Places of Remembrance

Arras (France)

Nicknamed the Belle Inutile (the useless beautiful), the citadel is a Vauban structure built between 1668 and 1672. Pentagonal in shape, it is flanked on each corner by huge bastions protected by free-standing fortifications, part of which is preserved. The white stone Porte Royale faces the town and emphasises the power of the new sovereign. The buildings necessary for life in the Citadel surround the esplanade. Aligned with the Porte Royale, the arsenal, whose openings are emphasised by the stone décor, has a privileged place in the fort's spatial organisation The chapel, a gem of Baroque architecture, still has a brick façade richly decorated with fluted engaged columns, medallions, flame ornaments, etc.

The Chemin des Douves path takes visitors on a trail around the Citadel, to the Crinchon, a stream that was used to fill the ditches with water. The citadel itself is owned by the French Army. It can be visited as part of a tour organised by the Tourist Information Office in the Town Hall. Despite the modifications over the centuries, the Arras citadel is still testimony to Vauban's art.

There is a memorial in the Faubourg d'Amiens cemetery, not far from the citadel. It commemorates the deaths of 35,000 men – British, New Zealand and South African – who fell between spring 1916 and 7 August 1918 and who do not have their own tomb. The names of the dead are engraved on stone slabs affixed to the walls of the cloister with Doric columns, built by Sir Edwin Luytens. Faubourg d'Amiens cemetery on Boulevard du Général de Gaulle also has 2,652 identified tombs.

Opposite the Memorial, on the wall of the cloister is the "Flying Services Memorial", engraved with the names of the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Air Force and the Australian Flying Corps.

Part of the Arras Memorial, erected in the Faubourg d'Amiens cemetery, is considered a homage to the first aviators who lost their lives in combat. The Aviators' Memorial is noticeable as soon as you enter the cemetery; it consists of a raised base surmounted with a globe.

The names of all the airmen who fell on the Western front and whose tombs are unknown are engraved on each side. These include the names of 46 Canadians. The Canadians were particularly distinguished in the air war. Twenty-five thousand of them served as pilots, lookouts, and mechanics in the British Forces. Canadian airmen received over eight hundred decorations and citations, including three Victoria Crosses, for their bravery. Out of the "aces" of the RAF, five were Canadian. Pilots like W.A. "Billy" Bishop, W.G. Barker, Raymond Collishaw and A.A. McLeod were famous for their boldness and their feats.

The New Zealand tunnels form a complex system of underground shafts and caves which extend from Arras to Bapaume and Cambrai. In 1916 and 1917, the New Zealand company of tunnellers extended an existing network of old caves with shafts to reach No Man's Land, under the German trenches. The site was rediscovered in 1996.

Bullecourt (France)

Bullecourt Memorial: the Digger statue..

In April and May 1917, some 10, 000 Australian soldiers were killed during the battles of Bullecourt. And from May 1917 to March 1918, the battles raged and the village changed sides almost 20 times.

Today, in the memorial park, the memory is sustained by the statue of the Digger, made by Australian sculptor Peter Corlett, the son of a fighter in the 'Great War’. The Digger is an Australian soldier who symbolises through his uniform and badges the four Australian infantry divisions engaged in the field: the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th.

Faubourg d'Amiens Military Cemetary - Arras (France)

This cemetery shelters 2,651 graves and displays the names, inscribed on the perimeter wall, of the 35,942 men who were never recovered following the Battles of Arras.

Arras and the First World War (1914-18)

Arras was at the centre of battle throughout the First World War. After falling into German hands in 1914 and then taken back by the French, it was defended by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from spring 1916. Almost razed to the ground, the town had become an underground city organised into a maze of galleries several kilometres long (known as boves) that were used during the great offensive of 1917. At the start of April, at dawn, some 20,000 British soldiers emerged in the surrounding German trenches to the complete surprise of the enemy, managing to seize officers as they were having breakfast.

For the Commonwealth forces, this was an absolute massacre: 159,000 men lost in 39 days, or the equivalent of 4,076 deaths every day. While notching up the biggest death toll, this offensive was nevertheless a significant military victory, perhaps the only one achieved by the Allies in 1917. In 1918, the Germans attempted, in vein, to recapture Arras.

