Our History:

Founded in 1959, the twin town link between Gosport and the French holiday resort of Royan has been described as one of the most successful in the United Kingdom, and among the best in Europe. The link was forged as a result of World War II. In April 1945 Royan was destroyed by bombs from American aircraft - a bid to eliminate the last pocket of German resistance in the south west of France. Gosport in 1940 and 1941 suffered severe damage in the German blitzes. Royan 1945 Neither town wanted to experience the horrors of war again and when their local authorities' attention was called to the United Towns Organisation, they immediately expressed an interest.
The United Towns Organisation had its origin in a meeting in Paris on the 17th August 1951, between Jean-Marie Bressand, a member of General de Gaulle's Free French Forces in England and Algeria, and a group of friends from the Resistance whom he had met after being parachuted into France in 1944. They founded Le Monde Bilingue, which had the aim of building a world where men and women could understand one another.
Links were established between towns and villages on both sides of the Channel so that the residents could better appreciate each other's culture and way of life. These links came to be known as Twinning - Jumelage. The first true twinning between the civic authorities of a French and an English town took place in 1953 between Luchon, a small resort in the Pyrenees and the spa town of Harrogate.
A convention at Aix-les-Bains in 1957 laid down principles in a United Towns Charter. These defined twinnings as non-political acts, carried out by municipalities without state interference, with cultural links binding the towns together in a spirit of equality and friendship, and sporting and educational links establishing lasting friendships.
In July 1955, Jean-Marie Bressand, by now Secretary General of Le Monde Bilingue, wrote to Gosport Borough Council pointing out that 18 British towns had already established twinning links and asking that the aims of twinning be placed before the Council's appropriate committee.
Two years later on May 27, 1957 - Gosport Borough Council through its Town Clerk, wrote to M. Bresand requesting further information and stating that Councillors were most keen that any "twin" should be about the same size, and have the same interests, as Gosport. La Segne, near Toulon, Landerseau, Concarneau, Rochefort, Chatou, and St. Brieuc were all suggested, but for a variety of reasons considered unsuitable. Then the Chairman of the British Bilingual Association, Councillor Guy Moss, wrote to the Town Clerk that the Mayor of Royan had expressed a wish to twin with Gosport. Without hesitation, Gosport Councillors fell in with the suggestion and on the 10th November 1958, unanimously approved that all the necessary steps should be taken for the twinning of the two towns. An exchange of letters between the Mayors of the two towns followed and in January, 1959 Gosport Borough Council set up a Twinning Committee.
1959 signing 1959 Charter Gosport Seal
On July 15th. 1959, the formal Twinning of the two towns was forged at a special meeting of the Council to which the Mayor, Councillor C.W.L. Giles welcomed the Mayor of Royan, Admiral Hubert Meyer, as the leader of the Royannnais delegation. Councillor Giles and Admiral Meyer signed an illuminated charter, which was sealed with the Common Seal of Gosport, and which stated -
This milestone in the history of Gosport went unreported in the local newspaper. Members of the printing unions at The News were on strike in a dispute which affected regional newspapers throughout the country and the paper was not on sale again until the autumn. However, this did not stop the Twinning Committee establishing firm foundations for a very successful twinning. Perhaps this success is due to Captain Addenbrooke's insistence that people taking part in the twinning had to stay in one another's homes. The result has been that friendships established in 1959 and 1960 are still alive today. Each year, Gosportians and Royannais are to be found in friendly rivalry on the sports fields. From the beginning, Gosport and Fareham Rugby Club has played a key role and managed to lose every match for the first ten years - a sign of true friendship. Soccer, cycling, shooting, tennis, sailing and in the early days, Judo have also featured regularly in the annual programme. Photographic, Cine and Art clubs have also played their part in delegations that sometimes have numbered more than 200. A tradition has been established where the Mayors, as leader of the civic delegations, exchange gifts each year. For example, Gosport has presented a set of rum measures, original paintings and a mace to Royan. Royan's gifts include original works of art which adorn the walls of the Mayoral Suite at Gosport Town Hall.
At Royan, visitors will find the Gosport Quay, while at the Ferry entrance to Gosport is Royan Garden with a plaque recording that on the 29th April 1973, the garden was named by Colonel Guy Buchet, an Assistant Mayor of Royan.
Since its inception, Gosport Twinning Committee has had only five secretaries - John Broadribb, a senior committee clerk at Gosport Town Hall, Margarete Killeen, who was John Broadribb's secretary and succeeded him on his retirement, Yvonne Poole, the Mayor's and Chief Executive's secretary, and Geoffrey O'Neill, an Honorary Alderman, former Mayor, and Director of Gosport Community Association. Under Geoff O'Neill's guidance, the Twinning Committee has expanded to include Bridge, Hornet Sailing Club, St. Vincent College, Soroptimists, French Circle, and golf. Di Dobinson has now taken over the reins as Secretary and Key Organiser to the Gosport / Royan Twinning Committee. It is the Key Organisers responsibility to assist the committee in making arrangements for the annual visits. Di has managed to encourage some new participants and helped organise a very successful twinning programme when we hosted our Royan visitors. Di has been instrumental in planning our Twinning visits to Royan. For many years, there were strong links between Bay House School, Gosport, and its opposite number in Royan. The late Donald Head was a leading advocate and organiser of this educational link, which had faded partly because of the cost falling on parents, and the fact that the French and English school holidays do not coincide. Those links were rekindled by Bay House School in 2014, the school now offers their French Language students a chance to take part in a cultural exchange. They can visit Royan and link up with pupils from a secondary school there, meet with their families and enjoy the new experience. The exchange is reciprocated for the Royannaise students.
Over many years, Gosport's twinning link has been hailed as one of the best and one which more towns should copy, A former member of Gosport Twinning Committee went to live in Beccles a Suffolk village with a population of some 10,000, and helped set up a twinning link there. In 1993, in a national competition, Beccles' Twinning was acclaimed as the best in the country. In the same competition, Gosport was highly commended... C'est la vie.
"Gordon Webster, a former member of Gosport Borough Council, visited Royan in World War II. He was in the Royal Air Force flying Lysander aircraft, which carried arms to the Resistance and special agents into France. One of the agents he flew to Royan in 1944 was M. Jan de Lipowski, who became Mayor of Royan and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, in the French Government. They next met in 1989 in the grounds of Royan Town Hall when M. Lipowski was welcoming the Gosport delegation."