Urban History

Research Article

Touring behind the lines: British soldiers in French towns and cities during the Great War


School of Humanities, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, LN6 7TS, UK


This article explores the importance that accessing urban life assumed for British soldiers stationed in France during World War I. Many who fought on the Western Front had never visited a foreign country before sailing to France. Drawing on contemporary letters and diaries and later memoirs, it considers how men responded to the new experiences they found in French towns and cities behind the lines. Through exploring activities from shopping and dining to cinema and prostitution, it argues that urban outings became critical to sustaining morale by offering opportunities to engage with civilian life on a reasonably regular basis.

(Online publication April 23 2013)


*  Research for this article was funded by the British Academy, SG 45884.