13th June 1917 Wednesday
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The postcards in Douglas’s diary show the tower and ruins of the Abbey of St. Bertin in St. Omer. The Benedictine Abbey had been first established in the 7th Century and the ruined building dated from the early 1500’s. Following the revolution of 1789 the Abbey was closed and its destruction was ordered by the local commune in 1830. The tower was to remain and a buttress was built to support it and it stood until 1947 when it collapsed due to damage sustained in WW2.
Depicted in the postcard is a statue that stands in front of the Abbey. It was a monument to a woman called Jacqueline Robin, who as legend had it had provided troops defending the town against a siege in 1710 with food and supplies to keep the defenders fit enough to ward off the sieging army. As late as 1936 historians had decided that in fact not only had there been no siege, but supplies for the local army forces were in fact provided by the government. The statue was removed and during the second World War, in 1944 it was scrapped and melted down by the occupying Germans.
“On the 13th June Capt. Burke and I set off in an ambulance car for St Omer. It was a fine run via Abeele, Cassel and Arcques. We saw lots of troops with guns and pontoons on the move. We lunched at the Hotel de France and then did some shopping, and drew a lot of stores from the British Red Cross depot. After tea at the Officers’ Club we had a walk in the beautiful gardens. St Omer was full of Guards and ‘Jocks’.”
Read about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here