I had a huge list of things to see in Arras, but unfortunately we can only see so many things in a day. In my first Arras post, we had the Grand Place and Cabaret Rouge Cemetery.
Making the most of the beautiful weather we visited the Zivy Crater. In 1917, after the Battle of Vimy Ridge in May, a Canadian burial officer decided to use shell craters as mass graves and in a crater at Zivy, near the village of Thélus, he buried 53 bodies.
I can’t imagine how loud the explosion from a shell that left a crater of this size must have been. It is in an incredible peaceful spot and we were the only visitors there. You can see the crater from the main road, but you have to drive down an un-named dirt track to reach, so keep an eye out if you are heading there!
Up next are the ruins of the Ablain-Saint-Nazaire Church or Ruines de l’Eglise d’Ablain-Saint-Nazaire which sounds so much nicer! These are some impressive ruins, I imagine before it was destroyed in the war, it was even more impressive.
Up the hill from the Ruines de l’Eglise d’Ablain-Saint-Nazaire is the gorgeous Notre Dame de Lorette. The beautiful Church and Cemetery brought another tear to our eye as we walked around.
Notre Dame de Lorette is the World’s largest French military cemetery, it holds the remains of more than 40,000 soldiers, as well as the ashes of many concentration camp victims.
I found the two mass graves particularly upsetting and the sheer numbers of soldiers that are buried there is difficult to take in. The view from the cemetery is outstanding.
I’ve never seen holy water kept in a giant shell before – it made us smile, which we really needed after such an emotional day.
To some it probably seems really morbid to visit a load of cemeteries and I suppose it is really, but it is so important to remember and honour the people who fought for us.