Cultural influences

The anglophilia of the locals, which became evident as early as August 1914, was even more pronounced after the Allied victory. Several years of British presence helped forge closer ties with the civilian population in spite of the significant cultural differences, the first of which naturally was the language.

During the war French civilians learnt a few English expressions. Likewise some Tommies started to learn some French to communicate with their hosts. In both cases their pronunciation was for the most part approximate. In French and Belgian Flanders the population spoke Flemish, which is somewhat similar to English and thus it was easier to establish a relationship with locals.

But the cultural influence did not only limit itself to the language. The British presence also played a role in the democratization of some sports practices, including tennis or football. In Pas-de-Calais, the number of municipalities with football clubs quadrupled between 1914 and 1918. During the conflict several friendlies were organized between the French and the British.

Finally, some of the relationships between Tommies and young French and Belgian women outlasted the war. Although some of these girls consented to follow their boyfriend to the outskirts of the British Empire some Tommies chose to remain in France and Belgium founding families there.

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  • Football players, match won by the 80th Battery, 1918-19, photo card, coll. Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne

football players