Manuscripts and Special Collections

Rare French wartime currency in the Lawson collection

April 20th, 2010 at 01:04

I’m coming to the end of cataloguing the Lawson collection and inevitably when sorting and listing archival material you have a number of items that never seem to fit with the main sequence of material. These generally form part of a miscellaneous section and are where the gems of a collection can sometimes be unearthed.

Amongst the rather more miscellaneous papers of John Lawson (1878-1969) is a wallet containing:

  • 4 third class rail tickets from Nottingham to Wembley, 18 Sep. 1924
  • 14 business cards belonging to Mr John Lawson and Mrs John Lawson
  • Boots Staff Discount Card, 31 May 1954
  • Boots Athletic Club Membership Card, 1922-1923
  • Attendance card for Hull Brunswick Wesleyan Sunday School, 29 Dec. 1912
  • 2 Methodist Church membership tickets for Faith Lawson, 1961-1962
  • Blank Christmas card sent by Mr and Mrs John Lawson junr, 6 Broomfield Road, Headingley, Leeds, 1910.

Billets de necessite from Cambrai (c.1916)

Rather more exciting, however, is a small slip of very poor quality paper which is a  billet de nécessité to the value of 50 centimes issued by the Syndicat de communes de la région de Cambrai, and appears to date from around 1916.

Billets de nécessité were a temporary currency issued by municipalities in world war one in France due to ordinary currency being hoarded, buried or confiscated. Cambrai itself was occupied by German troops for much of the conflict. Local traders would accept the tokens in exchange for goods and services. Very few now survive as they are so fragile and were generally destroyed after the war. There is no indication why John Lawson had this currency in his wallet, as far as we know he did not visit France himself. Perhaps it was simply a souvenir given to him by a friend.

Read more about billets de nécessité here:

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