10 April 2014

Vimy - Part Deux

A tale of up-cocks and the need to buy a map.

What could possibly go wrong? No satnav and no paper map? Nothing of course.

Once I was on the A26, cruise set to 110kph, plain sailing. 

Junction 6 for Béthune is soon passed. I had expected 6.1 to be close by. It isn't. Doubt sets in.

Next is the A21 signed to Lens and Douai  (pron doo-eye) and yes a D road as well. 

Souchez is on the right of the A26. So track right on a new road. No signs of life, no signage... Not good.

Arrive Barlin. New supermarket. No maps. Ask idiot-villageur for directions.

Follow them and find myself in Mont St Eloi where the abbey was shelled and the structure remains. A sort of bombed shell. No access though. Not today anyway.

Head off towards Arras expecting to see a signpost. None. Enter Arras and buy a map at Auchun.

It seems that at Mont St Eloi I was about 4 miles away as I stood in the sun.

By now the hour I was ahead is now about an hour the other way.

I fly up the old N17, now bypassed, to the Necropole Nationale at ND de Lorette.

We have been before on a trip I led a few years back, so when I roll up I haven't missed much. The RAT Pack are either trying to get food or still looking around, so I take some pix and shoot off to the other sites I want to see.

I am interested in a large British cemetery at the southern end of Souchez called Cabaret Rouge.

The cemetery is on the site of a restaurant/nightclub of that name.

There are vast numbers of unknown soldiers, mostly with the Maple Leaf on their headstones.

When I came out I was accosted, in a nice way, by a lady with an iPad collecting information on visitors to the cemeteries in the area.

I togged up and set off for another cemetery that caught my eye when I was going the other way; the Czechoslovak Cemetery at La Targette. Across the road is the Polish Memorial.

Curiously, the CS cemetery has graves from both world wars. I didn't realise that Czechs had fought in this arena in WW1. 

One of the crosses shows that one of the soldiers died on Armistice Day.

I had just taken a picture of the bike outside when I saw a long line of headlamps approaching over the ridge to the north. The RAT Pack.

Once again, I togged up and set off in pursuit, catching them just arriving in the car park by the visitor centre.

Introductions made and we set off for the monument itself for the Memorial Ceremony.

In the sunshine the monument is spectacular.

We were ushered to the other side, a little way down the ridge.

This view is not actually the front. The front faces where the Canadians attacked from.

The ceremony was attended by the Canadian Ambassador to France, plus dignitaries from the local communities, ex-servicemen and serving servicemen from Canada and France, plus members of the public including us RATs.

Unfortunately, the sun was in our faces so photos have come out a little dark as the camera compensated for the brightness.

The piper played a lament to open the ceremony.

Once the ceremony and wreath laying were over we were able to return to the visitor centre to visit the preserved trenches.

The ceremony had gone on much longer than we expected and so there was probably no one in the Pack that wouldn't overstay their Shuttle ticket.

After a couple of group photos, we togged up and set off for the port.

^^^^ The Laguna RAT Pack ^^^^ 


Trobairitz said...

It sounds like you handled the "no satnav/no paper map" issue rather well and made everything in good time.

The pictures make it look like a beautiful place, which is nice considering the bloody history.

Paul Devall said...

Until May when we land in Toronto, or the nearby airport, Vimy is the only Canadian soil I have stood on!

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