In 1914 it soon became clear that nothing stood between swathes of northern France and the enemy. Many people fled before the advancing enemy.

 

 

Route

Many of Gouzeaucourt’s residents also escaped.

There was no evacuation plan and no means of support. About 300 villagers left, but returned as they were unable to pass through Abbeville where the bridges had been destroyed to slow the German advance. On their return they had to request permission from their German conquerors to stay in their own homes.

 
"Along with surrounding villages, Gouzeaucourt suffered a harsh occupation marked the end of normal life for the civilian population.”
Marie de Gouzeaucourt in Contribution a l’histoire du village de Gouzeaucourt.

Requisitioning

Everything was given up to the army - food, farm animals, carts and machinery. Detailed searches were carried out of every home noting things which could be taken, usually without payment.

Requisitioning of animals
Blog.defawe.com/documents-Gouzeaucourt

 

Evacuation

In early 1917 the Germans planned a tactical withdrawal to a new defensive line – the Hindenburg Line. A ‘scorched earth’ policy left nothing to support the advancing Allied armies, and the population were forcibly moved out ahead of this.

Leaving Villers-Plouich. October 1916
Picture from l’historial de Péronne – German soldiers’ photo albums

The evacuation started village by village in the autumn of 1916 and continued into the spring of 1917. Nearby Metz-en-Couture had been evacuated through Gouzeaucourt in October 1916. Eventually it was Gouzeaucourt’s turn.

21 February 1917 All the residents were instructed to gather at the Biquette Field. They could take very little, but as they waited for hours they could see their houses being looted, then torched or blown up.

 

In this image: Ox carts in use here, but mainly pulled by horses. The need to feed and water horses often dictated where evacuees went and how quickly they could move. It similarly constrained the cavalry in both armies.

A video interview with a relative of someone who had lived through the occupation of Gouzeaucourt