- Jon Cooksey and Jerry Murland
- ARRSE Rating
- 5 Mushroom Heads
The area North of Arras is somewhat neglected by those interested in the Great War, part of this may be due to the expansion of the City and its environs, however hidden away in gaps between the suburbs and industrial units lie traces of history well worth visiting.
Of course most people visit further South or to the North in Belgium, but to do so loses context with the movements of both sides during the Great War.
The book is well laid out and gives you much useful information such as the different names for Ranks in both the French, English and the German armed forces, something I found helpful when looking at various sites myself.
The Book starts of with the French Tenth Army attempting to prevent the German occupation of Arras, and explains in simple terms how the battles moved on the ground right through to 1918.
The routes are broken down into manageable sections, and total mileages shown to aid planning of your day's visits.
Although I have visited this area many times, I found the book to be full of fresh and useful information, lots of little vignettes and personal details of troops and the local population.
Route 1, Northern car tour.
The first tour is set up for motoring or cycling and starts at the Church of Ecoivres, to the North West of Arras this then moves roughly east covering Mont-St-Eloi , the Camblain l Abbe Communal cemetery, the Maisnil blockhouse, the Chateau de la Haie, once the home of Sarah Bernhardt, Villers station cemetery, and many more interesting and notable sites associated with the Great War, ending up at at Bailleul road cemetery. This tour covers 53 miles, and is filled information about the troops that fought here, details of the battles and with many interesting places to stop, plus lots of background information on the regiments and individuals serving there; accompanied by their thoughts and letters from the period.
Route 2, Vimy ridge.
The second tour is a circular tour around the Vimy Ridge area, covering some 7.5 miles so easily walked or cycled. This covers so much more than the Canadian National Memorials, including the armistice in 1917 to allow the vast amount of bodies to be recovered by both sides.
Route no 3,Viller-au-Bois
A tour of 5.6 miles. A pleasant tour encompassing the village and Villers Station Cemetery, showing the location of the narrow gauge railway that supplied our troops.
Route no 4, Oppy wood .
A tour of 1.2 miles , covering the Hull Pals and the John Harrison V.C. Memorial, the Hull City Memorial Crucifix corner, and the memorial plaque dedicated to the Hull Pals in the Church at Oppy.
Route no 5, Gavrelle,
A tour of 7.4 miles. The village was captured by the Germans in early 1914. Four miles behind the front line it became a major part of the German defensive system. By April 1917 the gains made by the British moved it into the front line of defence and here the 63rd Royal Naval Division fought hard to defeat the Germans at great cost. Several Northern Pals divisions also joined in the fight, however fierce resistance meant its return into German hands until liberated by the 51st Highland Div in August 1918. The Royal Naval Division Memorial is often bypassed by those driving into and out of Arras. This chapter covers the battles in fantastic detail, and I would think an entire day could be spent walking here.
Route no 7 Arras central
The City itself is worth a visit, just to see the incredible repair work carried out post war, however this chapter gives us the history of the City along with images before and after the battles. The Arras Tunnels along with a reproduction of a period 1917 map, the Wellington Quarry Museum, the Faubourg de Amiens Memorial, the Mur des Fusilles where the Germans executed French restistance prisoners in the Second World War ( I have a personal connection to the British memorial but had not heard of the Mur de Fusilles until reading this book) a sobering place to visit; also the Citadel which is now open to the Public (it was still a Military camp the first time I visited) and the little nugget about Tanks being concealed from the Germans in the moat during the Great War.
Appendix 1: a list of where to find the burial places of Victoria Cross winners
Appendix 2: Writers, poets, and artists killed at Arras
I took this book with me on my last visit, however time was short so I only managed to visit a few places, but the book is so good and well laid out that I have now purchased the accompanying volume covering Arras south.
A well written, thoroughly researched book that will make any trip to this area rewarding and informative
( I have not listed every single place recorded in the book as to do so would cheat the authors of their hard work and just reward, but just for the area around Vimy its worth every penny).