The Arras Memorial & Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery

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Before we leave the city of Arras, it would be remiss of us not to pay our respects at the Arras Memorial.

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It’s very different to Blomfield’s huge, squat, imposing Menin Gate, or Lutyens’ towering Thiepval Memorial.  Here Lutyens goes for length and lines,…

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…and along with Sir William Reid Dick’s sculpturing, he made a pretty good fist of it.  Depending, of course, on your taste.

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Once upon a time the Cross of Sacrifice was positioned within the cemetery of Faubourg d’Amiens that you can see through the archway.  Now it stands alongside the road outside one of five identical arched entrances,…

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…such as this one at the northern end of the memorial.

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Also, once upon a time, there was a French military cemetery here, the graves long since removed to make way for the memorial.

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On the wall on either side of the southernmost, main, entrance, inscribed tablets in French, on the right, and English, on the left,…

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…remind us of the reason for this memorial’s existence.

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The ever-useful CWGC information boards…

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…are always worth reading…

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…before it’s time, I think,…

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…to go in and have a look around.

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Immediately on entering we encounter the Arras Flying Services Memorial,…

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…and beyond the memorial, Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, which one should remember, was here before the memorial was built, and which we shall of course visit later.

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Behind the pillars…

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…nearly 35,000 names are inscribed on nine huge panels.  This is Panel 7.

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It’s worth taking a look at the plan of the Arras Memorial before we go further which, courtesy of the CWGC, you can see here.

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Philip regales us with one of his excellent Great War anecdotes in front of Panel 7,…

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…where one of the names, Second Lieutenant Walter Daniel John Tull, killed on 25 March 1918, might be familiar to you. If not, I suggest you investigate.

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On the left, Panel 8, and just visible on the far right, Panel 9.  The three small panels directly ahead of us are Addenda panels.

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Panel 9 (left) and Panel 10 (right), at the far southern end of the memorial.

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One of us was here for a very special reason.

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To lay a wreath in remembrance of Rifleman Joseph John Cox of the Rifle Brigade, aged 27 when he was killed at Monchy-le-Preux in the early days of the Battle of Arras, on 11th April 1917.

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Rifleman Cox’s body was never recovered and he is remembered here on Panel 9.

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The Arras Flying Services Memorial is inscribed with nearly 1000 names.

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Looking north west across Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery…

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…and then panning clockwise round the southern section of the memorial.

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Note the wreath we laid at the base of Panel 9.

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Stone of Remembrance.

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Duncan chooses a stone…

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…to lay respectfully on the headstone of 22 year old Private S. Meltzer of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, killed on 21st March 1918, in Plot VII.  It’s always a nice thing to do – it shows that someone has visited, someone has bothered, that someone cares.

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The Arras Memorial was unveiled by Lord Trenchard, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, on 31st July 1932.

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The names inscribed on the Flying Services Memorial are all airmen of the R.F.C., the Royal Naval Air Service & the R.A.F., who were killed between 1914 & 1918 at any point along the Western Front, and who have no known grave.

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Panel 6 (above & below).  The men whose names are inscribed on the walls of the memorial were all killed in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7th August 1918, and have no known grave.

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There are British, South African & New Zealand names here, but no Australians or Canadians; their missing are remembered on the memorials at Villers-Bretonneux* and Vimy respectively.

*I may have mentioned this before, but Baldrick and I visited the battlefields, cemeteries & memorials of Villers-Bretonneux last year, and, sooner or later, we will show you around.

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Looking through one of the arched entrances at the Cross of Sacrifice, Panel 5 (see below) on the right.

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Panel 4.

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The Cemetery Register and Visitor’s Book can be found at the far northern end of the memorial.

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A few steps to our left…

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…this view is of Plot I, the largest plot, at the northern end of the cemetery…

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…before we turn round and head back along the length of the memorial, Panel 1 on our left, Panels 2 & 3 being studied by members of our retinue further along the loggia.

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Back at the southern end of the memorial, this panoramic view, taken from in front of the Stone of Remembrance…

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…shows the northern half…

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…and southern half of the cemetery, and it is here we shall begin our look around,…

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…this view looking back at the memorial from between Plot IV (left) & Plot VI (right).  The Cross of Sacrifice, now outside the memorial, was once positioned half way down this wide grass avenue…

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…as you can see on the cemetery plan, again by permission of the CWGC.

