A Visitor's Guide, The Battles of Arras North...


...Vimy Ridge to Oppy Wood and Gavrelle, from Pen & Sword



Title: A Visitor's Guide, The Battles of Arras North

Author: John Cooksey & Jerry Murland

Publisher: Pen & Sword

ISBN: 978-1-47389-303-0

I am a fan of battlefield guide books, and this one is no exception. The main reason I like these, and touring by yourselves is that you control the time you take in viewing any particular element of a tour. In group tours you are governed by the tour timetable, though of course all the driving and route planning you can leave to someone else.  This style of guide has the benefit of the knowledge of the guide(s) who prepared them.

It all starts with some background, both on the area and the cemeteries you are visiting plus the historical context of the stories and a reminder not to even attempt to pick up any examples of unexploded ordnance which is still commonly found in the region. There are 6 tours in the book, the first of which is a Northern Car tour, a detailed route covering a distance of some 35 miles. The second is a shorter 7.6 mile circular tour of Vimy Ridge, starting at Neuville-St-Vast, and suitable for walking or cycling. Route 3 is another circular walking/cycling tour, starting at the church in Viller-en-Bois. This is followed by a short walking tour of Oppy Wood, just 1.2 miles, starting from the church in Oppy. Route 5 is rather longer, another circular tour though this time 7.4miles, starting from the church in Gavrelle and again suitable for walking or cycling. Finally, a mix of walking and driving for a route that starts in the Place des Heros within the city of Arras.

Each tour details where to go and what you will find along your route plus significant events that happened at these locations. Easy to follow and interesting to provide the context of what you see along the way. Though I didn't have this guide with me at the time, I have visited a number of the sites included in this guide, particularly the Vimy Ridge Memorial, the German Cemetery at Neuville-St-Vast and the centre of Arras city itself. There is so much to see even today, and with the extra information provided in this new guide, I shll certainly take this one with me next time we are visiting the area, as clearly there is a lot I missed.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for my copy.