The fields and valleys of France’s Nord-Pas-de-Calais region saw some of the most brutal and significant battles of World War I. While this corner of northern France is now peaceful, the weight of history still hangs heavily. Here are a few must-see WWI battle sites in Nord-Pas-de-Calais and surrounds.
Battle of Arras
From April 9 to May 16, 1917, British soldiers attacked German strongholds in the countryside just outside the town of Arras, on the Western Front. As battle raged for over a month, British forces achieved one of the Great War’s longest land advances. As the Brits focused on the territory between Vimy and Bullecourt, the stage was set for the Battle of Vimy Ridge—one of the Arras offensive’s encouraging (for the Allies) opening battles.
Battle of Vimy Ridge
From April 9 to 12, 1917, Vimy Ridge was a key site in the Battle of Arras. During the now infamous Battle of Vimy Ridge, soldiers from the Canadian Corps advanced upon the German 6th Army—successfully claiming the strategically important high ground and protecting Allied forces from German gunfire.
Battle of Artois
The Battle of Artois was actually three different clashes that took place through 1914 and 1915. The first followed the Battle of Ypres and saw a stalemate between opposing sides trying to claim territory on the Western Front. In the second, French forces attacked German rail lines to cut off communications and resources. The third battle saw French and Allied forces capitalize on their larger numbers over the Germans.
Battle of Loos
From September 25 to October 1915, the Battle of Loos involved a huge attack by British and French forces on the German defenses in Artois and Champagne. Despite having replenished ammunition stocks and superior weaponry, the Allied forces were unable to surmount the German defense; the battle ended with severe British casualties.
Battle of Cambrai
Although relatively short-lived, the Battle of Cambrai is considered among the most significant struggles in Nord-Pas-de-Calais’ WWI history. The 1917 battle was focused largely on British and German forces. Following an initial British intrusion into German lines, German soldiers mounted a violent counterattack.