The History Behind Twinning

Albert French was 16 years of age when he was killed in action on 15th June 1916. He is buried in a cemetery in Ploegsteert, eight miles south of Ypres, Belgium.

After a chance discovery of letters from the late Albert to his sister at home, moves were made to formally twin the two towns of Wolverton and Ploegsteert with an official Act of Twinning in May 2006. The Affirmation of the Twinning Charter was signed by representatives from the two councils and for a number of years now the two towns have taken it in turn to visit one another.

Besides aiming to maintain relationships and encourage exchanges, promote and continue mutual friendships, there is a special clause, to ‘continue to pay tribute to Albert French whose story has forged a lasting bond between our two communities’. A unique bond has developed, particularly between the two bands, Wolverton Town Band and Harmonie Royale Les Vrais Amis de Ploegsteert, who have provided residents and officials with numerous concerts and entertainment since being twinned.


Ploegsteert (called 'Plugstreet' by the soldiers) is a village in Belgium in the municipality of Comines-Warneton in the Hainaut province and is the most westerly settlement of Wallonia. It is approximately 1.2 miles north of the French border. The village was created in 1850 on part of the territory of Warneton.

In late 1914 and early 1915, the nearby Ploegsteert Wood was the site of much fighting. From January to May 1916, Winston Churchill served in the area as Commanding Officer (Lieutenant Colonel) of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

Twinning 2023

Proudly Supporting Those Who Serve

The Twinning weekend began with a welcome ceremony for our guests from Ploegsteert at the civic offices in Milton Keynes. This was a packed event as we welcomed representatives from Belgium, Wolverton, Wolverton Town Band, Army Cadet Force, 1st Wolverton Scouts, TS Whaddon Milton Keynes Sea and Royal Marine Cadets, St George the Martyr and Western Front Association as well as the Mayor and Mayoress of Milton Keynes and Dame Ann Limb DBE DL, the Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire!


Both the Mayor of Wolverton and the Bourgmestre à la Ville de Comines-Warneton gave speeches before the traditional exchange of gifts. Our gift hampers were made up of items from local businesses here in our parish: Wolverton Gin, Mrs B’s Emporium, the Urb Farm, Bucks Star Beer and Think Food Café. We were gifted beautiful Comines-Warneton branded hampers filled with a bottle of beer, honey cake, a mug with honey flavoured boiled sweets, a doll and various brochures from Plugstreet 14-18 museum. Afterwards WGTC formally signed the Armed Forces Covenant and there was a short speech by Major Hellard from the Army Cadet Force about the Covenant. The Covenant is a promise from the nation to those who serve or who have served, and their families. It says we will do all we can to ensure they are treated fairly and not disadvantaged in their day-today lives. The Covenant relies on the people, communities, and businesses of the UK to actively support it in order to make a difference. For more information about the Covenant visit the Armed Forces Covenant website.

Home of the Codebreakers

After some light refreshments our guests travelled to Bletchley Park, once the top-secret home of the World War Two Codebreakers. They were most interested in this heritage attraction which is full of immersive films, interactive displays and museum collections.

Music Concert at MK Museum

Following a brief stop off at their hotel, our Belgian friends arrived at Milton Keynes Museum for the evening celebration. After welcome drinks, our guests enjoyed a tour around the museum and a hog roast in the courtyard. At 8pm we were joined by local residents for a concert featuring the Wolverton Town Band and the Harmonie Royale Les Vrais Amis de Ploegsteert.

Popular songs included ‘Over There’, a promotional song from 1917 announcing the American involvement in WWI which you may have heard on Go Compare’s adverts, and ‘Fun for Band’. You can watch videos of these performances on Wolverton Town Band’s Facebook page.

Belgian band in The Square

Belgian brass band marching down Church Street

The delegation at the War Memorial

Service in The Square

Join Us for Next Year's Trip to Ploegsteert

Advert for trip to Ploegsteert

Twinning Trip 2022

We Made it to Ploegsteert- Finally!

The bi-annual Twinning trip to Belgium in November was a great success and well supported by parishioners, members of Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council (WGTC) and of the MK Western Front Association (MK WFA). Leaving Wolverton early on the Friday morning, we made our way to Dover and across the Channel, arriving at our hotel in Ypres late afternoon. We then headed for some free time in Ypres before attending the wreath laying service at Menin Gate, where myself and another member of MK WFA laid a wreath.

On the Saturday our Belgian hosts, representatives from the city and municipality of Comines-Warneton (of which Ploegsteert is a district), took us to the Museum of Ribbon, which was packed with working looms and was very interesting. Also on site was a German bunker with an excellent display showing German Sappers at work, the original occupiers of the dugout, and a collection of WWI relics and artefacts. After a welcoming reception at the Town Hall at Comines we visited the site of the Christmas Truce and toured the Plugstreet 14-18 experience before heading to the Vanuxeem brewery for a beer tasting session. I’m sure many bottles made their way out of the shop and onto the coach! Free time in Le Bizet (we all ended up in the same cafe) was followed by a meal in the Café de la Grand Place in Ploegsteert.

