Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Battle of Arras Memorial

The first night of our trip we stayed in Arras, France where we went to visit the Welington Quarry - la Carriere Wellington, which was a tunnel built by the New Zealand soldiers..  They used existing tunnels from the Medieval period and enlarge and expanded them to reach the German lines in secret.  There are over 12 miles of tunnels but we only explored a small section.  For 8 days prior to the offensive on Germany 24,000 soldiers lived in these tunnels.  On Easter Monday 1917, the Commonwealth soldiers emerged in front of the German lines and after a bloody battle reclaimed 10K of land.

After taking an elevator down we encountered the chalk tunnels

One of the many air shafts for ventilation

Cross carving done by a soldier

While we had great lighting in the tunnels during WWI the tunnels were not well lite.  The little light on this pole shows what the kind of lighting the WWI soldiers wasn't much. 

The tunnels have letters and numbers for each tunnel to aid soldiers in finding their way around the many corridors.  Some were even given names from their hometowns in New Zealand, such as Wellington or Londontown.

The altar where many soldiers went for Easter Service in 1917, prior to going out to fight the following morning.

One of the many rooms found throughout the tunnels

Another drawing on a wall done by a soldier

This is exit 10 (I used a flash on my camera)  Just one of the many exits used on Easter Monday where the soldiers rushed out to meet the Germans just in front of their defensive line

What it looked like (without a camera flash) to the poor soldier going out that morning.  I couldn't help but wonder after the length some of the men spent in the tunnels prior to fighting (some as few as 8 days and others as long as 6 months) how their eyes adjusted to the sunlight.  Where they able to see?  Were they at a disadvantage that morning because of the low lighting in the tunnels?
Some of the soldiers who worked and lived down in the tunnels

Through the tour we learned how the soldiers lived in these harsh conditions.
sample of their sleeping quarters

Tunnel equipment

The sign above our exit from the tour which says "I am the enemy you killed, my friend."

We also learned that some of these tunnels were used again during the 2nd World War as well. 


  1. Oi vey! Once again, I get claustrophobia just thinking about having to go in those tunnels, much less live in them! Six months! I can hardly imagine how it must have felt for them when they left the tunnels, half euphoria and half dread, mixed with some nervous system over stimulation. I wonder what percent of the soldiers that lived there that long, survived....

  2. Wow, I could relate to this one. My grandfather was killed in France during this war. He was in one of the trenches. He was buried there and then a couple of years later his body was brought back to his family. What a story today and the pictures told the story too. Thanks, for this adventure!

  3. Wow, this is simply amazing. I can imagine living in a tunnel, but that is as far as it imagination. What brave men!

    Thank you so much again for stopping by my blog! :)

  4. Wow!!! That is amazing. Living in a tunnel!!! What an experience to see that!