Within the walls of the cemetery, all men are equal. The memorials were created in this spirit, with soldiers and officers lying side by side. The Cross of Sacrifice symbolises the faith of the majority (Christian) whole the Steele Memorial was built in honour of the men of other faiths and atheists.

Used from March 1916 by the British forces, the cemetery was enlarged after the Armistice by the graves repatriated from the battlefield and two small cemeteries nearby. It is the site of 2,651 burial places of Commonwealth soldiers who fought in World War I. A further 30 graves hold men of other nationalities, mainly German. Seven graves date back to the Second World War, when Arras served as the headquarters of British troops until the town was evacuated on 23 May 1940. In German hands at the time, it was taken back by the Allies on 1 September 1944.

For those with no known grave

The cemetery features a memorial that pays tribute to the more than 35,000 missing soldiers whose bodies were never found. These men fought in terrible conditions, against the deadliest weapons of war the world had ever known. Sent from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand, they fell in the Arras region between spring 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the March to Victory. The Canadian and Australian soldiers killed during this period are commemorated by the memorials in Vimy and Villers-Bretonneux. A specific memorial honours the men who fell during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.

The Flying Services Memorial bears the names of around 1,000 men from the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force (following the merger of the RNAS and the RFC in April 1918) who were shot down on the Western Front and have no known graves. For the pilots involved in the Battle of Arras, April 1917 was dubbed Bloody April and life expectancy fell to three weeks at 5.30 p.m. Fiercely efficient, the German airforce decimated the RFC forces by a third in just one month.

La Ville-au-Bois British Cemetary (France)

This cemetery is situated at La Musette on the road to Berry-au-Bac and contains 564 graves.

This cemetery is located beside the N44 towards Berry-au-Bac at La Musette. Of the 564 bodies in the cemetery (563 British and 1 from New Zealand, and additionally a British pilot and a French soldier from the Second World War), 413 have not been identified. The cemetery was constructed after the Armistice by bringing together the graves, isolated or in small cemeteries, of soldiers killed in 1918.

The village of La Ville-au-Bois was captured in April 1917 by French troops during the bloody Chemin des Dames offensive. The sector was held by the British 50th Division on 27 May 1918 when the Germans launched their third spring offensive, which brought them to Château-Thierry. During the battle, the 2nd Devons and the 5th battery of the 45th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery were wiped out and received the Military Cross for their sacrifices.

Le Quesnoy (France)

The fortifications of Le Quesnoy.

A castle was built here by the count of Hainaut in the 12th century. The entrance door and the sandstone cellars remain. The first strongholds, built by order of Charles Quint, date from 1528. After the city was taken by Turenne in 1657, Vauban began to modernise it in 1668. He created four pools with which to flood the ditches and remodelled the southern flank. The Saint-Martin and Gard strongholds are representative of Vauban's first system. In the 18th century, a large hornwork structure was erected to the east of Porte Fauroeulx.

In 1881, the fort was further strengthened.

The well-preserved enclosure has the shape of an irregular octagon. It is defended by eight bastions and has been fully restored. There are two walking circuits open to the public:

  • The ramparts: hiking card available from the Conseil Général du Nord.
  • Discovery of the trees on the ramparts of Le Quesnoy: Circuit designed by the Parc Naturel Régional de L'Avesnois.

As you walk around the fortifications, stopping to read the educational panels, you can admire the eight bastions and seventeen outwork constructions in the ditches. Worthy of mention are the 18th century gunpowder store, the medieval tower of Count Baudouin, the Porte Fauroeulx, the Fauroeulx hornwork from the 18th century and five bastions: royal, imperial, green, Gard and Saint-Martin. Outside, the Pont-Rouge pool which was used to fill the ditches is now a watersport site.

