Share

Clear spells

Mon

8°C | 1°C

Overcast

Tue

10°C | 6°C

Cloudy

Wed

11°C | 6°C

Home   Malling   News   Article

Town's gift to devastated French village following the Great War

04 August 2014
by Alan Smith

Today's centenary of the Great War has inspired a lot of research into the world’s worst conflict.

Sometimes that research has thrown up something unexpected.

Maidstone Borough Councillor Brian Mortimer was looking into his own family history – his grandfather, Sgt William Mortimer, was one of the Old Contemptibles, serving with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

The water tower is still in existance

The water tower is still in existence

While delighted to discover that his grandad was the winner of the Military Medal and mentioned in the regiment’s history, it was another discovery that intrigued the former Mayor of Maidstone.

He found that following the war there was a widespread movement to help the communities in northern France that had been devastated by the fighting.

An organisation called the British League of Help was established with the aim of encouraging British towns and cities to adopt a French village.

Some 80 British towns agreed - usually adopting a French village where their local soldiers had fought.

Maidstone was among them.

It adopted Montauban, where the Royal West Kents had been in action in September 1916.

The inscription on the tower

The inscription on the tower

Donations were sought and funds raised through a flag day, school collections and a sale or war paintings by Maidstone artist Frank Hyde.

When they were ready, the Mayor of Maidstone, Frederick Edwin Wallis, conversed with his French counterpart to see what was needed.

The French ‘maire’ wrote to say: “The broiling heat we have to bear just now has turned our country into a furnace.

“As an effect of the heat, powder bursts into flames and sets fire to dry grass, causing concealed shells and grenades to explode.

“The drought is disastrous. No corn has grown. No potatoes. The scarcity of drinking water is cruelly felt.

“We have just one well, worked by hand, taking water from a depth of 250ft.”

So Maidstone built Montauban a water tower.

Sgt William Mortimer receiving instructions

Sgt William Mortimer receiving instructions

The water was lifted by a wind-powered pump on top of the tower and stored in the tower to give a constant supply.

Cllr Mortimer contacted the current Maire of Montauban and discovered the water tower is still in existence today, though no longer in use.

The village still remembers the help given them by their “marraine Anglaise” (English godmother).

Click here for more news from Malling.

Click here for more news from around the county.

Comments 

Forgotten Password?

Forgotten Username?

Don't have an account? Please Register first!

The KM Group does not moderate comments.
Please click here for our house rules.

Thank you. Your comment has been received and will appear on the site shortly.

 

Terms of Comments
We do not actively moderate, monitor or edit contributions to the reader comments but we may intervene and take such action as we think necessary, please click here for our house rules.. If you have any concerns over the contents on our site, please either register those concerns using the report abuse button, contact us here, email multimediadesk@thekmgroup.co.uk or call 01634 227989.