The Association Battlefields trip was once again a huge success! Over forty Association Members joined Andy Thompson of Eyewitness Tours on a fascinating trip to Vimy Ridge on 21/22 April. Our first stop was at the French memorial where we wondered at the beautiful chapel of remembrance and the amazing mosaics. A small museum adjacent to the site housed three dimensional photographs from the trenches, uniforms and memorabilia from the forces that served there. Outside, some volunteers were working on restoring a section of the original trenches which was fascinating to observe.
The highlight had to be the 240 acre Canadian Memorial Park. On arrival the Canadian pine trees, each representing one of the 11,285 missing Canadian Soldiers, make an impressive backdrop to the site. After visiting the preserved trenches and underground tunnels we spent time at the monument designed by Walter Seymour Allward, dedicated to the memory of the 66,000 Canadian Forces killed during the First World War. There are 20 human figures carved into the impressive white limestone with the focal point being Canada Bereft, a cloaked young female overlooking the Douai Plains with a sarcophagus of an unknown soldier beneath her at battlefield level.
We stayed in Arras overnight and enjoyed a very spirited dinner in an underground cellar. On Sunday we visited the British Cemetery designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens with sculptures by Sir William Reid Dick and said prayers for the men who had an association with St Catherine's and the ancestor of one of our group. Our next stop was at the Wellington quarries some 20 metres underground where we marvelled at how literally thousands of men were billeted there before breaking through to face the Germans in one of the key battles of the First World War.
The final stop of the tour was to the Neuville-St Vaast German War Cemetery, here 44,833 German casualties of the First World War are buried four to a grave marked by a field of black crosses. Today, the German War Graves Commission administers the Cemetery which was established by the French in 1919.
Thank you to Andy, yet again, for a very illuminating visit and we all returned with much food for thought.