The major theme of today was walking French and Commonwealth battlefields around Arras. The Arras sector was under the jurisdiction of the French until 1917, when the British took over over operations. The British and Commonwealth battles of Spring 1917 around Arras were largely diversionary in nature, launched in support of the French Nivelle Offensive.
The morning was taken up by a visit to a Newfoundland Regiment memorial at Gueudecourt, another German cemetery, a British cemetery (Cabaret Rouge) and a French cemetery the Notre Dame de Lorette. The Newfoundland Regiment memorial nicely complemented our previous visit to Beaumont-Hamel. Notre Dame de Lorette made a particularly large impression, especially in contrast to the more somber affair of Commonwealth cemeteries.
In the afternoon, we visited Vimy Ridge which was definitely the highlight of the day. Despite the controversy revolving around Vimy Ridge as a nation building myth, the monument is an important place of commemoration of not just the titular battle, but the entirety of Canada’s Great War experience. I think every Canadian should travel to the Vimy Ridge monument.
The day ended with a visit to Arras and the Wellington quarry, a tunnel system used by the British to launch their Arras offensive in Spring 1917. We went for a tour in the enlarged quarry that housed over 24,000 soldiers for eight days before the offensive. We had to reproductions for WW1 British helmets for safety reasons and I was fairly concerned about contracting lice.
Overall, today was a great experience that I hope will continue for the rest of the trip.