Three French War Memorials Listed
- Listings mark centenary of the Battle of Verdun- the longest single battle of the First World War
- One memorial newly listed and 2 upgraded
Three London war memorials commemorating the French contribution to the First World War have been listed and upgraded by Heritage Minister David Evenett, on the advice of Historic England, to mark the centenary of the Battle of Verdun.
The three First World War memorials were created between 1922 and 1928 and are dedicated to French soldiers:
- Promenade de Verdun war memorial landscape and obelisk, Purley, Croydon. Listed at Grade II
- La Délivrance War Statue, Barnet. Upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*
- Statue of Marshal Foch, Grosvenor Gardens. Upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*
The Battle of Verdun was the longest single battle of the First World War. The French army suffered some 400,000 casualties between February 21 and December 18, 1916 and the battle left a deep mark on the nation.
Heritage Minister David Evennett said:
“As we commemorate the First World War centenary, it is important that we also pay tribute to our fallen French allies who fought side-by-side with the British and Commonwealth soldiers 100 years ago.
“These memorials act as a poignant reminder of their vital contributions on the Western Front and it is only right that they are protected to preserve the memory of their sacrifice for years to come.”
Promenade de Verdun Memorial Landscape and Obelisk
This was created by chartered surveyor William Webb in 1922 to commemorate the French sacrifices 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.
La Délivrance War Statue
This memorial in Barnet has been upgraded to Grade II*. It was sculpted by Emile Guillaume, who was inspired by the allied victory in the Battle of the Marne in 1914. The voluptuous sculpture depicts a nude female with outstretched arms and a sword in her right hand. Casts of the figure were given to French cities which had suffered during the war.
Statue of Marshal Foch
The statue of French military commander Marshal Foch has also been upgraded to Grade II*. Foch was the only French military commander to be made a British Army honorary Field Marshal. The sculpture was designed by 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 at the nearby Victoria Station
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.”