While, like any battlefield, it is impossible to 'do' an area in one day, this print off and use guide is designed to stimulate a bit of interest in the Arras area and enable you to get a flavour of the Arras battlefield. Once you have completed the route there are many other cemeteries and battlefield sites to see, some of which will be covered in greater depth on the Old Front Line in due course. The 'Battleground Europe' series also offers additional information and tour routes, including my Walking Arras, which came out in 2007. More information on that book here.

The tour presumes you will start and finish in Arras. There are plenty of places to stay here, but equally the area is only a short distance from the Somme or Ypres, and could be attempted as a day trip form those locations. You can either take your lunch with you, or there is an option to return to the centre of Arras and have lunch there.

Any questions on visiting this area, contact me via email.

Paul Reed

Email Paul Reed



The Battle of Arras began in a snowstorm on 9th April 1917, when Australian, British, and Canadian Divisions fought on a front from Vimy Ridge in the north (Canadian sector), to the trenches east of Arras (British sector), to Bullecourt in the south (Australian sector). It was hoped that the much-awaited breakthrough might be made here, and as always the Cavalry were kept on hand – and indeed used on one occasion. However, the key purpose of the offensive was to tie down the German army in a joint effort with the French, who were simultaneously attacking on the Chemin des Dames. This latter offensive was a complete and costly failure – resulting in mutinies among many French divisions.

The Battle of Arras slogged on until mid-May 1917, following a final large-scale attack on 3rd May when casualties were particularly high on the British side. It became the greatest killing battle of the war, with a daily casualty rate even higher than the Somme:





SOMME 1916




ARRAS 1917




3rd YPRES 1917








Battlefield Tour: Arras 1917

Start the tour at the Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery. This is on the main ring-road within Arras and close to the Citadel military barracks.


British forces took over the trenches at Arras in the Spring of 1916, when this cemetery was started. In 1917 there were several medical units located nearby, who also used it as did fighting units returning from the lines outside the city. Burials continued until the end of the war and total:

United Kingdom – 2,395
Canada – 152
South Africa – 60
New Zealand – 26
India – 9
British West Indies Regiment – 6
Newfoundland – 1
Unit not Known – 1
French – 1
Russian – 1
German – 28
Unnamed – 10
Special Memorials – 2

The Arras Memorial, designed by Sir E.Lutyens, commemorates 35,000 British soldiers who fell and have no known grave. The majority of those commemorated here fell during the Battle of Arras in April-May 1917, and during the German Offensive of March 1918. A separate part of the memorial commemorates those from the RFC, RNAS and RAF who were shot down in France and have no known grave: it includes some of the greatest Aces of WW1; Lanoe Hawker and Mick Mannock amongst them.

Victoria Cross winners on the Arras Memorial:





2/Lt E.F.Beal

13th Yorkshire Regt

St Leger

21st/22nd March 1918 (p)

2/Lt B.M.Cassidy

2nd Lancashire Fusiliers


28th March 1918 (p)

Sgt A.Edwards

6th Seaforths

3rd Ypres

31st July 1917

(KIA 24th March 1918)

Sgt J.Erskine

5/6th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)


22nd June 1916

(KIA 14th April 1917)

2/Lt J.Harrison

11th East Yorks Regt

Oppy Wood

3rd May 1917 (p)

Mjr L.G.Hawker



25th July 1915

(KIA 23 November 1916

Capt D.P.Hirsch

1/4th Yorkshire Regt


23rd April 1917 (p)

2/Lt B.A.Horsfall

11th East Lancs Regt


27th March 1918 (p)

Cpl G.Jarrett

8th Royal Fusiliers

Nr. Pelves

3rd May 1917 (p)

Lt R.B.B.Jones

8th Loyal North Lancs

Broadmarsh Crater, Vimy Ridge

21st May 1916 (p)

Mjr E.Mannock DSO MC


Nr Armentičres

17th June 1918 & 22nd July 1918 (p)

Lt-Col O.C.S.Watson DSO

2/5th KOYLI

Rossignol Wood

28th March 1918 (p)

Sgt A.White

2nd South Wales Borderers

Monchy le Preux

19th May 1917 (p)

(p) = posthumous award.

