Friday, 13 July 2012

Southport and the Battle of Festubert

One of the highlights of the last full council meeting was the speech by my colleague Bruce Hubbard. Bruce-who used to be a History Teacher in Southport-now leads tours of the WW1 battlefields. On one recent trip he came across a Sports Hall in the village of Festubert called the Southport Memorial Hall. Bruce worked away at the connection between our town and this small village and proposed this motion to the Council

To consider the following Motion submitted by Councillor Hubbard:

"The Council notes that:-

1. the centenary of the battle of Festubert will be in 2015;

2. in excess of 150 men from what is now Sefton, died in that battle; and

3. in 1920, Southport "adopted" the village of Festubert, raising money

and establishing a cultural visits programme on an annual basis.

The Council calls upon the Mayor to send a letter of friendship to the Mayor of Festubert

Bruce made an excellent speech in what was otherwise a bad tempered meeting and was warmly applauded by the whole council. I have asked him to write some more for the blog but in the meantime here is a link to the briefing note he provided

part of which reads:

In 1920, the British League for Help summoned representatives of local

authorities to a meeting at the Mansion House in London. Subsequently, a

large number of British towns and cities "adopted" (such was the word then

used) a place in France. Birmingham adopted Albert on the Somme.

Liverpool adopted Givenchy - the village not the perfume - where many of its

men fought so gallantly in 1918.

Southport adopted Festubert.

Money was raised in Southport - sufficient for the building of a sports hall in

the village. The original has been replaced by a more modem structure, but

the foyer of the salle des fetes bears the original plaque naming it the

Southport Memorial Hall.

Between 1922 and 1939 (when German visitors returned) parties of Southport

schoolchildren went on an annual cultural visit to Festubert These visits were

not restarted after World War Two Veterans of the battle of Festubert in 1915

met up every year in Southport on its anniversary until the 1990's, when there

were but five elderly men remaining. The last official visit of any kind (which

this author can trace) was in 2000 when the Southport Branch of the Dunkirk

Veterans Association diverted to the village to lay a wreath at the village war

memorial, The latter is a rarity, for it not only lists the men, and women, of the

village killed in the Great War, but also "Les heros Britannique mod pour la


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