In the zones that were controlled by the Allied Forces (i.e., British and French troops mainly) the movements of the civilians were generally freer than on the other side of the frontline. Nevertheless they were monitored. The headquarters enacted several decrees defining local rules for circulation, such as curfews. Anyone wishing to travel in close proximity to the frontline also had to present a safe-conduct to soldiers that stood guard at the entrance of the various towns and villages.

Travel behind the lines in the war zones was very strictly regulated. In the area that was in immediate proximity to the fighting there were generally no civilians because they had all been evacuated. Behind the frontline was a reserved area where there were still some civilians. Their movements were highly restricted and monitored. Finally, in the non-reserved zone,which was under military control, travel was monitored but freer.
In all these areas, civilians, when they wished to travel, had to have their itinerary validated before their departure and they had to stick to it on pain of being sanctioned if they ran into a checkpoint.

The role of the civilian authorities in the application of these rules was crucial. They related the rules established by the headquarters of the armies. In order to allow for the distribution of safe-conducts or passes the town halls were obliged to identify all the residents of their municipality and share these lists with the military authorities. In cities where curfews were in place civilians were no longer allowed to move around after a certain time. In Montreuil-sur-Mer, where the British General Headquarters were established from March 1916 onwards, the inhabitants could not be on the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Nor were they allowed to leave the city from 8 p.m. onwards. The major roads were also checked. Military checkpoints were set up on strategic roads where safe-conducts were verified.

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  • On the Somme front. A French-British checkpoint at the crossroads of two departmental roads, first quarter of the 20th century, gelatin silver print on paper, coll. Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne

  • From the western front. The national motorway of Paris-Saint-Quentin, closed off since September, drawing taken from the Illustrierte Zeitung, volume 2, January-June 1915, Departmental Archives of the Aisne – mark n° 3755

  • Caron Achille (1888-1947), The Refuges’ café, barracks near the arch with British and French soldiers, first quarter of the 20th century, glass plate, © Musée Quentovic – Ville d’Etaples-sur-Mer

    Achille Caron, a photographer from Etaples, was given on several occasions a permission to photograph the British camp at Etaples. In those days, only a few civilians were allowed to enter the camp.

sur le front de la Somme.Achtung !! 1 klm zur Front.the Refugees’ café, a barracks has been transformed into a pub.