From here leave Arras and go north on the N17, following signs for Lens. The route will take you through Thelus and into the area attacked over by the Canadian Corps on 9th April 1917. On the crest of Vimy Ridge, turn left and follow the signs to the Canadian Memorial Park.


High ground is an important feature of any battlefield and during the fighting around Arras in 1914, there was a desperate struggle for two ridges that surrounded the city to the north-east: the Lorette Spur and Vimy Ridge. Both were taken by the Germans in October 1914, and in 1915 the French lost 250,000 men in re-taking Lorette and trying to capture Vimy Ridge.

The British came to Vimy in 1916 when it was considered a ‘quiet’ sector of the Western Front. The war went underground as British tunnelling companies of the Royal Engineers blew a succession of mines under the ridge – many of these craters are still visible today.

The Canadians came to Vimy at the end of 1916, after heavy losses on the Somme, and as part of the Battle of Arras, all four Canadian divisions assaulted the ridge on 9th April 1917. Within five days Vimy Ridge was taken.

After the war the Canadians chose Vimy as their main memorial site on the old Western Front battlefields, and purchased a vast section of the ridge preserving the trenches, shell holes and mine craters. At the trenches around the Grange Craters a portion of the line was preserved using concrete sandbags and duckboards – with German trenches the same opposite. It was here the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and Royal Canadian Regiment advanced on 9th April 1917. Below ground is a vast network of tunnels, used by the Canadians to bring up their troops unseen by the Germans. A nearby visitors centre has leaflets, and on-site guides will be happy to answer your questions and take you on a tour of the tunnels for free.

The Vimy Memorial commemorates over 11,000 Canadians who have no known grave, and was unveiled by King Edward VIII in July 1936. Thousands of Canadians came to the ceremony – among the guests of honour was a woman who had lost five sons in the war!

Canadian Victoria Cross winners commemorated here are:

Lt R.G.Combe

27th Canadians


3rd May 1917

Sgt F.Hobson

20th Canadians

Hill 70

18th August 1917

Pte W.J.Milne

16th Canadians

Vimy Ridge

9th April 1917

Sgt R.Spall


Nr Amiens (Somme)

13th August 1918

Close to the memorial car-park is a new ‘Interpretative Centre’ where a short film about the battle can be seen, along with various artifacts. Postcards can also be purchased here and selected books connected with the Canadians in WW1.

Leave Vimy and follow the D to Neuville St Vaast. Go through the village to La Targette. At the main cross-roads on the D937, Arras-Bethune road, is the excellent La Targette War Museum. It is open every day and well worth a visit.

Otherwise turn right and go north on the D937 in the direction of Souchez. You will soon arrive at a large British Cemetery.


The "Cabaret Rouge" was a house on the main road 1,200 yards South of the village, at a place called Le Corroy; and close to it, on the west side of the road, is the British Cemetery. On the east side, opposite the cemetery, were dugouts used as Battalion Headquarters in 1916/17. The communication trenches ended here, including a very long one named after the Cabaret Rouge. The cemetery was begun by British troops in March1916, and used until August 1917 (largely by the 47th (London) Division and the Canadian Corps) and - at intervals - until September 1918. (These original burials are in Plots I to V inclusive). It was greatly enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of over 7000 graves, partly from the battlefields of Arras, and partly from 103 other burial grounds in the Nord and the Pas-de-Calais. The cemetery stands on high ground, rising to the Cross of Sacrifice at the back; and the Lorette and Vimy ridges and the towns of Lens and Lievin can be seen from it. Behind the Cross is a small wood, known in the War as 'Gazoy Wood', which was an important observation post early in 1915.

In May 2000 the Canadian government exhumed the body of an unknown Canadian soldier from the cemetery and took him back to Canada, where he now rests in a special tomb at Ottawa. This is Canada’s ‘Unknown Soldier’ and a special headstone now marks the spot where he was originally buried.

From here return to the centre of Arras via the D937. There are plenty of places to have a meal in Arras, plus bars where sandwiches and snacks can be purchased. Otherwise have your lunch nearby and continue with the tour later.

