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




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.

Housing the enemy

Elderly French lady with a German soldier billeted in her house.
Reproduced with kind permission from Imperial War Museum © IWM (Q 87913)

The French were made to give up their bedrooms, beds and bedlinen to German soldiers. 

Troops were in every building - churches, barns, warehouses, cellars. In spring 1916 even more troops were billeted on the population.

German soldiers billeted in Hattonville Church, 1915
Reproduced with kind permission from Imperial War Museum © IWM (Q 29946)
L'historial de Peronne

NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC (translation)

regarding correspondence between French prisoners of war in Germany and the inhabitants of French territory occupied by the Germans.
1. The inhabitants of occupied territory may only write to prisoners of war detained in camps in Germany. In general, inhabitants may only send one postcard a month to each parent prisoner of war.
These cards must:

a) Contain, on the back, the name and first names of the addressee, the name of the prisoner of war camp where he is detained and the word: “Kriegsgefangenensendung”.
b) Be presented at the sender’s local Kommandantur.

2. Inhabitants of the occupied territory may send money to prisoners of war in Germany under the following conditions:
Maximum 800 marks: using a postal order, indicating the amount in marks and pfennigs (exempt from postage).
The postal order must not contain any correspondence; you cannot use express post, or send by telegraphy; letters cannot have acknowledgment of receipt by the recipient.
A postal order must be handed over, with its amount, to the Kommandantur which will send the letter to the field post office (Feldpost).
Prisoners of war cannot send postal orders to their parents living in occupied territory in France
You are forbidden from sending any parcels to prisoners of war.

3. All correspondence with inhabitants of the occupied territory is forbidden unless paragraphs 1 and 2 of the current notice specifically permits it.
Each offence will be punished with imprisonment of up to 1 year and a fine of up to 1000 marks, unless the law demands a more severe punishment.

4. For communications or exchange of news with non-occupied France, or with foreign countries, refer to the “Public Notice” of the General Commander in Chief v. Fabeck (Folembray, 19th June, 1915).

Chauny, 24th June 1915
Signed von BOCKELBERG,
Lieutenant General and Inspector of the Town


Prisoners of War

Men of military age were taken as prisoners of war to Belgium or Germany.


NOTICE (translation)

In order to complete the ruling of 30th July concerning taxing dogs, the following order is added:

“For dogs which, because of their coats, are used as working dogs, the animal tax is fixed at 24 marks. Dogs which are used only by the (German) army are exempt from tax.

6th August 1915
Kommandantur of Avesnes

Taken from L’historial de Péronne


Forced labour and punishment

Those left behind - women, the old and the young, were all made to work.

Those not wanting to help the enemy were imprisoned or fined. Others were likewise, for the slightest infringement. On 5 April 1916 two haystacks and a barn burnt down in Gouzeaucourt. Suspecting sabotage all the villagers were fined and some imprisoned. A curfew and a form of ‘blackout’ was imposed, with fines or a night in the cells for those who failed to observe it.

Passes were needed in order to go out of the village, whether to visit a neighbouring village or to gather firewood in nearby woods. Taxes were levied: on those who had electricity or who owned working dogs, cats or pigeons.