On Sunday 9 April, events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battles of Arras and Vimy Ridge were held at Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemeteries and memorials across northern France.

These actions were among the fiercest battles of the First World War, and they hold a special place in Scottish and Canadian hearts.

The Battle of Arras had the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting in a single battle during the First World War, while the capture of the heavily defended Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Corps is now a defining symbol of national achievement.

On Sunday, thousands of young Canadians and Scots paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands of their compatriots who were wounded or killed at Vimy and in the Arras region.

At the end of 38 days of fighting around Arras, 300,000 servicemen on both sides were listed as  wounded, missing or dead. The British Army suffered an average of 4,000 wounded and killed every day - the highest average daily casualty rate of any British offensive on the Western Front. For many servicemen, their experiences at Arras were the most brutal of the war.

Today, there are more than 100 CWGC cemeteries across the former Arras battlefields, including Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, which contains the CWGC Arras Memorial. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it commemorates by name over 34,000 servicemen who died around Arras but who have no known grave.

The Vimy Memorial bears the names of 11,000 Canadian servicemen who died in France – many of them in the fight for Vimy Ridge – and have no known grave. The memorial was designed by W.S. Allward, and was unveiled by King Edward VIII on 26 July 1936.

 

Here’s a round-up of how Sunday's events unfolded:

 

1.      As part of WW100 Scotland commemorations marking the Battle of Arras, one of the first commemorative events was a service held at CWGC Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

 

2.      Young people were at the centre of the commemorations, with 72 schoolchildren representing every local authority in Scotland joined by a matching number of schoolchildren from France, as well as 12 Army cadets from across Scotland.

 

3.      Meanwhile, the President of France and Prime Minister of Canada paid their respects at CWGC Cabaret Rouge Cemetery.

 

4.      Around 25,000 people joined the commemorations at the Vimy Memorial, including more than 8,000 Canadian schoolchildren.

 

5.      THRH The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry attended the Canadian National Vimy Memorial for a service of commemoration. During the ceremony, The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry laid the final pair of thousands of boots left at the monument to symbolise the 3,598 Canadians killed in the battle, and The Prince of Wales laid a wreath and addressed dignitaries and guests.

 

6.      “This was, and remains, the single bloodiest day in Canadian military history. Yet Canadians displayed a strength of character and commitment to one another that is still evident today. They did not waver. This was Canada at its best; the Canadians at Vimy embodied the “True North Strong and Free”,” the Prince of Wales said during his speech.

7.   An exhibition hosted by CWGC was well attended during the commemorative events.

 

8.      An international poppy display was unveiled as part of the Battle of Arras commemorations.


Moved to visit the Arras battlefield and CWGC cemeteries? Download our guide.

For more from the day, follow @CWGC on Twitter.