La Delivrance

La Délivrance is a 16-foot statue in bronze of a naked woman holding a sword aloft, and is the work of French sculptor Émile Oscar Guillaume (1867-1942). It is located at the southern edge of Finchley at Henly’s Corner, at the bottom of Regents Park Road. The statue has a number of local names including "Dirty Gertie", "The Wicked Woman", and (most popular - to the exclusion of its real name) "The Naked Lady".

The statue was created as a celebration of the First Battle of the Marne when the German army was stopped from capturing Paris in August 1914.

On Friday, 17 October 1919, the French newspaper Le Matin announced that 11 copies of the statue La délivrance would be offered to 11 great cities of France and Belgium, occupied or destroyed by the Germans: Amiens, Brussels, Colmar, Liège, Lille, Metz, Reims, Mézières, Saint-Quentin, Strasbourg, Verdun. The first of these statues was offered to Lille, greatest of the cities occupied during World War I. It was unveiled there on 19 October 1919 in a central public park, the Jardin Vauban. The nudity of the statue was a cause of trouble and led to withdrawal of the statue in the following years. In 1929, this copy was given to the city of Nantes, where (after further vicissitudes) it stands today.

In 1920 Guillaume exhibited the statue at the Paris Salon, where it was bought by Lord Rothermere (Harold Sidney Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere). Lord Rothermere presented the statue to the Urban District of Finchley. However Finchley Council needed a war memorial, and intended placing the new statue at the main entrance of Finchley’s recreation ground Victoria Park. Lord Rothermere, incensed by this, informed Finchley that the statue was to be placed at its present location, so that he might see it when driving to see his mother, who lived at Totteridge, or the council couldn’t have it at all. The statue was unveiled on 20 October 1927 in front of a crowd, believed to have been around 8,000 people, by the former Prime Minister, David Lloyd George (picture). An information panel was placed in front of the statue by the Finchley Society in September 2007.

(Another copy of the statue exists in the small French town of Chéroy, Yonne, and some others may be still existing in some of the French cities chosen in 1919.)