich on Wednesday morning and arrived at Amiens at 7:30 p.m. On Thursday morning two motor-cars for the use of the British visitor and their escort were supplied by the Préfet, and the journey to Fricourt was commenced. Albert was visited en route, and those who have seen the unhappy forlorn state of the town will be interested and pleased to learn that the clearing of the place is being undertaken systematically, and with conspicuous success.
On nearing Fricourt the Mayor of Ipswich assumed his official robes. On his arrival he was received by the Maire of Fricourt and members of the local council, and by the Maire of Bazentin. The Maire of Fricourt read a speech of welcome, the interpreter busied himself with his portion of proceedings, the Mayor of Ipswich handed his reply to the Mayor of Fricourt, and the response, being translated, was received with cordiality. Particulars of the visit of the British deputation were entered in the official records of Fricourt, and signed by the Mayor, Dr. Hossack, and Mr. Moffat. The hosts and guests were next photographed, and the visitors then set out on a tour of the Commune. The Maire suggested that a map of Ipswich, and a chart showing its industries, should be sent Fricourt and hung in the village school. This small building far too small for the scholastic needs of the district, was inspected, and the battle-swept sites of the church and the château were also visited. Large shall craters were indicated to the Mayor and his party, who were given some idea of the extent of the work which must be undertaken before cultivation of the soil can be resumed.
MAYORAL LUNCH IN WOODEN HUT
Returning to the little wooden hut which serves as the official residence of the Maire of Fricourt, lunch was served to the company, the Mayor of Ipswich sitting between the chief citizens of Fricourt and the two Bazentins. Beans which figured on the menu were grown in the garden
of the Maire of Fricourt, and the salad had been gathered in the fields. But the fact that the knives and the table linen used at the meal had been borrowed from the various inhabitants of Fricourt who possess such articles was pathetic evidence of the plight of the people, who have lost in the war practically everything that they possessed. During the meal the Maire of the Bazentins gave a vivid description of his experiences whilst in the captivity of the Germans, and the form of help which could be given to Fricourt and the Bazentins was discussed. Both of the Maries appeared to be extremely keen on the provision of some form of threshing tackle for the community, and there was evidence of an anxiety to set up some organisation by means of which live stock could be purchased in England and sent out to the villages, as the depreciated value of the French money made it practically impossible for the French to purchase in British markets.
The Bazentins were afterwards visited, and on arrival at “le Petit,” which is the larger, be it said, the Maire apologised that he was unable to receive the deputation at the Mairie. He explained that the accommodation of his residence was limited, and that it was being used solely for domestic purposes. So the little reception took place in the school. Addresses of welcome were read in the presence of the inhabitants, the Mayor of Ipswich responded, and a youngster of about
eleven Summers squeezed his way through the company and added a greeting from the children. Mr. Mason acknowledged the lad’s remarks, and told him the school children of Ipswich had subscribed towards the assistance of the people in Fricourt and the Bazentins.
An adjournment was made to the school, and a huge German dugout at the back of the building was examined. In close proximity to the dugout is one of three cemeteries which exist in Bazentin, and a close and reverent search for the graves of Ipswich men was made by the visitors.
It is understood that none were found, and, unfortunately, it was then too late in the day for the party to make the journey to the other cemeteries.
The official tour concluded with a short visit to Bazenttin-le-Grand, where tea – made in the French fashion – was served. The Mayor and party returned to Ameins by way of Combles, Peronne, and Villers Bretonneux.