Just north of Amiens and behind the lines, the small town of Vignacourt was used for French and Allied logistics and became a refuge for Australian soldiers. Two French inhabitants, Antoinette and Louis Thuillier, were keen amateur photographers. They began taking photographs of the soldiers of different nationalities from all over the world who were billeted in the village in their farmhouse (Indian, Chinese and Moroccan soldiers but also Senegalese riflemen...).
Louis was fascinated with technology including cameras. Before the war, he taught his wife Antoinette how to take and print photographs. Enlisted in 1914, wounded and demobbed by 1915, Louis returned to Vignacourt. Between 1915 and 1920, 4,000 photographic plates of soldiers and civilians were taken by Louis and Antoinette, and their little son Robert had fun being photographed with the soldiers.
Exhausted soldiers from the war front billeted in a French house could get a warm bath, a hot meal or a little drink at a local ‘estaminet’. At the Thuillier’s farmhouse, soldiers who were photographed kept it as a souvenir or sent it home, to reassure family and friends.
In 2010, an Australian television station (Channel 7’s Sunday Night program) uncovered these 4,000 photographic plates in the Thuillier’s old attic after negotiation with the Thuillier family. Conscious of the exceptional character and historical value of this collection, the French and Australian authorities now wish to share its history.
Today, the newly opened Vignacourt 14-18 Centre welcomes you to the Thuillier’s renovated farmhouse which is devoted to their photograph collection. This exhibition tells the story of life behind the lines. It’s a history full of humanity, where the little personal stories provide insight into the greater history of the war. The scenography is made in purpose to tell the story of this sleeping treasure discovered in recent years.
At the end of the visit, go one hundred years back in time with a 360° video experience about three photos of the Thuillier’s collection. Visitors can walk around the farmhouse with an interactive tablet. Live the experience!
The Vignacourt 14-18 Centre lies 20 kilometers north of Amiens. Tariff: adult/5€. Visit the official website to discover the collection.