The Battle of Arras Centennial Commemorations 2017 by Jesse MacLeod

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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.


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