Siegfried Sassoon

Godbert's

Godbert’s Restaurant does not play a big part in the story of Siegfried Sassoon. However, on trying to find out more about it I discovered that very little is known, and therefore I have created this page. This wonderful old restaurant used to stand on the Rue de Jacobin, Amiens, Northern France, and finally closed its doors in 1973. With a little detective work and two visits to Amiens in 2011 and 2012, I have found that the original building is still standing, although it is now being used for a very different purpose. The outside of the building has changed very little, and it is still possible to go inside, although there it has changed much, as it is now a theatre, the ‘Comedie de Picardie.’

Godbert's Advertisement 1899

Amiens was a fairly large city located in the British rear during the First World War. However, it was not too far back that officers could not spend time there during short periods of leave from the front line. Godbert’s Restaurant had a reputation for good food and fine wine and Siegfried Sasoon spent a number of evenings there with other officers, all trying to forget the war.

Godbert's Restaurant 1914

Comedie de Picardie

Above left: Godbert’s Restaurant around 1914.   Above right: A photograph taken in 2011

The Sassoon Connection

On July 7th 1916, Sassoon went to Amiens, he wrote in his diary, “On Saturday (July 7) I went to Amiens with Greaves (Captain E. J. Greaves, Company Commander), Reeves, Cotterill and Julian Dadd, and we lunched in style at Godbert and had a jolly day in fine weather.” In the Sherston Trilogy Greaves was Captain Barton, Cotterill was Joe Dottrell and Julian Dadd was Julian Durley.

On March 21st 1917 he recorded that he was “off to Amiens for a night” with a fellow officer. “A good dinner, a bath and a bed are something to be thankful for in this dirty place.” It was a journey of seventeen miles, bumping along in an Army Service Corps lorry. On March 23rd he described sitting outside the Gare du Nord station at Amiens at 5 o’clock, in a hospital ambulance, waiting for a lift to Corbie where another lorry would take him back to camp.

On March 26th he again travelled to Amiens on a Service Corps lorry. “After dinner (alone, thank heaven),” he wrote, [I] “walked round the Cathedral for half an hour in the rain...and after a bath and quiet lunch, returned to the place whence I came, per lorry and feet...I would gladly die to guard Amiens Cathedal from destruction.”

On March 30th, from the Hotel Belmont, Amiens, he wrote, “Tonight I’ve been guzzling at the Godbert Restaurant with a Captain of the Dublin Fusiliers and a captain of the Cameronians, and three other Welsh Fusiliers (including Greaves again); and the bill was 230 francs; and we drank Veuve Cliquot; and the others have gone into the dark city to look for harlots; and I’m alone in my room; looking out of a balconied window at the town, with few lights, and the moon and silver drifts of cloud going eastward; the railway station looming romantic as old Baghdad. And next week we march away ‘to hazards whence no tears can win us,’” Although he could remember little of what happened that night, he did make a record of what he had consumed. Not including the wine he would have no doubt tasted, he downed:
2 John Collins, 1 Japanese ditto, 1 Oyster Cocktail, 1 sherry and Bitters, Pommard Eclatante, trois verres, 1 Benedictine.

Godbert Plan 1895

Godbert Menu 1913

Godbert Staff

A plan from 1895 showing (in orange) the l’hotel de Auberville as it was before it became Godbert’s.

A menu from Godbert’s Restaurant dated 23rd May 1913.

Patronne Mr and Mme Schaetjens on the steps of Godbert’s Restaurant with their staff.

An anonymous British ex-officer wrote the following in 1939: “In Amiens, the base for the entire British effort along the Western Front, there remains one thing utterly unchanged from the time of the war. It is Godbert’s Restaurant. In those days the rear-line officers always made for Godbert’s when they had a few hours free, appreciating the tasteful, quiet paved yard where the staff cars could be left in safety, and the attractive entrance. Today the yard is still quiet and the entrance is the same as it was. There was, and is, a lobby and two rooms. At the desk where the cheerful little fat patronne sat, the patronne’s daughter sits now. The food was excellent then and still is, Michelin gives it a high rating. At the beginning of the war Godbert’s was unknown to the great of this world, but since then, praised in all the clubs along Pall Mall, it has played host to many famous names. ‘The Prince of Wales was here,’ says the patronne’s daughter in frightful English, ‘when he came to dedicate the memorial at Thiepval. And the King of England was here. He sat right there. And during the war and after Doolis Hay was here many times,’ Douglas Haig? ‘Yes he was here when I was a child and I saw him.’”

Another simply wrote, “We went to Godbert’s, the best restaurant in Amiens, and drank as much champagne as they would give us.”

What was it like inside?

Inside Godbert's
Inside Godbert's

Inside Godbert's

Inside Godbert's

These four pictures show how sumptuous the decor was at Godbert’s, no wonder the British officers flocked to it. I wonder which table Siegfried Sassoon sat at!

The end of an era

In 1973 Godbert’s Restaurant closed down and the building lay empty and decaying. Below: The newspapers reported its demise.

Newspaper story 1973

Newspaper stories 1973

Above: The headline reads - After more than eighty years of serving good food, salon Godbert has closed.

Above: These articles describe the items that were to be auctioned off, they include 6,000 bottles of wine.

Resurrection

After one and a half decades, number 62, Rue de Jacobins, sprang into life again. A lot of work had to be done to bring it back from the dead, and much was stripped out. Much of this work was due to the rot that had set in over the years, and also because its use was about to change forever.

Inside Godbert's

Inside Godbert's

Inside Godbert's

From its heyday during the war, to being empty of furniture, and then stripped for refurbishment in 1988.

Inside Godbert's

Godbert's Back Door

Bedroom Godbert's

Another view inside in 1988. Note the polished wooden flooring has been completely ripped up.

The back door in 1988. This was taken looking in to the door seen in the picture above right.

A neglected fire place in one of the rooms on the first floor taken in 1983.

The Comedie de Picardie and what remains of Godbert’s

The Comedie de Picardie opened its doors in 1989 and has gone on from strength to strength since then. The front of the building is still ‘Godbert’s,’ as is the entrance lobby when you first walk in through the doors. There are some very fine coloured glass windows and partitions that were retained when the building was modernised and these original pieces would be recognised by anyone who had visited Godbert’s during the First World War. The back of the building however is completely different, the restaurant is now an auditorium.

Godbert's 1983

Newspaper Reports Opening in 1989

The Auditorium

The front of the building in 1983

Comedie de Picardie opens

The new auditorium

The Past Still Remains

Glass Cupboards

Glass Screen

Glass Ceiling

In the lobby there are two coloured glass doors either side of the small bar that are original to Godbert’s.

This original door is kept inside a hollow wall in the lobby. It can be pulled out for viewing.

This grand piece of coloured glass artwork is original to Godbert’s and forms part of the ceiling decoration in the lobby.

Outside Today

Front Gate

Front Gate

Two views taken in 2011, the picture on the left is looking into the small courtyard from the road. This is where the Army staff cars used to be parked during the First World War. The picture on the right shows the same entrance looking from the steps of the front porch. The cars still belong to staff!

I would like to thank the Comedie de Picardie for their assistance during my research which enabled me to create this web page. In particular I would like to thank Julie Mayer, who is responsible for Public Relations at the theatre, and whose help was invaluable.

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