Begin the next phase of visits by returning to Arras and going north-east on the N50, following signs for DOUAI. This road takes you out to the Point du Jour. Stop here at the memorial.


On 9th April 1917 the 9th (Scottish) Division advanced on a front from the Arras-Bailleul road to St Laurent Blangy in the south. Commanded by Major General Lukin, a South African, the division took all its objectives with minimal casualties. The 4th Division then ‘leap-frogged’ through them and continued with the advance as far as Fampoux. It was the longest single advance to date, a distance of more than three and a half miles.

The memorial was erected in the 1920s by the division’s Old Comrades Association, and is built of stone specially brought out from Scotland. It stands on ground marked by shell-fire, and there is a small section of German trench captured on 9th April 1917 by the KOSBs.

Continue on the N50, and exit at Gavrelle. Stop at the memorial on the left, just as you leave the slip-road.


Gavrelle was a small village in the German lines attacked by the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division in April 1917. This unique formation was created in 1914, when eight battalions of Royal Naval Volunteer Reservists (each one named after a famous Admiral – Nelson, Drake, Benbow etc) were combined with units from the Royal Marine Light Infantry. They fought at Ostend and Antwerp in October 1914, then at Gallipoli in 1915 where several Naval units were disbanded. The division came to France in 1916, had some of the Naval units replaced by Army ones and the RMLI were formed into two battalions. They then fought on the Somme, and here on the Arras front in 1917. Casualties in the action at Gavrelle were high, and the role of the division in the fighting was not properly commemorated until the mid-1980s when a memorial was placed on the battlefield at Gavrelle. It is in the form of a low ruined wall with a huge anchor in the middle.

Go into the village and turn left on the D33 for OPPY. Continue to the village, turn left on the D50 in the direction of Fresnoy, and stop at the memorial on the left.


The city of Kingston upon Hull raised four ‘Pals’ battalions in the Great War: 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th Battalions East Yorkshire Regiment. On 3rd May 1917 they attacked Oppy Wood, suffering heavy casualties and 2/Lt Jack Harrison was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. His citation reads:

"For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice in an attack. Owing to darkness and to smoke from the enemy barrage, and from our own, and to the fact that our objective was in a dark wood, it was impossible to see when our barrage had lifted off the enemy front line. Nevertheless, 2nd Lt. Harrison led his company against the enemy trench under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, but was repulsed. Reorganising his command as best he could in No Man's Land, he again attacked in darkness under terrific fire, but with no success. Then, turning round, this gallant officer single-handed made a dash at the machine-gun, hoping to knock out the gun and so save the lives of many of his company. His self-sacrifice and absolute disregard of danger was an inspiring example to all. (he is reported missing, believed killed.)"

The memorial commemorates all of those from Hull who fell in the two world wars and is on land given by a local French family who lost their only son in 1917.

Return to Gavrelle on the D50 and D33, and in the village go south on the D33 again to where it meets the D42. Here turn left, and in Fampoux village go right at the lights on a minor road, and follow signs for Sunken Lane Cemetery.


This memorial remembers all ranks of the Seaforth Highlanders who fell in the Great War, but in particular the 2nd Bn who fought an action between here and Roeux on 11th April 1917. One of their number, Lieutenant Donald Mackintosh, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery that day. The citation reads:

On 11 April 1917 north of Fampoux, France, during the initial advance, Lieutenant Mackintosh was shot through the right leg, but although crippled, continued to lead his men, and captured the trench. He then collected men of another company who had lost their leader and drove back a counter-attack, when he was again wounded and although unable to stand, nevertheless continued to control the situation. With only 15 men left he ordered them to be ready to advance to the final objective and with great difficulty got out of the trench, encouraging them to advance. He was wounded yet again and fell.

Return to Fampoux and turn left on the D42; continue to Roeux and turn right on the D33 and follow signs for Monchy le Preux. In the middle of the village, turn right and stop at the Caribou memorial on the right.


