Heather and Gary in Europe - Spring 2014 travel blog

The east facade of the Vimy Ridge Monument in the morning sun

Detail of the east facade of the monument

Heather and Gary in the preserved trenches at Vimy Ridge

Gary in the trench on the German side of 'no man's land'

A view of the French National Cemetery at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette; the largest in...

The 'caribou' memorial to the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaufort-Hamel

Wednesday April 23

After breakfast this morning we drove back to Vimy for a tour of the tunnels and trenches. The earliest tour was not until 11:00, so we walked back up to the monument to take more photos of the eastern side of the monument now in the early morning sun. During the tour of the trenches perhaps the most surprising revelation was the proximity of the Canadian front line to the German front line with a space of around 25 metres of no man's land between the two. Following the tour, we visited the two cemeteries at Vimy for a short while.

We next drove to the French National Cemetery at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. From October 1914 until the end of 1915, Lorette Hill was the site of many clashes between French and German soldiers. Casualties during this period are estimated as high as 100,000. Today the site is home to the largest of the French Military cemeteries. More than 40,000 are buried there, including 22,000 unknown soldiers. The Romano-Byzantine basilica and the lantern tower were both built in 1921.

Our next journey was to a site south of Arras. We drove to the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Regiment Memorial. A large "caribou" (symbol of the regiment) statue dominates a landscaped outcropping. At Beaufort-Hamel, on July 1, 1916 the first battalion of the Newfoundland Regiment suffered 684 casualties most being from the 780 that advanced to the attack that morning, only 110 escaped unscathed. The site, purchased at the end of the war, is the biggest battalion memorial of the Western Front and with funds raised largely by the women of Newfoundland.

It was a very interesting day that was somewhat shocking in its details and the enormity and horror of the battles can only be imagined.

After a long day on the road we returned to the hotel for couple of hours before heading into the centre of Arras for dinner. This time we were successful in ordering mussels and we both thoroughly enjoyed them, along with some very nice Sauvignon Blanc!

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