Posted in Guest posts · Master's blog

On 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. Fitzwilliam, like thousands of educational, social and work institutions across the UK, was to be profoundly affected by the events of the following four years. We are fortunate that our archives contain many moving and thought-provoking letters that shine a very personal light on this turbulent period.

The following report, written a few weeks later by Fitzwilliam student R. Cecil Grey at the suggestion of Censor WF Reddaway, offers an intriguing slant by highlighting the reaction of one small corner of France to the declaration of war, exactly one hundred years ago this week.

Experiences of an Englishman in Brittany during the European Crisis & after the Outbreak of War
Grand Hotel des Bains letter

“Locquirec is a pretty little sea village on the North Coast of Finisterre, about 60 miles from Brest and 20 from Morlaix, possessing all the charms of the finest Breton scenery. For 9 months out of the year it is practically deserted, but towards the end of July there is a large influx of visitors who are mostly Parisian & English, and the village assumes a lively appearance.

I had gone there on July 19th to spend two months in study & enjoyment, little dreaming of the tragic events that were so near at hand.  Read more…

Dr Helen Bettinson

About Dr Helen Bettinson

Helen read History at Fitzwilliam (1982) and, after a career in television production, rejoined the College in April 2010. Following the retirement of Dr Iain Reid, she became Development Director in October 2011.