The Battle of Arras Centennial Commemorations 2017 by Jesse MacLeod

MIKAN 3403832I have written before about the story of my great-grandfather and my experiences visiting the battlefields he fought and ultimately died on. In April, during my annual pilgrimage to Arras, I found out about a project organized by the Carriere Wellington and the City of Arras to mark the centennial commemorations for the Battle of Arras in 2017. The Carriere Wellington is part of the interconnected system of chalk quarries underneath Arras which were utilized by the British during the First World War, and is open to the public through guided tours which are well worth the price of admission.

The organizers are looking for descendants of soldiers who fought at Arras to send them photographs, documents, and stories to be used for making displays around town as well as exhibits at the small museum attached to the Carriere Wellington. As soon as I arrived back in Canada I got in touch with them to see if my great-grandfather’s story could be included. They were delighted to hear from me, and added him to their database. In addition to the collection of files and stories, descendants such as myself are invited to attend a dawn ceremony on April 9th, 2017 at the Arras Memorial.

MIKAN 3366239Aside from my own personal interest in the lovely town of Arras, and the battles which took place around it from 1914-1918, I feel that this is a very worthwhile project that deserves attention. Descendants of soldiers who served at Arras at any time are welcome, which opens the door for more Canadian participation. In addition to the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which was the northern extension of the 1917 Battle of Arras, the Canadian Corps broke through the German lines at Arras in 1918 during the 100 Days Campaign. The Arras sector was the main area of operations for the Canadians by that time of the war, in the same way that the ANZAC’s operated primarily around the city of Amiens in the Somme sector of the Western Front. For one reason or another, Arras often receives little attention in comparison to more iconic towns such as Ypres or Verdun, so the more people who get involved with this project the better.

So if you have any connections to the men who served at Vimy and Arras, I implore you to get in touch with the primary contact for this centennial project, [email protected] And if it is possible for you to do so, take a trip in April 2017 to Arras for the ceremony. It could turn out to be a profound experience which will add significant meaning to your life, as it has for me.

Photos courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3403832 and MIKAN 3366239

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  1. Ted Lewall -  September 26, 2016 - 4:07 am 29555

    My name is Ted Lewall, son of Bernard Cecil Lewall, who was severely wounded SE of Arras (near Cherisy) on 14 April, 1917. At the time he was serving with Queen’s Westminster Rifles, 1st Battalion. He was a 2nd Lieutenant, Platoon #9, “C” Company. He is mentioned twice in “The War History of the 1st Battalion Queen’s Westminster Rifles 1914-1918” by Maj J.Q. Henriques – comments about his bravery were made in these accounts.
    He had joined the BC Horse in Kamloops in Sept 1914, then after the re-organization at Valcartier, was sent to Britain with the Lord Strathcona Horse. Training took place on Salisbury Plains, stationed in Pewsey. About June, 1916 he was sent to Oxford to attend the 6th Officer Cadet Battalion for training (billeted at Exeter College, then at Magdalen College). Then assigned to the Queen’s Westminster Rifles as a 2nd Lieutenant.
    Invalided out of the army 19 Dec., 1918 (see “The LondonGazette” dated 17th Dec., 1918, page 14886) “on account of ill-health caused by wounds….”
    Last summer I went to Arras to see the area that had been so important to him as a young man (he was born in late 1894, making him 23 when he was wounded.) He talked very sparingly about his war experiences. Fortunately, he did accede to my request that he write about his life, so I have three accounts that I found in his effects after he died. He was in his his 99th year when he died on 10 April, 1994. He lived with my family for the last 10 years of his life, and his mental facilities never failed him.
    Amazingly, he never mentioned the name “Arras” to me, even though we travelled through the cross-roads location known as Arras, B.C. What memories those occasions must have engendered! Terrible memories, I would think.
    Yes Carriere Wellington is a very impressive place to visit. I have been in touch with Isabelle Pilatowski at the email that you mention. I plan on an April, 2017 trip!

  2. Derek Mills -  October 3, 2016 - 4:49 pm 29578

    My Grandfather was a private in the Royal West Kent Regiment and was killed on 10th April 1917 at Arras.
    He is buried in the Bois Carre cemetery at Thelus near Vimy Ridge. He is one of few British soldiers in the cemetery with the majority being Canadian. I am very keen to attend a 2017 commemoration should there be one. Do you have information about one or can you suggest where I may find more information?
    Derek Mills, Grandson of Frank Mills.

  3. Dean Lewis -  November 16, 2016 - 5:04 pm 29767

    My Great Uncle was Pte 34182 E E Hoddinott 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry. He was killed in action on 9th April 1917 at the battle of Arras. He is commemorated at the WW1 memorial in Grove Park, Weston Super Mare, Somerset, England. He is buried in the cemetery at Rue Voie Herbeuse, Fampoux and is recorded in the Golden Book of Remembrance in Wells Cathedral. I have accommodation booked for the weekend of the centennial commemorations 2017 and would like to attend the dawn ceremony, and meet other relations of the fallen, regards, Dean Lewis.

    • Ted Lewall -  November 23, 2016 - 3:07 am 29797

      Please send me details of Battle of Arras commemorations planned. I have been unable to find these, so would really appreciate website address or details.
      My father was severly injured on 14 April, 1917 south of Arras. He was serving with the Queens’ Westminster Rifles as a 2nd Lieut.
      I plan on attending, and hope that some of my relatives will be with me. Maybe our paths will cross!!
      Any help you can offer me would be greatly appreciated!
      Ted Lewall

  4. Tim Huggins -  February 2, 2017 - 9:00 am 30207

    My great grandfather, Huggins B.R., G/53202, was serving with the Royal Fusiliers when he was killed on 16th April 1917 during the easter offensive of the Battle of Arras. He was 38 years old and left a wife and four young children behind.
    He is buried at Heninel-Croisilles Road Cemetery, to the south east of Arras.
    I plan to visit the grave this year on the 16th April, Easter Sunday, and would have wished to join the ceremony on the 9th April but cannot. I will certainly contact Carriere Wellington using the email address you have supplied. Thanks for that.
    Tim Huggins

  5. James Brown -  February 19, 2017 - 12:44 pm 30367

    My great uncle Alexander Pollock 147 died at the Battle of Arras on the 11th April 1917 aged 24 serving with the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders

    He is buried at Brown’s Copse Cemetery which my wife and I visited in 2012 being the first members of Alexanders family to do so.

    We will be attending the 100th Anniversary on 9th April 2017 to pay our respects to all the fallen.

    James Brown

  6. Gillian Davies -  February 27, 2017 - 10:33 am 30431

    My brother and I with our families will also be visiting that cemetery the same day, as our grandfather W S Malpas was killed on 16.4.1917 while serving with the Royal Fusiliers. Please say if you have any details of an organised event/ceremony on that day. Thank you


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