Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Ring of Memory - new memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette

Andrew Thomson has posted some photographs of the new memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette. 

This new memorial was opened on 11 November by President Hollande - and visited by me on the 15th!  It's high quality, original, and a 'must' for any visits to the Arras area.  Called "L'Anneau de Memoire" - the "Ring of Memory" - it's an oval-shaped enclosure on the hilltop overlooking the slopes up to Notre Dame de Lorette* where the French were fighting in the autumn of 1914 and spring of 1915.  You walk around the ring - cut into the ground where you first walk in, but suspended above the hillside as you make your way around - and see panels and panels listing in alphabetical order ALL those who died in the Nord / Pas-de-Calais region in 194-18.  580,000 names, of all nationalities - 40 nationalities in fact.  290,000 - i.e. around half - are British Empire, representing almost all our 'non-Ypres' and 'non-Somme' Western Front losses: Loos, Festubert, Neuve Chapelle, Arras, Cambrai, much of the 100 Days, etc.  

Names are strictly alphabetical, with no mention of nationality.  This gives a surprising and original perspective - it is so different to the CWGC's Lists of the Missing since on this new memorial there is no distinction by regiment.  Thus, ALL the J Smiths are together, as you see in one of the attached photos.  You see blocks of names that are clearly French or German or British - then swaths of names where all nationalties are all jumbled up.

You see famous names - John Kipling, Wilfred Own (warning: there are two Wilfred Owns: the poet is Wlfred Edward Salter Owen!) - and, the reason I was there, the names of relatives of UK clients.  It's an amazing complement to a Vimy Ridge visit too - obviously, all those Canadians are listed here.

It's smart, respectful, simple, stimulating, and quality - the materials used are first-class.