Every year during the Heritage Days, a military encampment of the revolutionary armies, animates the fortified site for two days, with over 400 participants. An association called "Le Cercle Historique Quercitain" is researching the past of Le Quesnoy and its two cantons. It has premises in the Cernay centre, or the Château Marguerite de Bourgogne, where it welcomes groups to look around two exhibition rooms covering the history of the fortification. Since 1987, the fortified cities have had a regional day on the last Sunday of April, and some citadels, which are now military barracks, regularly open their doors to the public. Lastly, the route of fortified cities, launched in 1993, gives the public the chance to discover these cities, armed with a map and explanation cards available from the Association des villes fortifiées and in the tourist offices of Ambleteuse, Arras, Avesnes-sur-Helpe, Bergues, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, Cambrai, Condé-sur-Escaut, Gravelines, Le Quesnoy, Lille, Maubeuge, Montreuil-sur-Mer and Saint-Omer.

This war memorial commemorates the victory of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, which liberated Le Quesnoy on 4 November 1918 from the German garrison which had occupied the town for four years. The New Zealanders climbed the fortifications with ladders, just like in the Middle Ages.

In 1999, Le Quesnoy opened the "Centre de documentation relatif à la libération de la ville en 1918", a documentation centre concerning the town's liberation in 1918. Le Quesnoy has become the main site for World War 1 commemorations for New Zealand in France, with a ceremony organised by the ambassador of New Zealand in Paris, the local authorities and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. During these ceremonies, a parade including the mayor and local authorities, war veterans, visitors and people from the region crosses the town up to the ramparts and the New Zealand war memorial of 1923 to lay a wreath. The procession then moves towards the French war memorial to lay another wreath. The ceremony ends at the town hall, where a tribal sculpture "teko teko maori" perpetuates the memory.

New Zealand is still officially represented at Le Quesnoy during commemorations for the Armistice, on 11 November. New Zealand parliament officials and other groups, such as the New Zealand rugby team, have been to this town several times. Le Quesnoy and Cambridge in New Zealand were twinned in 1999.


Longueval (France)

The South African National Memorial (Mémorial national sud-africain) and Museum in Longueval pay tribute to the South African soldiers who underwent their baptism of fire in Delville Wood...

Seizing Delville Wood (also known as Devil Wood) - a battlefield, memorial, museum and cemetery - was a sine-qua-non for troops to move eastward. That was what the South African troops were asked to do. They met their baptism of fire on that western front from 15 to 20 July 1916. The nightmare began when they were cut off from the rearguard and came under fierce artillery fire - as many as 400 shots a minute - with only makeshift shelters for cover. When the time came to relieve them, only 143 of the brigade's 3,200 men emerged from the trenches unscathed. Longueval is also home to New Zealand's memorial. It was on 15 September 1916 that New Zealand's tank-backed division set out from its bases (between Longueval and Fourcaux Wood - or High Wood) towards its objective, Flers, which it reached later that same day. The 47th London division captured High Wood on 15 September.

The South African National Memorial (Mémorial national sud-africain)

Delville Wood, where the South African Infantry Brigade fought in July 1916, spans 63 hectares. The South African Government bought it in 1920 to build its National Memorial. The monument was inaugurated in 1926. It stands at the end of an avenue lined by oak trees grown from South African acorns. The memorial, which consists of a cenotaph (empty tomb) and a triumphal arch, was designed by Herbert Baker. The two typically colonial houses, in Baker's words, symbolise South Africa's two white races, and the semi-circular wall represents the bulwark of civilisation. Alfred Turner sculpted the bronze piece surmounting the arch, depicting Kastor and Polydeuces (the Dioscuri in Greek mythology) holding a spirited horse. Kastor and Polydeuces were the sons of Leda and Zeus. The first was mortal, the second immortal. Their relationship was such, however, that, when Kastor died, Polydeuces persuaded Zeus to unite them in eternity. The underlying message is that two completely different people can share the same destiny. This, the sculptor says, mirrors the camaraderie between South Africa's English and Dutch brothers in arms. British and Boer South Africans had been at war with each other only a few years before, but lay down their lives for the British Commonwealth fighting against a common enemy. This monument was inaugurated on 10 October 1926 by the widow of Louis Botha, the president who unified the country after the 1899-1902 Boer War between Dutch and British settlers in South Africa.

