Coming down from Calais – the WW1 Battlefields

Posted by on May 6, 2017 in Word from Gazon | Comments Off on Coming down from Calais – the WW1 Battlefields


109km/68 miles 1 hr 8min drive from Calais to Vimy Ridge then a further 93kms/58 mile 57 min drive to Villers Bretonneux

312km/194 miles/ 3hr drive from Villers-Bretonneux to the Haras du Gazon

Vimy Ridge in northern France is Canada’s largest overseas national memorial.

Whereas the French, right after the war, attempted to erase all signs of battle and return the Somme region to agriculture and normalcy, the Canadians decided that the most evocative way to remember their fallen was to preserve pieces of the crater pocked battlefields.

As a result the best place to get some sense of the unimaginable hell known as the Western front is at the chilling moonscape of Vimy Ridge. Visitors can also see tunnels and reconstructed trenches. Of the 66,655 Canadians who died in WWI, 3,589 lost their lives in April 2017 taking this ridge, a German defensive line.

The highest point was later chosen as the site of Canada’s WWI memorial. Huge blocks of limestone were carved into 20 allegorical figures representing faith, justice, peace, honour, charity, truth, knowledge, and hope. A key figure, “Canada mourning her fallen sons,” speaks to the country’s wartime losses. The Vimy Memorial is inscribed with the names of 11,285 Canadians who were killed on French soil and have no known graves.

Situated on land granted by France to the Canadian people, the memorial towers over the scene of Canada’s most recognizable First World War engagement, the Battle of Vimy Ridge, fought from 9 to 12 April 1917.

The Vimy Memorial was unveiled in July 1936 to a crowd of more than 100,000, including 6,000 Canadian veterans who had travelled overseas for the ceremony. The Memorial survived the Second World War, despite fears that German forces would destroy it after France’s surrender. Adolf Hitler visited and was photographed at the site in 1940. Since the Second World War, there have been several formal, and countless informal, Canadian pilgrimages to the Memorial and the 91-hectare park of Canadian trees and shrubs surrounding it.

In 2007, after several years of extensive restoration work, the Vimy Ridge Memorial was unveiled to dignitaries and several thousand Canadian visitors. It is the principal site of Canadian remembrance and commemoration overseas, and one of the most widely recognized symbols of Canada’s military past.

Australian National War Memorial

During WWI, 313,000 Australians (out of a total population of 4.5 million) volunteered for military service; 46,000 met their deaths on the Western Front. The Australian National War Memorial, a 32m tower engraved with the names of 10,982 soldiers who went missing in action, stand on a hill where Australian and British troops repulsed a German assault on 24th April 1918. It was dedicated in 1938; two years later its walls were scarred by Hitler’s invading armies.

The Musée Franco- Australien in Villers – Bretonneux has evocative dispays of WWI Australiana

The New Zealand National Memorial is 1.5km north of Longeval

Longueval holds a special place in New Zealand’s military history during the First World War.  It was near this place on Friday, 15 September 1916, that the New Zealand Division joined the Battle of the Somme.New Zealand suffered heavily in the First World War. One-tenth of the population served.  Out of a population of less than one million people, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force suffered  59,483 casualties of whom 18,166 died.  Fighting on the Western Front, in France and Belgium claimed 12,483 lives.


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