Walking Arras...


...A Battleground Guide from Pen and Sword


Title: Walking Arras

Author: Paul Reed

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-84415-619-1

This is a reprint of this title in the Pen and Sword Battleground series which was first published in 2007, again in 2013 and now for a third time this year.  While it provides the usual mix of information we expect in the Battleground series, it is in a slightly different layout.  Normally the historical element is the first part of the book and then a number of tours and other information for the battlefield visitor but this one is a little different.

First of all, these walking tours are all related to the fighting that took place around Arras during 1917, rather than what happened thee in 1916 and later in 1918.  Lots of detail in this one reflected in the need for 10 chapters.  The difference in layout is that each chapter is rounded off by details of the associated walking tour, which allows you to walk the ground where the events described took place.  Throughout the book there are plenty of illustrations, including archive photos and more recent ones showing what is there today, including the many cemeteries which are in each section.  The walks have guide times of around the 3-4 hour mark so there is plenty to see.  An advantage of this layout is that while you can of course use the whole book to follow, it would also enable anyone with a particular interest, maybe in considering researching a relative or a particular unit and their involvement in the fighting around Arras. Even in the opening pages there is a photo of the ruined remains of the Hotel de Ville, the Town Hall, in the main square of Arras, and looking very different to the rebuilt to the one you will find there today.

As it might help you decide this would be a useful book for you, the chapters start with Vimy Ridge, forever linked with the Canadians and with preserved trenches, tunnels and mine craters all there to be seen along with the huge Canadian Memorial.  Then it goes on to tackle XVII Corps (34th and 51st Divisions): XVII Corps (4th and 9th Divisions): VI Corps (3rd, 12th and 15th Divisions): VII Corps (14th and 56th Divisions: VII Corps (21st and 30th Divisions): Monchy Le Preux: Wancourt-Fontaine: Roeux: and Bullecourt.  An appendix lists the many cemeteries around the Arras area, always moving site to visit, both large and small.

There are the usual tips on travel and the important reminder about the dangers that still exist on the Western Front with unexploded grenades, artillery shells and other explosive devices.  Arras is a lovely place to visit, and these days there are parts of the underground tunnels that are open for the public to visit, quite fascinating to see.  One other thing that helps the battlefield visitor these days is the speed of travel enabled by the Channel Tunnel, making 1- or 2-day trips from the UK to the region so much easier.