La Bassée In Ruins 1919
The town of La Bassée in Northern France was occupied by German troops in 1914 and remained in German hands until the area was cleared in the final offensive of October 1918. It was the town that gave the famous La Bassée canal (mentioned by Robert Graves among others) its name and it sat just behind the front line for most of the four years of the war. Like many places in Northern France little was left of it by the end of the war and it became part of the so-called ‘Zone Rouge‘ – that area of France scarred by the battles of the Great War.
The image shows clearly what French civilians, like those seen in the photo, were faced with when they came home in 1919 to find their houses and land shattered. Many lived in primitive conditions until the rebuilding began in earnest in the early 1920s. It is ironic that the only structure to survive intact is at the end of the street. The tower is not the spire of a church or town hall; it is in fact a concrete German observation post built into one of the houses; the house has since been destroyed and only the tower remained. Many such concrete structures still exist on the battlefields today.