Newfoundland was the smallest colony to raise its own regiment in the Great War. It served at Gallipoli in 1915, and was virtually wiped out at Beaumont-Hamel (Somme) on 1st July 1916. Reformed with reinforcements from Newfoundland, it went on to fight in many later battles of the war, including the Battle of Arras in 1917. In April, the regiment was in action alongside the 1st Essex on Infantry Hill, east of Monchy. The memorial to the Newfoundlanders here in the village is located on a British observation pillbox dating from 1918.

Continue past the memorial and follow the road to the right; at the bend you will see the impressive Memorial to the 37th Division. Continue on this road out of Monchy to the cemetery.


Started in 1917, Monchy British Cemetery contains the graves of men from many units that fell in the fighting for this important location on the Arras Battlefield. Total number of burials are:

British - 529
Canadian – 23
Special Memorials – 2

Graves were also added when Canadian soldiers fought for this ground in August 1918.

In 1998 twenty-six soldiers of the Royal Fusiliers, found on an industrial estate near the Lille-Paris motorway, were buried here. They belonged to the 13th Bn, who had been fighting at Monchy in April 1917. Only two were identified; the rest remain unknown. Their graves are in the last two rows of the cemetery, right at the back if entering from the main entrance.

Return to the middle of Monchy and turn right on the D33 and continue to the main road, D939. Here turn left and go through the next village, Vis en Artois, passing the huge Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery and Memorial. At the next roundabout turn right, pass through Hendecourt and follow signs for Bullecourt.


The right flank of the Arras battlefield, Bullecourt is a small village located in 1917 on a German defensive position known as the Hindenberg Line. There were deep dugouts, concrete pillboxes, thick belts of wire… the Germans felt it was impregnable. The first attack took place on 11th April 1917, just as snow descended on the battlefield. Units of the 4th (Australian) Division made the assault, assisted by a number of British tanks. But events went badly and eleven tanks were knocked out. In one Brigade alone (12th) they lost 2,339 men out of 3,000 who had gone into battle.

The second attack was launched on 3rd May, and fighting continued until the 17th. Many of the German trenches fell to the Australians, but by the close of the battle they had suffered 7,000 casualties.

Bullecourt still has many contacts with Australians. A superb Digger Memorial featuring a larger than life-size statue of an Australian soldier is close to where the main Hindenberg Line trenches were. In the village itself is another memorial in front of the church featuring a bronze slouch-hat. At 1 Rue d’Arras, Monsieur Jean Letaille, former mayor of the village, has a superb War Museum of the Hindenburg Line, which is open most days. Jean speaks a little English and is always pleased to help. It is wise to contact him in advance to check he is in. Telephone: (+33) 03 21 48 92 46.

From here return to Arras by re-tracing your route back to the roundabout on the D939, and following it back into the centre of Arras.


Reading List

There are few books about part of the battlefields compared to other sectors, but many make mention of it. Among those recommended are:


The ‘Battleground Europe’ series of guidebooks published by Pen & Sword (see LINKS page) lead the way in new publications about the Great War. Several cover the Arras area, among them:

Nigel Cave - Vimy Ridge

Colin Fox  - Monchy le Preux

Graham Keech - Bullecourt

Paul Reed - Walking Arras: A Guide to the 1917 Arras Battlefields (Pen & Sword 2007, link here)

Trevor Tasker & Kyle Tallet - Gavrelle


Rose Coombes Before Endeavours Fade

Rightly consider the Bible to the Western Front Battlefields, this is a guide to the whole front from Belgium to the Swiss Border. Easily available and in print.

John Giles The Western Front Then & Now

The third in his trilogy of Then & Now books, this one has some coverage of the Arras battlefields. Still in print and easily available.

Gerald Gliddon VCs of the First World War: Arras & Messines 1917

Useful reference guide to all the VC winners at the Battle of Arras, with photographs and maps.

Jon Nicholls Cheerful Sacrifice: The Battle of Arras

The only published book to specifically deal with the 1917 Battle of Arras, the story is told through the recollections of veterans who served at Arras. It contains some harrowing accounts. Highly recommended.


©Paul Reed 2001-2006



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