The South African National Museum (Musée national sud-africain)
The Museum was built behind the monument and around the Cross of Consecration, and inaugurated in 1986. It is a replica of Cape Fort and commemorates South Africa's contribution to WWI (on Europe's western front and in Germany's African colonies), WWII, the Berlin Blockade (1948-1949) and the Korean War (1950-1953).

Notre-Dame-de-Laurette International Memorial (France)

Produced by the Nord-Pas de Calais Region, in partnership with the Ministry of Defence - Inaugurated on Tuesday, 11 November 2014.

With nearly 580,000 soldiers dead on their soil and over 300 villages and towns flattened, the Nord and Pas-de-Calais departments were among the regions that suffered the worst destruction during the Great War. Arras, like Reims and Verdun, was declared a martyred city.

At the end of World War I, the Nord-Pas de Calais region was one of the areas that had suffered the worst destruction. Reporters at the time called it “l’Enfer du Nord” (the Hell of the North).

On 11 November 2014, the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette International Memorial near Arras was inaugurated as part of the centennial commemorations of the Great War. The Memorial, built on the plateau to the south-east of the National Cemetery – the largest French military cemetery – was designed by architect Philippe Prost: a ring with a 345-m perimeter on which the names of 580,000 soldiers of all nationalities who were killed in French Flanders and in Artois between 1914 and 1918 are inscribed in alphabetical order, with no distinction of nationality, rank or religion.

The Nord-Pas de Calais Region, bordering on Belgium, was one of the major theatres on the Western Front during World War I. First, terrible battles between the French and Germans took place (1914-1915), then, starting in the spring of 1915, between the troops of the German Empire and those of the British Empire, with men from the United Kingdom (English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish) as well as from the Crown’s distant possessions – Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and India. Men came from around the world to fight on the soil of Flanders and Artois, and a great number of them perished.

An original initiative put forward by the Nord-Pas de Calais Region with support from the Ministry of Defence

Under an agreement signed with the French State (Ministry of Defence) in 2011, the Nord-Pas de Calais Regional Council undertook a major programme for the Centennial of the Great War: the creation of an international memorial in homage to the soldiers of all nationalities who lost their lives here between 1914 and 1918. This initiative is unique in that it embodies a new dimension in the remembrance effort. It goes beyond the winners-losers approach, in which each side honoured its own dead. It evokes the suffering shared by all soldiers, that mass slaughter characteristic of all wars in the industrial era and which, between 1914 and 1918, decimated an entire generation of men and sent millions of families into mourning. The Notre-Dame-de-Lorette International Memorial will also emphasise the peace that, for the first time, has reigned over the European continent for a sustained period of time.

The Memorial built on the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette site is exceptional in many ways:

  • An unprecedented approach bringing together the men who fought each other in a terrible conflict in a single remembrance and a single homage. The list of 580,000 soldiers’ names will be engraved in alphabetical order, with no distinction of nationality, rank or religion. It will be a powerful gesture of dignity and respect,
  • A real monument, with great aesthetic and symbolic power, at a time when immaterial forms of commemoration are increasingly used with computer databases,
  • A major site for visits and encounters along the “Chemins de Mémoire” of the Great War, accessible to all men and women today who are lucky enough to live in peace.

The Memorial will be located on 2.2 hectares (5.5 acres) of land granted by the French State to the Nord–Pas-de-Calais Regional Council for a symbolic price. Including the Memorial in a “sacred perimeter”, that of the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette National Cemetery (a classified site under the law of 1930) meant major aesthetic and architectural constraints during the competition to designate the principal contractor for the operation: respect for the French National Cemetery located nearby, the need to maintain the view of the majestic landscape over the Artois plateau, an obligation for a powerful structure in a programme that is universal in scope.

At the end of the competition, which brought together five French and foreign teams, the project presented by the Parisian architect Philippe Prost won. It is a remarkable work, both sober and impressive, respectful and powerful, perfectly meeting the requirements laid down by the contracting authority. A large ellipse is set on the edge of the plateau; one-third of its circumference in an overhang to indicate the fragility of peace. Visitors enter the structure by a trench giving access to a footbridge, along which are placed the plaques with the names, laid out like the pages of a book. The structure, in fibre-reinforced concrete, is held by a taut cable. The ring, a simple but powerful figure, symbolises a circle, symbolising unity and eternity.

Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, a major site from the Great War

In 1914 and 1915, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette hill, located about ten kilometres north-west of Arras, was the theatre of bloody fighting between the French and German armies. On 16 January 1924, a decree issued by the President of the French Republic ordered the creation of a national cemetery on the summit of the “bloody plateau” of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. Covering 27 hectares, it is the last resting place of 40,000 French soldiers killed in Flanders and Artois during the Great War. The cemetery was built from a small temporary cemetery laid out in 1915 near the ruins of an 18th century chapel that was destroyed during the fighting. Bodies from 150 temporary cemeteries between the Somme and the North Sea were brought together here in the 1920s. 19,998 unidentified bodies were placed in seven ossuaries; the remains of 20,000 identified men were placed in individual graves; a special section was set up for Muslim and Jewish soldiers. A 52-metre lantern tower with a lighthouse on its summit was built in the centre of the cemetery, along with a basilica in the Neo-Byzantine style.

For several years, the site of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette has undergone a rehabilitation programme carried out jointly by the French State and local authorities (Pas-de-Calais Department and the Lens-Liévin Urban Area Community) in preparation for the Centennial. It lies at the heart of a remarkable group of remembrance sites all along the north-west front. Indeed, three major sites can be found within a radius of 10 km – the Canadian National Vimy Memorial at Vimy Ridge, no doubt one of the most beautiful monuments constructed in the inter-war period and which receives over 500,000 visitors each year, La Maison-Blanche German War Cemetery in Neuville-Saint-Vaast, the largest German cemetery in France and, lastly, the Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery in Souchez, one of the loveliest of the hundreds that are admirably maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Notre-Dame-de-Lorette International Memorial is financed by the French State (Ministry for Veterans Affairs), the Nord Departmental Council, the Regional Council and the Lens-Liévin Urban Area Community. It was built on land granted to the Nord-Pas de Calais Region by the Ministry of Defence.

Pozières (France)

The village of Pozières was the theatre of operations for the first large-scale engagement launched by the Australian troops.

The village of Pozières was the site of the first large-scale operation led by the Australian troops (memorials to the 1st and 2nd Australian divisions). The remains of a bunker named the "Gibraltar" can still be seen today. Pozières is also where you can see the monument to tanks decorated with four small tank models.

This village was the obstacle to be overcome to reach first Mouquet Farm and then Thiepval Hill.

This obstacle was largely entrusted to the troops from Australia the majority of which had just returned from Gallipoli. The village was situated on a ridge traversed by a double network of trenches forming the second German line and flanked by two bunkers/observatories overlooking the entire battlefield (Albert side, "Gibraltar" – Bapaume side, "the Windmill").

After arriving on 23 July 1916 and seizing Pozières, the Australian troops, exhausted by constant artillery counter-attacks, were relieved on 5 September by the Canadians at Mouquet Farm. Three of their divisions had passed through the sector of Pozières and suffered losses of more than one-third of the soldiers engaged. The village was completely razed. The name Pozières has such a reputation in the Australian memory that it was bestowed, after the war, on a small village in Queensland (Australia). On 15 September 1916, tanks made their first appearance on a battlefield. Of the 32 British Mark I tanks deployed on the Courcelette-Longueval line, only nine made their targets. Nevertheless, this date marked the start of a more balanced British advancement.

The Battle of Pozières is one of the many Battles of the Somme, an important part of the allied strategy of coordinated attacks: Russia launched the Brusilov Offensive on 4 June and the Italians attacked in Trentini. During the course of 1916, the Front line was situated between the Ancre Valley in Thiepval and Pozières. The British launched the offensive on 1 July 1916; opposite, the German army, forging solidly ahead on the village of Pozières and its windmill, resisted: 60,000 men killed or wounded on the first day of fighting. The Australian forces (1st Division, 22nd Division, 4th Division) took over and succeeded in seizing the position on 23 July. Replaced in September, the Australians lost some 23,000 men.


