French refugees in the north, 1918


This photograph shows a stream of French refugees displaced by the German Spring Offensive (Kaiserschlacht) in 1918. Carts carry bedding, furniture and other belongings.

The Spring Offensive aimed to defeat the British and French armies along the Western Front. Beginning in March, the Central Powers launched multiple attacks which resulted in Allied forces retreating 1,200 square miles and cities such as Amiens pulled into occupied territory.

Civilians had been evacuating their homes and resettling in other areas of Europe for the entire duration of the War. German atrocities committed in Belgium in August 1914 had not only displaced 1.5 million Belgian civilians, but also fuelled a great fear among French people. At the onset of the Spring Offensive, people began to evacuate areas of northern France (most prominently from Paris and Picardy).

In September 1918, there were a total of 1.85 million refugees in France.[1]


[1] Philippe Nivet,,’Refugees (France)’, in 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer and Bill Nasson, issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, 8 October 2014 <> [accessed March 2018].

Full title:
French refugees in the north
April, 1918
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Bibliothèque nationale de France