History buffs will adore this little café dedicated to the “Mademoiselle From Armentières” song in the town of Armentieres, Nord in northern France. Open the door of this art deco house and you’ll be welcomed by the tunes of “it’s a long way to Tipperary” and the like. It’s a fitting reminder of the part this little town played in the history of WWI.
This area saw fierce fighting throughout WWI. In 1914, the town of Bailleul reached a turning point. Situated on the western front, the British fighting around Ypres established a rear base in the town. The local school was turned into a chemist, the asylum into a hospital. By 1915, more than 4500 casualties lay at rest in the Bailleul Communal Cemetery. In April 1918, during the Battle of the Lys, German troops succeeded in capturing Bailleul. Within a few days, it was reduced to ashes.
After the war, and on the advice of regional architect Louis-Marie Cordonnier, the town was rebuilt as faithfully as possible to its pre-war layout and history in a Flemish style often described as inspired by Bruges.
To commemorate and preserve this history, a 3km walking trail has been created: “Bailleul, a model of Flemish reconstruction”. This is one of a collection of local walks in memory of the Great War in the Nord-Pas de Calais region. The trail offers a rich, well-documented cultural and historical experience and is one of six walking and three cycling remembrance trails: “In the footsteps of Wilfred Owen”, “The Battle of Fromelles (100th anniversary 19th July 2016)” and “Armentières war and reconstruction” amongst them (see website below for details).
The café dedicated to the Mademoiselle From Armentières is run by volunteers and was created to help visitors in search of their relatives fallen during WW1. You can sip a cup of coffee, read some books and visit the exhibition area. Armentières receives many visitors from around the world. The town offers a WWI tour which includes the cité Bonjean Cemetery.
Where? 34 place St Vaast in Armentières. Email: email@example.com. Open on Saturday and Sunday afternoon and by prior appointment. Admission fee 1 €.
The walking trail leaflet is available from the local tourist office in English and can be downloaded on www.remembrancetrails-northernfrance.com