Three memorials dedicated to the bravery and sacrifice of French soldiers during the First World War have been listed and upgraded to mark the centenary of the Battle of Verdun, Heritage Minister David Evennett announced today.
The Minister was joined by Colonel Antoine de Loustal, Army Attaché for the French Embassy in London, at the Promenade de Verdun in Croydon for the announcement.
The three First World War memorials were listed following advice by Historic England. They are:
- Promenade de Verdun war memorial landscape and obelisk, Croydon at Grade II
- La Délivrance War Statue, Barnet from Grade II to Grade II*
- Statue of Marshal Foch, Grosvenor Gardens from Grade II to Grade II*
The Battle of Verdun was the longest single battle of the First World War and the French army suffered some 400,000 casualties between February 21 and December 18, 1916.
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.
The three war memorials were created between 1922 and 1928.
The Promenade de Verdun memorial landscape was created by chartered surveyor William Webb in 1922 to commemorate the French war effort on the Western Front. He planted Lombardy poplars in a mixture of French and English soil to symbolise the unity of the two countries during the war. The soil was brought from French fields where the Allies fought side-by-side in 1914. The memorial includes a 19ft stone obelisk, which has received a separate Grade II listing.
The listing of ‘La Délivrance’ in Barnet has been upgraded to Grade II*. It was built in 1927 by Emile Guillaume, to mark the Allied victory in the Battle of Marne.
The statue of French military commander Marshal Foch has also had its listing upgraded to Grade II*. It was designed by the sculptor Georges Malissard in 1928, who insisted it be placed at the southern end of Grosvenor Gardens where it would be seen by all Frenchmen arriving in London by Victoria Station nearby.
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.
Sylvie Bermann Ambassador of France to the United Kingdom said:
The long and bloody war of the trenches culminated at Verdun, the “heart of France” – a 10-month inferno from 21 February to 19 December 1916 during which three-quarters of all the “Poilus” (French soldiers) were called upon to defend the homeland.
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.
In this centenary year, let us remember, together, the sacrifice of all those soldiers.
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