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Headstones in Plot VII.  The three graves nearest the camera are all men of the Royal Field Artillery, killed on 28th March 1918.  Major Francis Graham D.S.O. M.C., nearest the camera, was only 23 when he died.  In three and a half years he seems to have been in action in just about every important engagement you can think of, beginning with the Retreat from Mons, the Battles of the Marne and the Aisne, and First Ypres, where he was awarded the D.S.O. for bravery when, as a Second Lieutenant, he took command of a group of men of the South Lancashires whose officers had all been killed or wounded, and, acting in effect as an infantry officer, succeeded in holding a stretch of trenches and beating off German attacks until relief arrived.  He was Mentioned in Despatches in February 1915, and fought at Festubert and Loos later that year.  His M.C. was awarded in November 1916 for conspicuous gallantry in action, and commanding his battery with great skill, on one occasion spending a whole day under very heavy fire in an exposed shell hole that he had established as an observation post.  He saw action in all the major 1917 battles, but he was killed on the first day of the major German offensive against Arras on 28th March 1918 (twenty nine German divisions attacked the Third Army and were repulsed), perhaps with the two drivers who lie alongside him.

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Along the southern boundary wall in the distance,…

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…these special memorial headstones remember three men ‘believed to be buried in this cemetery’.  The two Sherwood Foresters died, perhaps together, on 26th November 1916, while the headstone in the centre remembers Colonel Thomas Jonathan Jackson Christian Jr., United States Army Air Force, who was killed in the French skies on 12th August 1944 (there are also eight British Second World War casualties buried in this cemetery, one unidentified).

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Christian was an interesting character, not least because he was the great grandson of Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, and if you don’t know who he was, it’s time you did!  But not here.  Google him.  His great grandson was born in 1915, graduating from West Point in 1939 and, following a brief spell in the artillery, joining the Army Air Corps, serving in the Philippines prior to the entry of the United States into the war, then at Bataan and later Australia ferrying Curtiss P-40s, before being shot down and posted as missing in action somewhere off the Timor coast.  In actual fact he was living with the local native people and eventually was able to return to his base.  He saw action in the skies over Guadalcanal, was awarded the Silver Star for bravery, and on his return to America, helped form the 361st Fighter Group (the Yellowjackets).  In November 1943 he and his unit were posted to England, where he would fly more than seventy combat missions, be awarded the the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart, and be promoted to colonel at the age of just 28.  He was killed in action in his P-51D Mustang on 12th August 1944 while on a dive bombing mission on the marshalling yards at the station of Boisleux-au-Mont, a few miles south of Arras.

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Both images and text below courtesy of the American Air Museum in Britain.

[“The Bottisham Four”, four USAAF North American P-51 Mustang fighters from the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, from RAF Bottisham, Cambridgeshire (UK), in flight on 26 July 1944. The nearest aircraft is P-51D-5-NA s/n 44-13410 (“Lou IV” on the left side, the 4th aircraft named after his daughter, “Athelene” on the right side, probably the crew chief’s lady friend or wife), flown by the 361st C/O Col. Thomas J.J. Christian Jr., who was killed in this plane while dive-bombing the Arras marshalling yards on 12 August 1944. The 2nd aircraft is P-51D-5-NA s/n 44-13926, already equipped with the fin-fillet, was flown by Lt Urban L “Ben” Drew. This aircraft crashed during a training flight near Stalham, Norfolk, on 9 August 1944, the pilot, 2Lt. Donald D. Dellinger, was killed. The 3rd aircraft is P-51D-5-NA s/n 44-13568 (“Sky Bouncer” later “Alice Marie”) flown by Capt Bruce W. “Red” Rowlett, 375th FS operations officer. This aircraft suffered an engine failure on take-off and crashed on 3 April 1945. The furthest P-51 is P-51B-15-NA s/n 42-106811 flown by Capt Francis T Glankler (named “Suzy-G”, after his wife), 375th FS “D” Flight commander. This plane was written off after a crash landing at Bottisham following a combat mission on 11 September 1944.]

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Plot VI, still at the southern end of the cemetery.  Note the Canadian graves in the rows behind.  There are 153 identified Canadian burials here, the vast majority killed in the fighting in the spring or autumn of 1918.

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Even trainee interpreters lost their lives for their country.

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View from the southern corner of the cemetery.

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The grave of Major Norman Brownlee Sinclair-Travis, Royal Garrison Artillery, killed in action on 26th March 1918.

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He was clearly a popular man.  The inscription at the bottom of the headstone, although partly obscured here, actually reads, ‘In Loving Memory of our O.C. and Pal’.

