French connection: When a Yarmouth band paraded on the streets of Rambouillet

Great Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

The Yarmouth and Gorleston Silver Band Great Yarmouth performing in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

Many of us have driven past the signs declaring how Great Yarmouth has been twinned with Rambouillet since 1956.

The welcome to Great Yarmouth sign as you approach the town.
March 2016.
Picture: James Bass

The welcome to Great Yarmouth sign as you approach the town. March 2016. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

Some readers might even recall their first school trips abroad there. But the earliest exchanges between the two towns were not just educational - they were musical too. 

These old pictures from our archive capture beautiful scenes from when a Yarmouth band crossed the Channel to perform on the streets of Rambouillet in France.

Gt. Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

A French marching band performing in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

Great Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

A peaceful scene in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

Bilingual beginnings

After the Second World War, the 'Bi-Lingual World' movement promoted adopting two native languages - English and French initially - to foster better international understanding in postwar Europe. 


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One of the chief methods used to nurture interest in another country was linking towns through 'twinning'. 

Great Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

Horsemen and packs of hounds paraded through the streets in honour of St Hubert, patron saint of hunters, in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

Great Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

Horsemen and packs of hounds paraded through the streets in honour of St Hubert, patron saint of hunters, in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

After numerous official visits and exchanges in the early 1950s, this is how Great Yarmouth came to be twinned with Rambouillet - a small town 35 miles southwest of Paris - in 1956. 

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It was a groundbreaking event at the time because it was the first town twinning officiated and signed by two women mayors. 

Clipping from the EDP newspaper archive accessed on Local Recall.

Clipping from the EDP newspaper archive of the article announcing the twinning of Great Yarmouth with Rambouillet, accessed on Local Recall. Learn more and subscribe at localrecall.co.uk. Dated November 1, 1956. - Credit: Archant Library

A musical exchange 

In 1957, Yarmouth and Rambouillet further cemented their bond with a cultural exchange visit.

The Yarmouth and Gorleston Silver Band had the honour of being airlifted across the Channel in two French Air Force troop-carrying Dakotas after being invited to take part in the Festival of the Lily of the Valley in Rambouillet.

Yarmouth and Gorleston Silver Band photographed at Horsham St Faith RAF station 1957

Yarmouth and Gorleston Silver Band photographed with French Air Force crew at Horsham St Faith RAF station before flying to Rambouillet, France. Printed in the EDP on April 20, 1957. Explore old articles and photos with Local Recall. Learn more and subscribe at localrecall.co.uk. - Credit: Archant Library

It was the first time a British band had been asked to perform in the cherished local tradition named after the lilies of the valley that flourish in the surrounding woodlands in spring.

The Silver Band and their bandmaster Albert Watson arrived on Saturday May 18, 1957, staying in a local school. They settled in and later gave an evening concert in front of the town hall near to the chateau which was the French president's summer residence at the time. 

Great Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

Evening performance outside the town hall in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

Gt. Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

Gt. Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

The festival took place the next day and in the morning the Yarmouth musicians welcomed people arriving in the town at the train station.

Gt. Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

Crowds of visitors in Rambouillet, France for the Festival of the Lily of the Valley. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

Gt. Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

Marching through the streets in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

Floral floats glided along the narrow cobbled streets for the main parade accompanied by several bands - including the Silver Band. Flag-waving locals cheered the Yarmouth guests from tree-lined squares.

The celebrations culminated in the Cuban ambassador to France crowning the festival queen in the town hall square.

Gt. Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

The queen of the Festival of the Lily of the Valley in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

Great Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

The queen of the Festival of the Lily of the Valley in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

Great Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

The queen of the Festival of the Lily of the Valley with dignitaries in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant

Great Yarmouth was twinned with Rambouillet in 1956. Picture taken in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957.

The queen of the Festival of the Lily of the Valley in Rambouillet, France. Dated May, 1957. - Credit: Archant


Afterwards, the Yarmouth delegation then enjoyed the festivities, sightseeing and shopping before returning home the next day - undoubtedly with many happy memories and stories to tell.

For more old photos and articles about Norfolk history and heritage, subscribe to our new fortnightly Through the Decades email newsletter. Sign up by clicking here


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