Sunday was slightly curtailed as we learned that P&O cancelled our ferry, so we had to leave earlier than previously arranged. However, we still visited Hyde Park Corner Cemetry for the civic ceremony for Albert French. Albert was a young boy from Wolverton who enlisted in The Kings Royal Rifle Corps aged just 16 and was killed only six weeks after leaving for France. A chance discovery of letters from Albert to his sister at home in Wolverton led to a formal twinning of the towns of Wolverton and Ploegsteert, or ‘Plugstreet’ as it was called by the soldiers, which was where Albert died. The Belgians had arranged an impressive ceremony with their brass bands, readings and the Last Post. I read ‘In Flander’s Fields’ and laid a wreath on Albert’s grave on behalf of MK WFA. Then it was off for another civic ceremony in a café at Ploegsteert, and then the ferry and home. You can watch a video of some of the service on Facebook.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable trip, made even more pleasant by the good company of those who joined me on the trip. The Belgians certainly did us proud as did Joe, the Community Engagement and Projects Officer, who very effectively organised the trip, so many thanks to him and the team at WGTC.

by Stuart Macfarlan

Twinning 2022 Photos

A service at the Commonwealth War Graves

A moving service at the Commonwealth War Graves 

People at the commonwealth car graves

Albert French's grave

Albert French's grave 

Albert French's grave with flowers

A group of people toasting


Enjoying the Belgian beer. Cheers! 

People smiling and drinking beer

Visiting a museum

 Visiting a museum

Visiting the trenches

Going down into the trenches 

Learning about the Christmas truce 

Meeting representatives from our twinned town and exchanging gifts 

Learning all about ribbons

Past Twinning Events

Twinning 2021

As is tradition, we had two separate wreath laying events; unfortunately, because of Covid-19, neither was in conjunction with our Belgian friends. For the same reason, both were low key with relatively little publicity. 
The second event was even more low key. The Sunday after the anniversary of Albert's death, 20th June 2021 at Wolverton War Memorial, a single wreath was laid by the Mayor of Wolverton. The Mayor of Milton Keynes spoke eloquently of Albert's short life, and a two-minute silence was held.
In parallel, our friends in Belgium, held their own service in Ploegsteert, where Alberts’s grave can be found. 

The first was on the 15th June, the day of the anniversary of Albert's death. The ceremony was held at MK Rose, on the edge of Campbell Park. The Mayor of Milton Keynes, the Mayor of Wolverton and representatives of the WFA (Western Front Association) made short speeches and laid wreaths to Albert.

Twinning 2020

Twinning 2019

WGTC played host to 70 Belgian guests over the weekend of the 29th and 30th June. Amongst the guests were 28 members Ploegsteert Harmonie Royale band, who came together with Wolverton Town Band for a 2-hour concert on Saturday evening. 

The Civic Ceremony saw the reuniting of the bands and the bond of friendship was felt throughout the room. Speeches were given by the Mayor of Wolverton, the Alderman of Twinning and the President of the Patriotic Associations. Gifts were exchanged as cake (supplied by Dotty Bakes) was cut and champagne flowed. The evening ended with a beautiful meal at Wolverton House where the manager and staff pulled out all the stops to serve the 100+ participants of our event.

On Sunday residents would have heard, if not seen, Ploegsteert Harmonie Royale Band marching from the Town Hall to Wolverton Square, where they joined Wolverton Town Band and Wolverton Air Cadets who were led by Derek Goodman, Pilot Officer. The celebration of the twinning of the towns was marked by the service at the Memorial, led by Francois Maekelberg, President of the Patriotic Associations. Once again, the two bands performed magnificently, entertaining the large audience. Once the service had ended, fish and chips followed by ice cream was served. 

Twinning 2018

My wife Kay and I returned from a wonderful twinning weekend in Belgium. It was a three-day, packed weekend trip. Amongst the 62 attendees were, apart from the committee, the Mayor of Wolverton and a detachment of the Wolverton Air Training Corps.

When we arrived in Belgium by coach, we went to our hotel to book in, and then straight to Ypres, where we went to the Menin Gate. At 8 pm, there was a Wreath laying, where wreaths were laid by some committee members, the Mayor of Wolverton, and the A.T.C. The A.T.C. were all in Uniform, and included a Standard Bearer. They were all incredibly smart and were a credit to the A.T.C. and Wolverton. At 8 p.m. on the dot, the Last Post was sounded by four buglars from the same Belgian family. This ceremony is performed every day, 365 days a year, and is incredibly moving. The Menin Gate is amazing and contains the names of thousands of allied troops who died at Ypres during the first World War, and for whom there in no known grave.

On the Saturday, in the evening, we went to Comines Town hall for a Civic Reception, with the Mayor of Comines, where gifts were exchanged.

On the Sunday Morning, we went to the War Cemetery at Plugstreet, where we visited the grave of Private Albert French. At 11 a.m. that morning a ceremony was performed at the graveside which included wreath laying, a Belgian band who also played the Last Post, The British National Anthem, The French National Anthem and other tunes. There were also six Belgian standard bearers and the Mayors of Wolverton and Comines. It was an incredibly moving Ceremony, especially as it was the 100th Anniversary of the end of the Great War. Would we go on another trip like this? You try and stop us.

by Barrie and Kay Jones