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And behind his headstone, an older cross still remains, almost certainly, I suspect, made by a local stonemason and paid for and placed on his grave by his men soon after his death.

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Above & below: More Canadian graves.

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Note the doubly decorated R.F.A. driver on the far right of the front row.

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Looking north west from the centre of Plot IV.

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For some reason there’s a single Newfoundland Regiment burial in this cemetery, twenty one year old Private Robert Pope, who died on 21st April 1917 and is buried in Plot IV, his grave visible three rows from the front, two headstones from the left, in the picture above.

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Looking north east from the same spot, Plot V on our right.

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View from Plot IV looking towards Plot V and the memorial beyond.

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Lieutenant Colonel Alfred John Sansom, 5th Bn. Royal Sussex Regiment (actually O.C. 7th Bn. at the time of his death) and his adjutant, Captain Gilbert Nagle, were killed on 5th July 1917 when a shell landed on the steps of the captured German dugout on which they were standing; we will never know whether Sansom, aged 50, was aware that a letter from the War Office had arrived informing him that he was being sent home to England.  Nagle had won his M.C. in early March 1916 for showing conspicuous courage, despite being wounded, in commanding his men and repulsing German counterattacks on newly captured trenches at the Hohenzollern Redoubt.

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An unusual rank, Conductor.  The senior Warrant Officer appointment in the British Army by Royal Warrant of 11th January 1879, ‘their position will be inferior to that of all commissioned officers and superior to that of all non-commissioned officers.’

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The Lovat Scouts (originally Lovat’s Scouts Imperial Yeomanry), in case you were unaware, were a Scottish Highland regiment formed during the Second Boer War, seeing action on Gallipoli, in Egypt & Macedonia, and on the Western Front during the Great War.

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The British began to use the already established French cemetery here when they took over this sector of the line in March 1916, and continued to use it until the end of the war.  It’s worth mentioning at this point that, unlike the cemeteries we have recently visited on the Somme, the Germans failed to break through the British lines on the Arras front in the spring of 1918, the front line remaining far more static here than elsewhere, and, as they never fell into German hands, many of the cemeteries in the area continued to be used until the final months of the war.

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After the war more graves were brought here from the surrounding battlefields and from a couple of other smaller nearby cemeteries.  2650 men now lie here, of which only ten are unidentified.

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German graves, all but one identified, near the western boundary wall.  There are twenty two German burials in the cemetery.  Beyond these German burials there’s a small Indian plot where nine men are buried in three rows (see below).

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First, three Hindu graves, all three men who died in the early months of 1919.  The dreaded flu, perhaps?

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Then five Muslim graves, four of whom died in the weeks immediately following the Armistice, and one, the cavalryman on the right, in August 1916.

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And finally another cavalryman, this time a Sikh, also killed in August 1916.

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Elsewhere, one wonders what his story was?

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View of the memorial from Plot I.

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Plot I from the steps of the memorial.  Note the single German headstone in the front row.

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Time to leave.

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In fact, time to leave Arras,…

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…although we shall be stopping at a cemetery just a little to the north of the city as we head back towards Flanders.

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A few hundred yards down the road from the memorial, but unfortunately too far away for  visit on this occasion, you can see the walls of Vauban’s Citadel, built between 1667 & 1672 to defend the city (although never actually serving its purpose, hence its local sobriquet of La Belle Inutile – The Beautiful Useless One).  The citadel was used for executions by the occupying Germans during World War II, and today plaques on what became known as Le Mur des Fusillés (the Wall of the Executed) remember 218 members of the French Resistance who were shot here between 1941 & 1944.

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2 Responses to The Arras Memorial & Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery

  1. Chris from Belgium says:

    I looked up “Second Lieutenant Walter Daniel John Tull” and indeed, a very interesting read!
    The whole story of the Arras Memorial gives me goosebumps….
    Those staggering numbers, we cannot imagine how many persons they actually mean!

    • Magicfingers says:

      It was a ‘treat’, if that’s the right word, to get the opportunity to visit, particularly as I hadn’t read the itinerary correctly and didn’t realise that we were going there!! It was also an honour to be asked to take some of the wreath laying pictures and to see Walter Tull’s name on Panel 7. While we are talking, you and I, I know it was very presumptive of me, but could you please check the Arras War Memorial post as there’s a translation I was hoping you might help me with. T’would be much appreciated.

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