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Visiting the Fallen - Arras Memorials (Hardback)

Military WWI > Battles & Campaigns > Arras

By Peter Hughes
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 262
ISBN: 9781473825574
Published: 10th December 2015



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'These intolerably nameless names', as Siegfried Sassoon referred to them, should never be forgotten or ignored, and yet they cascade so relentlessly that they are often difficult to grapple with; within a very short space of time we are inclined to switch off; we soon start to lose our awareness of individual names as we become overwhelmed by the sheer torrent of them; our senses simply become overloaded to the point where we are only aware of the enormity of what stands before us. We can no more get to know the men behind the names than we can get to know people by reading their names in a telephone directory, and yet it is possible to breathe life into 'these intolerably nameless names' by uncovering and telling their stories. This book aims to do just that. It takes the visitor effortlessly through each of the four memorials in turn, highlighting hundreds of individual men and officers and explaining who they were, what they did, and how they died.

The four memorials covered in the book are the Arras Memorial, the Canadian National Memorial on Vimy Ridge, the Vis-en-Artois Memorial and the Royal Flying Services Memorial. The author takes the reader through the officers and men in the order in which they appear on the memorials in this 'Who's Who' guide that also provides detailed coverage of gallantry awards and citations and is a superb point of reference for anyone visiting Arras and its battlefields.

Among the many characters and personalities are two brothers with a choice over whether to fight for Britain or Germany, a man who played a key part in deciding which aircraft to commission for the RAF in the run up to the Second World War, a man who gave Winston Churchill a flying lesson, a footballer who played for both Manchester City and Manchester United and who was never far from controversy, a man whose conscience was finally swayed by the sinking of the Lusitania, the man who created 'Winnipeg' Crater, a man who crossed the snow-bound Andes in order to enlist and many, many others.

The battle of Arras was a British offensive during the Great War lasting from 9th April to 16th May 1917, when British, Canadian, South African, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and Australian troops attacked German positions. The memorials featured in this book – the third and final part of a trilogy by the author – are the Arras Memorial, the Flying Services Memorial, the Canadian National Memorial on Vimy Ridge and the Vis-en-Artois Memorial.

Mr Hughes takes the reader through the names on the memorials in the order in which they appear, making it easier for the reader and indeed the visitor to such sites, to follow there is comprehensive coverage of gallantry awards, including citations, and there are also links to a number of names with events or other people, although as the reader will discover, some of these connections may come as something of a surprise. For the most part however, the majority of those mentioned are the ordinary officers and men who were there and paid the ultimate price.

The book is the author’s tribute to all those ‘intolerably nameless names’ commemorated in and around Arras. There are 16 monochrome illustrations included, as well as a bibliography, plus indexes to regiments featured on the Arras Memorial and those on the
Vis-en-Arras Memorial.

The work is clearly a labour of love and the result surely of many hours of research by the author; and as a result is it an excellent work of reference and a useful guide for visitors to the Arras battlefield.

Note: The previous titles in the author’s trilogy are Visiting the Fallen – Arras North and Visiting the Fallen - Arras South.

Stuart Asquith, Author

I would expect a volume on the Thiepvaal memorials to follow. Again it helps to bring home the enormity of the volume of casualties in a conflict that really achieved very little at all...

Books Monthly - Paul Norman

Visiting The Fallen: Arras Memorials looks at four of the massive memorials to the missing: the Arras Memorial, the Arras Flying Services Memorial, the Vimy Memorial and the Vis-en-Artois Memorial. The background and history of each memorial is explained and then by regiment and corps particular soldiers of interest are listed with their stories. Again, an excellent piece of research with many fascinating stories told for the first time, but I was surprised that the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial was not included as this includes Australian dead from Bullecourt and the early advance to the Hindenburg Line; a curious omission but it does not spoil an otherwise excellent work.

WW1 Centenary - Paul Reed

This is the third in the three-part series from the author to cover the many cemeteries and in this case the Memorials to the Fallen that are in the area of the French town of Arras. It gives a fine companion to the previous two volumes in this series, rounding off the area really well. The author has had a long time fascination with the history of the area and been a battlefield guide after his 'day job' of 30 years of service with the Metropolitan Police. Over this time he has accumulated a large amount of detail regarding the many individuals who are now buried in these now peaceful surroundings or in the case of this third volume in the series, those whose remains were never recovered or identified but whose names are recorded on four major memorials in the area.

There are four major memorials that are covered in detail, and these are the Arras Memorial, the Flying Services Memorial at Arras, the Canadian Vimy Memorial on Vimy Ridge and the Vis-en-Artois Memorial. Clear directions where to find each one are included to help the battlefield tourist. Having been a visitor to a number of large memorials, including Vimy Ridge, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the large lists of names engraved into the stone and so easily miss the stories that lay behind each of the individuals concerned. Unlike those whose bodies were recovered and lay buried in individual graves, marked with a headstone to record their life, these long lists of names deserve a work like this so that when you visit, perhaps you will read them and pause a while longer to read their stories that are recorded in the pages of this book, and so help preserve their memory in a rather different way to just seeing that list of names. Places like Vimy Ridge, with other cemeteries, mine craters, and preserved trenches and tunnel make for a fascinating place to visit if you have not been there already.

At the back of this book are some interesting additions, such as the list of British aircraft identification numbers displayed as trophies by Baron Manfred von Richthofen, There are also some additions of Addenda to provide some additional information that had been missed from the previous books on Arras North and South.

There is so much to the area around Arras, with fighting there in both WW1 and WW2, that this series of books from Peter Hughes in your backpack or car will make for an excellent companion to help you appreciate what happened here. Today it is quiet and peaceful, with the cemeteries and memorials always well kept thanks in particular to the hard work and dedication of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and their work teams in Europe. Well worth reading and using for a tour or two in the area.

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