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WW1 the Final Years

Battles and Monuments of WW1 The Final Years – 1917-1918

This tour is a suggestion of battlefields, Monuments and cemeteries on the Western Front and the site of fierce fighting in the final two years of WW1, 1917-1918. Walking the ground on which these terrible conflicts took place is a very moving experience and helps us to appreciate the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who fought in WW1.

Wellington Tunnels – Carrière Wellington

The Carrière Wellington is a museum in Arras, northern France. It is named after a former underground quarry which was part of a network of tunnels used by forces of the British Empireand Commonwealth during the First World War. Opened in March 2008, the museum commemorates the soldiers who built the tunnels and fought in the Battle of Arras in 1917.

Museum

The Carrière Wellington museum consists of a visitor centre displaying historic artifacts and presenting the historical context of the Battle of Arras, including the work of the tunnellers and the military strategy that underlay the tunnels’ construction. It was opened to the public on 1 March 2008. The tunnels are accessed via a lift shaft that takes visitors approximately 22 m (70 ft) below ground to the galleries around the Wellington quarry. Visitors are taken on a guided tour along some 350 m of tunnels to see audio-visual presentations of various aspects of the campaign and the soldiers who built and stayed in the tunnels. At various places, graffiti and painted signs can be seen, along with relics of the troops such as cans of bully beef, helmets and bottles. The museum is on the Rue Arthur Deletoile, a turning off the Avenue Fernand Lobbedez (D917), approximately 1 km south of the city centre

Monchy-le-Preux

Monchy village, a relatively high and commanding position, was captured by Commonwealth forces on 11 April 1917. The cemetery was begun at once and continued in use as a front-line cemetery until the German offensive of March 1918, when it fell into their hands. It was recaptured by the Canadian Corps on 26 August and used again for a month. The graves are very closely identified with the divisions which fought on this front.There are now 581 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 58 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to a number of casualties known to be buried among them.

Location:

Near Monchy-le-Preux, Pas-de-Calais, France.

Monument to the Missing of the Battle of Cambrai

The CAMBRAI MEMORIAL commemorates more than 7,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South Africa who died in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 and whose graves are not known. Sir Douglas Haig described the object of the Cambrai operations as the gaining of a ‘local success by a sudden attack at a point where the enemy did not expect it’ and to some extent they succeeded. The proposed method of assault was new, with no preliminary artillery bombardment. Instead, tanks would be used to break through the German wire, with the infantry following under the cover of smoke barrages.

The attack began early in the morning of 20 November 1917 and initial advances were remarkable. However, by 22 November, a halt was called for rest and reorganisation, allowing the Germans to reinforce. From 23 to 28 November, the fighting was concentrated almost entirely around Bourlon Wood and by 29 November, it was clear that the Germans were ready for a major counter attack. During the fierce fighting of the next five days, much of the ground gained in the initial days of the attack was lost. For the Allies, the results of the battle were ultimately disappointing but valuable lessons were learnt about new strategies and tactical approaches to fighting. The Germans had also discovered that their fixed lines of defence, no matter how well prepared, were vulnerable.

Location:

The small village of Louverval is on the north side of the D930, Bapaume to Cambrai road, 13 kilometres north-east of Bapaume and 16 kilometres south-west of Cambrai.

Masnieres

Masnieres was captured by the 29th Division on the 20th November 1917, the first day of the Battle of Cambrai. On the 30th November and the 1st December, Masnieres was held by the same Division against repeated attacks, but it was evacuated, under orders, on the night of the 1st-2nd. It was retaken on the 29th September 1918, by the 62nd (West Riding) Division.

The actions of the battle are commemorated in and around Masnières by several Commonwealth War Graves Commission landmarks in and around the town, including:

Masnières Newfoundland Memorial – The Masnières Newfoundland Memorial is a Dominion of Newfoundland war memorial that commemorates the actions of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the First Battle of Cambrai, of World War I. Located at the north end of the town of Masnières, France, the memorial commemorates the participation of the Newfoundlanders in the taking and defense of the town during the First Battle of Cambrai between the 20th of November and 2 December 1917. Masnières British Cemetery – Masnieres British Cemetery is a small Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) burial site for British and Commonwealth troops killed during the First World War Battle of Cambrai (1918) between September–October 1918. It also contains a number of German graves, although these are mostly unidentified. The cemetery is located near to the village of Marcoing, 4 miles (6.4 km) southwest of Cambrai.
Marcoing British Cemetery – Marcoing is a village 7 kilometres south-west of Cambrai and the village of Masnieres is 5 kilometres south-east of Marcoing. Masnieres British Cemetery is 3 kilometres due east of Marcoing in the middle of fields with access by a small track.

World War I Somme American Cemetery and Memorial at Bony

The World War I Somme American Cemetery and Memorial in France is sited on a gentle slope typical of the open, rolling Picardy countryside. The 14.3-acre cemetery contains the graves of 1,844 of American military dead. Most lost their lives while serving in American units attached to British armies, or in operations near Cantigny. The headstones, set in regular rows, are separated into four plots by paths that intersect at the flagpole near the top of the slope. The longer axis leads to the chapel at the eastern end of the cemetery. A massive bronze door surmounted by an American eagle leads into the chapel, whose outer walls contain sculptured pieces of military equipment. Once inside, light from a cross-shaped crystal window above the marble altar bathes the subdued interior with light. The walls bear the names of 333 of the missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.

The cemetery is open daily to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location:

Bony is a village and commune approximately 21 kilometres north of St Quentin, close to the St Quentin Canal

Vis en Artois memorial to the missing of 1918

This Memorial bears the names of over 9,000 men who fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known grave. They belonged to the forces of Great Britain and Ireland and South Africa; the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand forces being commemorated on other memorials to the missing.

