A Drive  Through  France  and Belgium in 2002
This trip was inspired by Gail’s genealogy interests. Being of Quebec heritage, she had traced many of her French ancestors back to France, when they immigrated to French Canada from about 1610 to 1750. She was able to trace the villages and towns where they had lived, and so we set out to find some of them. It turned out to be a wonderful way to explore France, much out of the character of a normal vacation, where one pretty much follows the brochures. However, we did get to view some of these as well. We also hoped to view the Battlefields of France including Vimy Ridge, Dieppe and Waterloo in Belgium.  A wonderful trip made better with the presence of Tracy and Paul, our protectors and chauffeurs.
We had elected to stay in the City of Arras for the first two nights in France, for access to these sites and a trip into Belgium. This ancient city of northern France was subjected to terrible destruction during WW1 but still has numerous places of interest to visit. It is not much to look at but we quite enjoyed our few days there using it as a base to visit the various battle fields and graveyards.

Above Left;  The Cathedral St. Vaast, constructed during the period 1775 to 1830, a stately classical building.

Above Right;  This parking lot is part of a square called "Place des Heroe's". The buildings surrounding this square are very old, the oldest dating from 1480.
On the Left;  Another view of the Cathedral St Vaast, part of it now a museum. The marks of bullet chips are all over this and other old buildings marking many battles and sieges, but mostly from WW1

On the Right;  The Hotel de Ville features a 250 foot tower. This building covers the entry to 100's of miles of underground tunnels, a virtual underground city developed by the British Army during WW1.
Vimy Ridge
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was the most significant battle in history for our country as it was the first time our nation's soldiers fought as a Canadian Army as opposed to Canadian contingents in the British Army. The battle took place in April 1917 and the Canadian Army captured the ridge that had remained an obstacle for 3 years of war and had been in German hands from almost the beginning. During 1915 alone, the French Army had lost 115,000 soldiers in attempts to take this ridge.
At any rate this memorial does us all proud, and Veteran's Affairs staff the site with knowledgeable young Canadians during the period April to October. We had an excellent tour of the trenches and tunnels used for the operation. It feels like a very reverent place, and despite hundreds of people touring the area, and in particular the Memorial itself, there is virtually no sound, everyone quite speechless.
My father’s uncle James Ingomar Smith was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field during the advance of the Canadian Army up the slopes of Vimy Ridge
Above Left;  The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is considered the most dramatic monument commemorating the sacrifice of Canadian lives in War time.

Above Right;  In addition to commemorating the battle of Vimy Ridge, on its sides are engraved in concrete the names of over 11,000 Canadian soldiers whose bodies were never found or identified in the War.
On the Left;  Gail and I walk through the reconstructed trenches which represented the German front line before the Vimy attack.

On the right;  That is my head showing above the grass and I am standing in the Canadian trench and the photo was taken from the German trench.
On the left;  In the months prior to the attack, 13 tunnels were driven each about 1 km. in length to bring the infantry up to the front line without the knowledge of the German defenders, to hide the first waves of Canadian infantry. Each tunnel had a Company of about 1200 men in place before the attack.

On the right; The attacking infantry were moved into the tunnel the night before the attack would commence. Can you imagine the feelings of terror as these young men, stood crowded into the tunnel and not knowing what would be there when they emerged.  No room to pass each other with full gear and weapons. Just wait for about 10 hours.
WW1 Cemeteries
At Vimy alone, there were to be 3,500 Canadians killed in the 3 days of fighting. Northern France is dotted with cemeteries of dead soldiers from all countries in what was possibly the most frightful war of all time, war dead totalling more than 10 million soldiers.
We discovered the grave of my father's uncle Vincent Stephen, aged 27, in the Canadian Cemetery within a mile of Vimy Ridge. Vincent was killed on April 2, 1917 during the preparation for the attack. The following detail can be found in a book at the entrance to the cemetery, and reads:
"STEPHEN, Private, Vincent, 681822 75th BN Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regt.) 2nd April 1917, Age 27, son of Capt. Thomas Stephen and Ann Jane Stephen of 22 Strand St., Ramsey, Isle of Man 1.B.52
We also found the grave of Frank Bentley, my Mother’s cousin. who was killed at Cambrai as the Canadian Army advanced during the latter stages of the war, in August of 1918.
Far Left;  The lonely grave of Vincent Stephen. My Dad's uncle was killed during the preparation for the attack on Vimy Ridge April 2, 1917

Left;  The Headstone reads " 681822 PRIVATE, V. Stephen, 75th BN. Canadian Inf., 2nd April 1917 Age 27"

Far Left;  About 15 kilometers east of this site, we found the grave of Frank Bentley my mother's cousin, aged 19 who died in the Canadian advance on Cambrai.

Left;  The Headstone reads, " 916138 Private, F.A.Bentley, 2nd Can. Mounted Rifles, 27th August 1918, Age 19"
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