A Visitor’s Guide: The Battles of Arras North

Vimy Ridge to Oppy Wood and Gavrelle

By Jon Cooksey and Jerry Murland

Pen & Sword, 2019

This book arrived around the time I should have been on an eagerly-anticipated battlefield trip, spending five days based in Arras to explore some of the battlefields of the area. Instead, I had to content myself with a ‘virtual’ tour through reading this book.

There’s not much new that I can say about the format of the book. It follows the tried and tested format of most battlefield guides by providing some historical context as well as routes around the battlefields. This volume provides six routes; ranging in distance from just 1.2 to 35 miles they can be variously completed either on foot, by bike, or by car.

Focusing as it does on the north sector of the battlefield it covers the area from Vimy Ridge down to Gavrelle. Most notably of course this includes Canadian memorial, trenches, and visitor centre at Vimy. But for the visitor looking to get a bit off the beaten track the book will not disappoint. The routes will take you up paths and along fields right on the sites of some of the actions that were fought in 1917.

Cemeteries and memorials of course feature heavily as stops along the way, but much of the content focuses on the ground and explanations of the action and movements. The usual mix of personal stories and accounts are interspersed, along with details of some of the individuals buried in the cemeteries and commemorated on the memorials.

The northern car route covers 35 miles and as such occupies a fair proportion of the book. Rather inexplicably it does not include an overall map of the route, which would have been beneficial. It does however have handy maps of Notre Dame de Lorette and Vimy Ridge to help guide the visitor around points of interest at these sites. However I think for the first time visitor making it around these two sites plus all the other stops on this route might be a push in one day.

The maps are fairly basic but legible, making them easy to follow. The book is well-illustrated, featuring pictures of many of those mentioned in the text – it’s always nice to be able to put a face to a name when discussing an individual or visiting a memorial or grave.

This should be viewed as a sibling of the authors’ ‘Battles of Arras South’ book. Together they provide a good overview of the area and are slim enough to both be taken in a pocket, glove box, or rucksack. I will definitely be taking both when I finally get to head back out to the battlefields.

Buy this book from Amazon here:
The Battles of Arras: North: A Visitor’s Guide; Vimy Ridge to Oppy Wood and Gavrelle