The Memorial consists of a screen wall in three parts. The middle part of the screen wall is concave and carries stone panels on which names are carved. It is 26 feet high flanked by pylons 70 feet high. The Stone of Remembrance stands exactly between the pylons and behind it, in the middle of the screen, is a group in relief representing St George and the Dragon. The flanking parts of the screen wall are also curved and carry stone panels carved with names. Each of them forms the back of a roofed colonnade; and at the far end of each is a small building. The Memorial is the back drop to the Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery, which is west of Haucourt on the north side of the main road.

Location:

Vis-en-Artois and Haucourt are villages on the straight main road from Arras to Cambrai about 10 kilometres south-east of Arras.

Kemmel Hill

The Kemmelberg, also known as Kemmel Hill or Mont Kemmel, is a 156m high hill near Kemmel in the municipality of Heuvelland inWest Flanders, Belgium. During World War I.

The area experienced many major battles during World War I, as part of the Ypres Salient area. The front-line ran through the area of Wytschaete, which was captured and held several times by both sides during the course of the war. The Kemmelberg was important during the Battle of the Lys. Nowadays, trenches can be visited in Croonaert Wood, while there a number of war grave cemeteries in the municipality, including Godezonne Farm, RE Farm, Spanbroekmolen, Suffolk, Klein Vierstraat and Kemmel Number 1 French Cemetery.

Messines Ridge

The Battle of Messines (7–14 June 1917) was an offensive conducted by the British Second Army, under the command of General Herbert Plumer, on the Western Front near the village of Messines in Belgian West Flanders during the First World War. The Battle of Messines was a prelude to the much larger Third Battle of Yprescampaign, the preliminary bombardment for which began on 11 July 1917. Messines (now Mesen) was considered a strong strategic position, not only from its height above the plain below, but from the extensive system of cellars under the convent known as the ‘Institution Royale.’ The village was taken from the 1st Cavalry Division by the German 26th Division on 31 October-1 November 1914. An attack by French troops on 6 -7 November was unsuccessful and it was not until the Battle of Messines on 7 June 1917 that it was retaken by the New Zealand Division. On 10-11 April 1918, the village fell into German hands once more after a stubborn defence by the South African Brigade, but was retaken for the last time on 28-29 September 1918.

MESSINES RIDGE BRITISH CEMETERY, which stands on ground that belonged to the ‘Institution Royale’ (the Cross of Sacrifice is on the site of the Institution’s windmill), was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefield around Messines and from several small burial grounds.

Location:

Messines Ridge British Cemetery is located 9.5 Kms south of Ieper town centre on the Nieuwkerkestraat

Passchendaele Museum

During the British offensive of 1917 times 500,000 soldiers were out of action for a gain of just 8 kilometers. Here in 100 daysPasschendaele became an international symbol of senseless war in its most cruel form. The Memorial Museum is the memory of the battle kept alive with photos – and movies, a large collection of historical objects and vividly reconstructed scenes. The eye-catcher is a subterranean corridor with communication and dressing posts, headquarters, working and sleeping. A breathtaking experience of how the British as moles living under the ground … because there was nothing left above.

Arras Memorial to the Missing

The French handed over Arras to Commonwealth forces in the spring of 1916 and the system of tunnels upon which the town is built were used and developed in preparation for the major offensive planned for April 1917. The Commonwealth section of the FAUBOURG D’AMIENS CEMETERY was begun in March 1916, behind the French military cemetery established earlier. It continued to be used by field ambulances and fighting units until November 1918. The cemetery was enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields and from two smaller cemeteries in the vicinity. The cemetery contains over 2,650 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 10 of which are unidentified. The graves in the French military cemetery were removed after the war to other burial grounds and the land they had occupied was used for the construction of the Arras Memorial and Arras Flying Services Memorial.

The adjacent ARRAS MEMORIAL commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and the German attack in the spring of 1918. Canadian and Australian servicemen killed in these operations are commemorated by memorials at Vimy and Villers-Bretonneux. A separate memorial remembers those killed in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.

The adjacent ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIAL commemorates almost 1,000 airmen of the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force, either by attachment from other arms of the forces of the Commonwealth or by original enlistment, who were killed on the whole Western Front and who have no known grave.

During the Second World War, Arras was occupied by United Kingdom forces headquarters until the town was evacuated on 23 May 1940. Arras then remained in German hands until retaken by Commonwealth and Free French forces on 1 September 1944. The 1939-1945 War burials number 8 and comprise 3 soldiers and 4 airmen from the United Kingdom and 1 entirely unidentified casualty. Located between the 2 special memorials of the 1914-1918 War is the special memorial commemorating an officer of the United States Army Air Force, who died during the 1939-1945 War. This special memorial, is inscribed with the words “Believed to be buried in this cemetery”. In addition, there are 30 war graves of other nationalities, most of them German.

Location:

The Arras Memorial is in the Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery, which is in the Boulevard du General de Gaulle in the western part of the town of Arras. The cemetery is near the Citadel, approximately 2 kms due west of the railway station.

Canadian National Memorial on Vimy Ridge

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is a memorial site in France dedicated to the memory of Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War. It also serves as the place of commemoration for First World War Canadian soldiers killed or presumed dead in France who have no known grave. The monument is the centrepiece of a 100-hectare (250-acre) preserved battlefield park that encompasses a portion of the grounds over which the Canadian Corps made their assault during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a military engagement fought as part of the Battle of Arras.

Location:

Route départementale 55, 62580 Vimy, France