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Saturday, 2 July 2011

Le Palais de la Femme by David Copper

Le Palais de la Femme
The Army's work in France began on 13 March 1881 when Catherine Booth (eldest daughter of William and Catherine Booth) conducted the first Meeting in Paris. The purpose of this exercise is to concentrate mainly on one significant part of the Army's work in the capital city. However, this is not to say that until the opening of Le Palais on 23 June 1926 the Army avoided the criticism and hostility that it suffered in other lands, in the early years of operation across the Channel. Whilst such criticism and hostility is documented elsewhere, contemporary postcards provide us with an insight as to how the French regarded the Army's presence in their land.

The set of six postcards shows the satirist in his element. Of the six (and it is not known if this is a complete set) the only one which might be said to in any way resemble the truth, s the card which shows the three ‘Salutistes’ selling En Avant. Those last two words are put to really political use in another card where(on a card obviously dating from the Boer War era) General Sir Redvers Buller is shown wearing the uniform of a lady Salvationist, with his spurs and the end of his sword scabbard clearly visible under the hem of the skirt. A (victorious?) Boer is seen waving his gun and calling after the fleeing Salvationist, General Buller - "En Avant"! On the same sheet is a postcard with French text which has also been seen printed in English and perhaps this illustrates the universal aspect of the Army, in that postcard manufacturers such as Raphael Tuck could, so many, many years ago, distribute the basic card with just a language change.

The reality of course was that tremendous and hard work was done by the Army's pioneers and one particular family stands out, that of Peyron. It is well documented elsewhere how the Army came to acquire the building now known as Le Palais de la Femme. Your attention is drawn to copies of two articles which appeared in The War Cry issues dated 3 and 10 July 1926, and in the August 1926 issue of All the World. The structure, built in 1910 had formerly been known as Hotel Populaire - Hommes.

There was an example of the (what we might now call direct mailing?) card used to focus attention on the need to provide and adapt the former building to the Army's purposes. Also on this sheetpage vertical views of the main entrance and a sepia horizontal view of the main entrance. In the complete booklet of sixteen sepia cards of Le Palais however, the view of the main entrance is different. There were four different postcards (presumably sold by French Salvationists to raise funds) emphasising the need for Le Palais. and the desperate straits and degradation which might otherwise be suffered by the women the Army was seeking to help. It is not known if this is a complete set of these cards.

The complete booklet of postcards issued for Le Palais contains 16 cards. The booklet shown has a light green cover and the cards are perforated at the left.  All the postcards are of a horizontal/landscape format, apart from one which is of vertical/portrait format. The postcards must also have issued singly, because none of the single postcards shown has a perforated edge and moreover, there is at least one postcard on display, for the typewriting class, that does not feature within the booklet just mentioned. I think it must be accepted that there may also be other different cards, as there are two different examples of the Restaurant card.

Likewise it must follow that there was more than one printing of the postcards, because card 13 (double bedroom) certainly appears with two types of printing on the address side. There is also a blue C B on the postcard with the smaller printing, but it is not known if this is original- or has been added since

At the time this paper was originally prepared in 2001 the Army was operating 11 separate institutions in Paris. Sadly, Le Palais was in need of urgent renovation and modernisation and the Annual Reports for 1999 and 2000 made this clear. Since then however renovation has been completed and the building was re-opened on 3/31arch 2003 although with provision for somewhat fewer occupants but including provision for families.

Attempts to obtain a special postage stamp for the 75th anniversary fell on deaf cars so far as the French Post Office was concerned. The cost of a special ‘Obliteration Temporaire’ was found to be quite ballistic, hence the somewhat convoluted arrangements which were subsequently made for the very few commemorative philatelic covers for the 75th anniversary of the inauguration of Le Palais.

Also on display are extracts from Army newspapers and journals. The black and white copies of an English version of a multi-coloured publicity brochure for Le Palais were very kindly made available by Corrie Krommenhoek. The relevant pages of Flame of Fire, a short biography of Commissioner Albin Peyron, describe the opening of Le Palais. Penultimately, a. election of printed covers from Le Palais is shown. The most recent addition is a book published with the aid of Societe Generale last year.

There was also a postcard of the exterior of La Maison du jeune homme, also in Arrondissement 11. It seems significant that the ladies were housed in a Palais, with the gentlemen being accommodated in a Maison! La Maison is now used as Emergency Accommodation and is known as Residence Catherine Booth.

The men of Paris however were provided with accommodation of a very unusual variety. Le/La Louise-Catherine was a barge floating on the Seine in Paris near to the Pont d'Austerlitz. Conscious of the need for providing accommodation for the homeless Paris man caused General Bramwell Booth to seek to remedy this. Although the cost was a great consideration, the barge was eventually acquired by the Army and was (according to previous information) towed to its mooring in Paris in 1930, prior to ten months work in converting the vessel to a suitable shelter. It is believed that this information is in fact incorrect, as the card indicates that the vessel was in use by 1 January 1930 as shown on the caption. Two other cards exist of the vessel, one of which appears here only as a copy, provided from an original in the ownership of another Army collector. Also displayed are some photographs which may themselves have been issued as postcards of Le/La Louise-Catherine, as well as a pamphlet, various articles and reports relating specifically to the vessel and in particular to the Officer who commanded the barge,. Major Georgette Gogibus O.F. That devoted Warrior's contribution has been well documented elsewhere.

The barge originally provided accommodation for well in excess of 150 men but by 1978 it was down to 100 and by 1993 to 92. At the time this paper was prepared (June 2003) the barge was not listed in the Army's Year Book. Further research remains to be done regarding this aspect of matters. From a philatelic viewpoint, it is not known if there was any postal stationery exclusively for the use of Le/La Louise-Catherine either for the Army's use or for the use of those accommodated. Any information concerning such postal stationery would be gladly welcomed for future research purposes.

It was stated at the outset of this short talk that the intention was to concentrate on Le Palais but, owing to the fact that almost all these postcards came to me through the kind assistance of ‘un ami francais’ who, incidentally, I have never met face to face or even spoken with, I thought it appropriate to include the other ‘cartes salutistes’ that he has obtained for me. Sheets 14 and 15 contain various bands and family groups, although some of these may actually be from French-speaking Switzerland. On the last postcard page there is a very interesting card of the American (?) Legion Parade of 1927 displaying a very practical Army flag and finally, a postcard sized photograph showing General Evangeline Booth, apparently in the company of senior Officers, who are either holding or wearing caps with the cap-band showing Armee du Salut, as well as postcards from during and after the First World War. It is hoped that the source of all of these postcards will be able to obtain yet more cards in the future, now that at least one French postcard dealer has been alerted to my interest.

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