Papers of William Lees (1855-fl 1936) of Nottingham relating to the First World WarGerman occupation of Lille, 1914-1936

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection includes manuscripts and printed papers, primarily concerning life in Lille,France during the First World War, together with later papers relating to the exhibition of thecollection and its transfer to Nottingham. The collection comprises:

  • Correspondence between Herbert Mayo Leman and William and Elizabeth Lees, residents of Lilleduring the occupation, and between Leman and Mr Flack, the librarian of University CollegeNottingham. 1918-1936 (MS 155/1);
  • Personal papers of William Lees including his identity card, written statements made by him aboutscenes that he witnessed, correspondence, official forms and ration cards and other manuscriptitems. 1914-1918 (MS 155/2);
  • Printed posters and leaflets in French and German that were found or displayed in Lille by theGerman occupying force. c.1914-1918 (MS 155/3);
  • Newspaper cuttings, newspapers and a souvenir programme relating to the occupation and evacuationof Lille and events and personalities associated with it. 1918 (MS 155/4);
  • Typescript captions and translations to accompany the exhibition of items concerning theoccupation and evacuation of Lille, including items in this collection. It is likely that WilliamLees was responsible for writing the captions. c.1918 (MS 155/5).

Administrative / Biographical History

William Lees was born in 1855. He was a company representative for a Nottingham lacemanufacturer. At some point before the outbreak of war in 1914, he moved to Lille in NorthernFrance. He remained in the town for the duration of the war and correspondence in this collectionreveals that he was still living there in 1936. During the German occupation of Lille, Lees appearsto have been active in the resistance movement, recording details about German activities, andcollecting printed ephemera of their stay. Lille was bombarded by German guns during an offensive10-12 October 1914. Following four years of strict policing, requisitioning goods and accommodationfrom the inhabitants, and using local factories, the Germans retreated peacefully from Lille inOctober 1918 as the allies advanced.


The collection has been divided by document type into five series. Within these series, itemshave been arranged chronologically.

Conditions Governing Access

ACCESS: Accessible to all registered readers.


Other Finding Aids

  • This description is the only finding aid available for the collection. Copyright in thedescription belongs to The University of Nottingham.

Conditions Governing Use

REPROGRAPHIC: Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposesonly, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

COPYRIGHT: Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult.Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advancein writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email

Custodial History

A local solicitor, Herbert Mayo Leman (b. 1870), corresponded with Lees in Lille, and in 1936arranged for the papers concerning his wartime experiences to come to the University of NottinghamLibrary.