Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Commemorates: almost 35,568 servicemen from the UK, 77 from South Africa, 46 Canadians and 3 from New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory.

The Arras Memorial is in the Faubourg-d'Amiens Cemetery, which is in the Boulevard du General de Gaulle in the western part of the town of Arras. The cemetery is near the Citadel, approximately 2 kilometres due west of the railway station.

The French handed over Arras to Commonwealth forces in the spring of 1916 and the system of tunnels upon which the town is built were used and developed in preparation for the major offensive planned for April 1917. The Cemetery was begun in March 1916, behind the French military cemetery established earlier. It continued to be used by field ambulances and fighting units until November 1918.

The graves in the French military cemetery were removed after the war to other burial grounds and the land they had occupied was used for the construction of the Arras Memorial and Arras Flying Services Memorial. The most conspicuous events represented by the memorial were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and the German attack in the spring of 1918. Canadian and Australian servicemen killed in these operations are commemorated by memorials at Vimy and Villers-Bertonneux. A separate memorial remembers those killed in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.

Additionally, the Arras Flying Services Memorial commemorates more than 1,000 airmen of the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force, either by attachment from other arms of the forces of the Commonwealth or by original enlistment, who were killed on the whole Western Front and who have no known grave.

During the Second World War, Arras was occupied by United Kingdom forces headquarters until the town was evacuated on 23 May 1940. Arras then remained in German hands until retaken by Commonwealth and Free French forces on 1 September 1944.

Photographs in this section taken by Shirley Sutherland, Golspie.

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