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Flanders Fields :

Arras and Vimy Ridge

Arras is the capital of the county of Artois. In 1917 it occupied a strategically important position at the point of a broad salient in the Allied trench-line north of the Somme.  Locals still talk of the ‘martyrdom’ of  the city: it was besieged and bombarded at close quarters for almost three years. Many of its fine old buildings - including the 16th century Hotel de Ville - were destroyed or badly damaged. The two adjoining civic squares, Grande Place and Petite Place, with their uniformly arcaded shop-fronts, were left in ruins. Restored after the war, they remain the heart of one of the most striking town centres in Europe.

Vimy trenchOn 9 April 1917 British and Commonwealth troops mounted a successful assault on the German position east of the city. Intended as a diversionary attack in preparation for a French offensive in Champagne, it was a major undertaking in its own right. The northern flank of the main thrust was protected by the Canadian Corps, which captured the commanding heights of Vimy Ridge in one of the most audacious operations of the war.

Somewhere in France will take you to Arras. We’ll explore the city‘s famous Boves - ancient underground cellars and passages, where troops sheltered in the days and nights before the attack. We’ll visit the Arras Memorial at Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, as well as some of the smaller burial grounds in the area. And we’ll climb to the summit of Hill 145 on Vimy Ridge itself, where the twin pylons of the massive Canadian Memorial seem to puncture the sky. The memorial stands in a 250-acre park, gifted to the Commonwealth of Canada by the people of France. The park incorporates a substantial area of trenches and craters, preserved in their original positions, on both sides of no man’s land. You will peer through a ninety-year-old sniper shield, deep into enemy lines.

Finally, you’ll descend (once more) underground - this time into Grange Tunnel, part of an elaborate system of infantry subways, dug as a covert extension to the surface trench network during preparations for the attack.

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