The History Behind Twinning

Albert French was 16 years of age when he was killed in action on 15th June 1916. He lays 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 Ploegsteert’s Harmione Royal marching brass band who have provided residents and officials with numerous concerts and entertainment since being twinned.

Ploegsteert

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 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 Ploegseert, 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.

The next Twinning Trip is scheduled for June 2022, and it is hoped for us to visit Ypres. If you are interested, please contact the office on 01908 326800 or via email for more details.

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.

-Barrie and Kay Jones 

Twinning 2017