ANZAC 2017: The story of Arras's rise from the ashes
Truly, Arras is the Phoenix that rose from the ashes.
I am staying in the ancient town of Arras, in Northern France, and its horrific history of war makes its contemporary existence a miracle.
At the end of the First World War, after three years of shelling by the German artillery, more than 80%of the town was destroyed.. The Town Hall dating from the 16 Century was burnt to the ground. The town's pride and joy - the Bell Tower - was razed to the ground. Only 5% of the houses were inhabitable and it was described as a, 'martyred city'.
When it was rebuilt, the Government decided that in respect of the town's medieval history, the main monuments would be precisely replicated. Pierre Paquet was given the task of rebuilding Arras from a mass of rubble.
Using photographs and archive documents he designed facades faithful to the spirit of original buildings. (For example no one would think that behind the medieval appearance of the magnificent bell tower lies a contemporary structure made of concrete and steel (uk.france.fr/en/discover/town-hall-belfry-and-squares-arras). Leading from the Place of Heroes (town square) there are number of stylish Art Deco style buildings.
*Gail Forrer is a guest of StoneStreet Travel and is attending their Northern France Battlefield tour.
In this article, the pictures of architecture tell the story.
*THE BATTLE OF ARRAS
FROM 9 APRIL TO 16 MAY 1917, THE FORCES OF GREAT BRITAIN, CANADA, NEWFOUNDLAND, AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND CONFRONTED THE GERMAN ARMY AT ARRAS.
The objectives of this battle were to break through German lines forcing the German Army, which was numerically inferior at the time, into mobile warfare.
British High Command, in collaboration with its French counterparts, was in charge of planning the battle, which was to be launched at the same time as the Nivelle Offensive, a French battle taking place 80km farther south in the Aisne.
These combined assaults had the ambitious aim of breaking through German lines and defeating the enemy within just a few days.
The first role of the British and Allied troops was to retain German forces in the vicinity of Arras, keeping them from being deployed to the Aisne, and the second was to capture the heights dominating the Douai plain. By 16 May, after a series of successful attacks, significant progress had been made but the major breakthrough had not been achieved.
Almost 150,000 Allied soldiers were made casualty during the battle.