Monday, April 30, 2012

Le Quesnoy, France - July 11, 2011

The people of Le Quesnoy have an enduring friendship with New Zealand...
A few days before the WWI Armistice, on 4 November 1918, a small town in the north of France, Le Quesnoy, was liberated from four years of German occupation by New Zealand forces. The town had been occupied by 1,500 Germans who refused to give themselves up. 400 soldiers from the New Zealand division were wounded, 93 of these soldiers died and were buried in Le Quesnoy’s local cemetery.
So goes the history of this fortified border city.
Founded about 1150 by Count Baldwin IV of Hainaut, the town went on to serve as a royal residence for 4 centuries. Charles V had the original fortifications modified in the 16th century and they were dismantled entirely under Louis XIV who commissined Vauban to overhaul the city during the years 1668 to 1673.
The Belfry and the Town Hall were built in 1583. In the center of the Belfry there was a room reserved for guards and the bells were rung for sunrise, the opening and closing of work, and for curfew. On the top floor of the Belfry was a watchman's lodge from where the approach of an enemy, or fire could be detected in a timely manner.
During WWII the town suffered several attacks and on May 19, 1940 the belfry was hit by an incendiary bomb. The top section containing the clock and the bells collapsed into the flames and the fire spread to the town hall. The belfry was restored after the war and today the carillon, with 48 bells, plays different tunes throughout the day. Pictures here.

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