Crucifix rescued from ruined Somme church in WW1 is returned to French village

ANGLIA 030723 crucifix
ITV Anglia
The crucifix back in the church at Doingt in France Credit: ITV Anglia

A crucifix saved from the rubble of a French church during the First World War and brought to Britain has been returned to France after more than a hundred years.In 1916 the Battle of the Somme was being fought in France between Allied forces and the German army along trench lines known as the Western Front.And in the village of Doingt close to the River Somme in northern France, the church was destroyed after being hit in the crossfire.A British Army chaplain, The Rev Percy Hooson, had been stationed in the area and removed the crucifix from the ruins of the church - and he brought it back to Britain after the war ended in 1918.

People gathered by the ruined church of Doingt when it was safe to return Credit: Old photo

The Rev Hooson later became vicar of All Saints Church in Tinwell near Stamford and put the crucifix on display there.

But at the weekend a delegation of parishioners from Tinwell including current vicar The Rev Olwen Woolcock took it back to Doingt.

They had decided to return it after recently discovering that the ruined village had been rebuilt after the First World War.

And on Saturday it was handed back to parishioners during a ceremony in the village's new church which was built in the 1920s.

Fr Jean-Louis Brunel with the Rev Olwen Woolcock Credit: ITV Anglia

Fr Jean-Louis Brunel, the current vicar of the church of Notre-Dame-de-L'Assomption in Doingt said: "For the church, for the village this crucifix is like a relic because it was more than 100 years it was kept and protected.

"So coming back is something very, very precious I think."

The Rev Olwen Woolcock, vicar of All Saints in Tinwell added: "It has been the most wonderful day. We have so much enjoyed it.

"It's felt very meaningful as well because of the link that we have made with this community through returning the crucifix."

A photograph from 1916 shows the extent of the damage to the church Credit: Archive photograph

Tinwell villager Chas McDevitt - who played the Last Post at a short memorial service before the crucifix was handed back, said: "I think we didn't realise the significance until we'd actually come here that, you know, there's so much more important for for them to have the cross here.

"For us we were caretakers and now it's this aspect of permanence coming back to the church in Doingt."

Hubert Boizard, a local historian in Doingt said because of the time that had passed the village had no record of the crucifix being in their old church.

He said: "We have no information here on the crucifix. We have nothing.

"We know the church was destroyed a lot. And we have English troops, Australian troops in a village in 1917 and 1918 and okay there is a crucifix in Tinwell - it was a surprise because why did it stay in Tinwell? We don't know."