Villers-Bretonneux (France)

In Villers-Bretonneux: the National Australian Memorial, the Franco-Australian Museum and the Adelaide Cemetery are a testament to the links that bind Australia and France.

While Villers-Bretonneux was the scene of fighting in August 1914 and the incessant movements of French and British troops during the course of the next four years, the name of this large town entered history with the war of 24 April 1918, when the Australian forces brought a definitive end to the German Spring Offensive.

Since the Victoria School was built in 1927 and the memorial inaugurated in 1938, the official and private ties between France and Australia have continued to be forged. The twinning with Robinvale and the exhumation of the unknown Australian soldier in 1993 consolidated this special relationship. The history, the annual arrival of the ambassador for the commemoration of Anzac Day and the visits made by countless Australians all year round have given this town in Australia an aura it is difficult to imagine in France.

Australian Memorial RD 23, direction of Fouilloy/Corbie.

This imposing memorial of white stone, standing beyond the cemetery, comprises a tall central tower connected to two simple walls inscribed with the names of the soldiers without a grave. It was inaugurated in 1938 and each year Anzac Day is celebrated there.

Military Area of Uranie Cemetery - Papeete (French Polynesia)

Two ANZACS, an Australian and a New Zealand, are buried in the cemetery of the Uranie in Papeete. They are honored every year, April 25, by the civil and military authorities of French Polynesia and the Consul of Australia.

  • The Sergeant Roy John LESLIE, New Zealand, survived Gallipoli fighting, then was sent to France where he was wounded. On his way back to the New Zealand, he died on board the Maheno in Polynesian waters, on 5 September, 1917.
  • The soldier Robert William FUHRSTROM, Australian, fought in France where he caught pneumonia destranchee. After several stays in hospitals in Scotland, he was returned to Australia. He died aboard the Marathon, in Papeete, may 29, 1918.
The Governor of Tahiti offered to bury them in Papeete by promising that the graves would be maintained by the Tahitians.

War Cemetery in Bourail (New Caledonia)

Location Information

Bourail is on the western coast of the island of New Caledonia, which lies approximately 1600 kilometres north of New Zealand.

Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery lies about 9 kilometres south-east of Bourail, on the main road north and east of the Nera River, which flows into Bourail Bay.

It was constructed by the New Zealand authorities for the burial of members of the New Zealand and other Forces who died in this area during the 1939-1945 War, and the remains of about 200 casualties were concentrated into the cemetery from 14 other islands in the South Pacific area, including Guadalcanal, Vella Lavella, Mono, Bougainville and other islands in the Solomons Group, as well as from other burial places in New Caledonia.

The entrance to the cemetery is on the south-western side and leads, through a terrace adjoining the Records building, to the wide central avenue which curves between two double rows of graves to the Cross of Sacrifice erected on a raised circular platform at the northern end.

Behind the Cross of Sacrifice stands the Bourail Memorial, commemorating over 200 members of the New Zealand Land and Air Forces and Merchant Navy and 169 members of the Western Pacific Local Forces who died during operations in the South Pacific area and who have no known grave.

Historical Information

The island of New Caledonia was annexed by France in 1854. In 1942 the Allies used the island as a training ground for jungle and island warfare, and it was here that New Zealand forces prepared for the Solomon Islands campaign. The Headquarters of the South Pacific Command was established at Noumea, the capital, which became the principal United States base for the campaign and the largest forward Allied military and supply base in the South Pacific. No.4 General Hospital was set up in Dumbea Valley, nearly 25 kilometres from Noumea.

Bourail, on the west coast of the island, was the Headquarters of the 3rd New Zealand Division, which began to arrive in New Caledonia towards the end of 1942. Brigade Headquarters and staging camps were disposed along the main arterial road on the western side of the island, where the principal defences were concentrated and where airfields were built to link the island with the battle zone and the bases in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and other places in the Pacific.

There are 246 Commonwealth burials of the 1939-1945 war in this cemetery, of which 4 are unidentified.

SourceCommonwealth War Graves Commission