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Touring behind the lines: British soldiers in French towns and cities during the Great War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 April 2013

School of Humanities, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, LN6 7TS, UK


This article explores the importance that accessing urban life assumed for British soldiers stationed in France during World War I. Many who fought on the Western Front had never visited a foreign country before sailing to France. Drawing on contemporary letters and diaries and later memoirs, it considers how men responded to the new experiences they found in French towns and cities behind the lines. Through exploring activities from shopping and dining to cinema and prostitution, it argues that urban outings became critical to sustaining morale by offering opportunities to engage with civilian life on a reasonably regular basis.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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16 Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory, ch. 5.

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72 Cited in Harrison, M., ‘The British army and the problem of venereal disease in France and Egypt during the First World War’, Medical History, 39 (1995), 133–58CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed, at 145.

73 TNA WO/32/5597, ‘The provision of tolerated brothels’.

74 IWM 83/36/1, R.I. Smith, memoir.

75 IWM 01/51/1, S.T. Euchus, ts diary, 23 Feb. 1917.

76 IWM 76/226/1, Sweeney to Ivy, 18 Aug. 1917.

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110 Rüger, ‘Entertainments’, 139–40; Cronier, ‘The street’, 103.

111 IWM 02/29/1, J.A. Johnston, unpublished memoir.

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