Armentières Town Hall and Belfry, built after the destruction of the First World War

Centenary of 'Race to the Sea' and 'Mademoiselle from Armentières' remembered in France

Posted on centenarynews.com on 30 September 2014
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The 100th anniversary of the battles known as the 'Race to the Sea' will be marked with the recreation of a First World War military camp in the French town of Armentières in October 2014.

It's among a series of events planned for towns and villages in Northern France, recalling the final days of the war of movement in 1914 before the onset of full-scale trench warfare.

A special Centenary exhibition has already opened in Armentières, bringing to life the bar which inspired the Allied soldiers' song 'Mademoiselle from Armentières.' 

Armentiéres, on the border between France and Belgium, lay very close to the front line for most of the war.

A century later, soldiers in First World War uniforms will again be seen in the town on October 11th and 12th 2014 when Armentières hosts a historical re-enactment dedicated to the 'Race to the Sea."

Visitors will be invited to see a huge military camp, exploring soldiers' lives 100 years ago as the opposing armies tried to break across the last open ground before deadlock settled on the Western Front.

Armentières was briefly occupied by the Germans in October in 1914 before being recaptured and held by the Allies until April 1918, when it was evacuated during the last big German offensive of the war.

The town's modern cinema complex is now the setting for a temporary exhibition devoted to the story of 'Mademoiselle from Armentières' and the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were based near the front.

A dark wood-panelled bar, complete with enormous pianola, invites visitors to 'immerse' themselves in the atmosphere of a wartime 'estaminet' where a soldier's gesture to a waitress became the song of legend.

Much more sobering, as Centenary News discovered during a visit to the exhibition, is a film of the destruction along the Western Front, shot from a French airship which flew over the battlefields soon after the war ended.

Rows of ruined buildings stretch across France's industrial heartland, stark testimony to four years of repeated fighting over the same ground.

The exhibition and estaminet 'Madamoiselle from Armentières can be seen at the cinema complex 'Les Lumières' until December 27th 2014.

The 'Race to the Sea' historical enactment takes place on October 11th and 12th 2014. More details available from the Armentières Tourist Office here.

Source: Tourist Office of Armentières

Images; Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News