All aboard for Arras
In late April this year, we’ll be boarding the Eurostar again, but this time heading to a new location – the northern French city of Arras.
The weekend will see the six of us visiting the memorials and preserved trenches at Vimy Ridge on the Saturday. The Vimy Memorial is Canada’s largest overseas National Memorial (pictured above). It commemorates more than 11,000 men of the Canadian Expeditionary Force killed during the First World War in France and who have no known grave. Many of them died in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The Vimy Memorial also commemorates a Driffield soldier - Private George Herbert Selkirk, from Westgate - who was serving with the Canadian Infantry, presumably having emigrated as a young man, as so many did around that time in search of work and a better life. We’ll also be taking a look down the famed Carrière Wellington tunnels in the centre of Arras itself, where Allied troops sheltered during the build-up to the Battle of Arras, which was launched in the early hours of 9 April 1917.
The Sunday will take us down to the Somme again, this time for a tour of hand-picked places of significance with the excellent Battlefield Exploration tour guides from Ypres. As well as visiting some familiar sites, including the Sheffield Memorial Park, Serre, Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont-Hamel and the magnificent Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, we’ll also be stopping off at a handful of battlefield cemeteries where casualties from the Driffield area were laid to rest.
These will include Warlencourt British Cemetery, just a few miles outside Arras, where Wansford lad Pte Henry Parker was buried more than a century after he was killed taking part in offensive action near Martinpuich in the later stages of the Battle of the Somme. You can read about his story in former Driffield Post and Times editor Jill Pick's excellent local history book, Yorkshire Wolds Soldiers of the Great War.
We’ll also see Flatiron Copse Cemetery near Mametz, final resting place of Driffield’s Captain Frank Woodcock and Lieutenant Colonel James Mortimer, both of the Yorkshire Regiment.
Our ‘home’ for the weekend will be the ibis Arras Centre Les Places Hotel, which is a stone’s throw from the bars and restaurants of the Place De Heros and Grand Place.
Here’s a rundown of some of the Driffield area soldiers – all now commemorated on the cross in the churchyard at Driffield's All Saints (apart from my namesake Pte Appleby, who is remembered on the plaque in Nafferton) – who we hope to visit on our trip:
Driffield CWGC info
WWI casualties from Driffield – Arras tour
Private Henry Parker
5th Bn.Yorkshire Regiment. Service Number 3183. Died 26/09/1916, aged 22. Cemetery: Warlencourt British Cemetry. VI. L. 36 Son of John and Esther Parker of Wansford.
"Henry Parker was buried at the Warlencourt British Cemetery, the Somme on Wednesday May 17 2017, more than a century after he died halfway through the Battle of the Somme which lasted 141 days from July 1 1916. Hitherto, Henry's name has been on the Thiepval Memorial to The Missing Of The Somme. In October 2015, human remains were found in a field to the north-east of Martinpuich on the Somme. The opinion of the exhumation team was that the soldier was lying where he fell rather than a field burial; perhaps blown onto the side of a shell hole. The relatively full set of remains showed possible shrapnel wounds rather than small arms wounds. At 6am on 26th, the Battalion had relieved the 5th DLI in Prue Trench and the Starfish Line. Moving forward against enemy positions the Battalion lost a further 3 Officers and 33 Other Ranks wounded or missing, and 7 Other Ranks killed."
Read more here: https://greenhowards.org.uk/finding-henry/
Private Thomas Arnell Northumberland Fusiliers Date of death: 14/11/1916, aged 36. Commemorated at Thiepval. Pier and Face 10 B 11 B and 12 B. Son of Mrs. Betsy Arnell, of 1, Eastgate North, Driffield, Yorks. Private George William Abram 5th Bn. Yorkshire Regiment. Service Number 1203 Died 15/09/1916, aged 21. Commemorated at Thiepval. Pier and Face 3 A and 3 D. Son of George Robert and Sarah Jane Abram, of 76, Middle St. North, Driffield, Yorks.
Private George Dunning Northumberland Fusiliers Date of death: 15/09/1916 (aged 23) Commemorated at Thiepval. Pier and Face 10 B 11 B and 12 B. Son of George Beaumont Dunning and Alice Maria Dunning, of Beverley Rd., Driffield, Yorks.
Private Walter Large Northumberland Fusiliers Date of death: 15/09/1916. Commemorated at Thiepval. Pier and Face 10 B 11 B and 12 B. Son of William and Jane Large, of 111, Westgate, Driffield, Yorks.
Private Frank Appleby 7th Bn. East Yorkshire Regiment. Service Number 21925 Died 05/11/1916, aged 30. Commemorated at Thiepval. Pier and Face 2 C. Son of Mrs. C. A. Appleby, of Patrington, Hull.
Private George Herbert Selkirk Canadian Infantry Date of death: 09/04/1917 (aged 26) Cemetery: Vimy Memorial, France. Son of Elizabeth Selkirk, of 67, Westgate, Driffield, Yorks, England, and the late Henry Thomas Selkirk.
Flatiron Copse, Mametz:
Captain Frank Woodcock Yorkshire Regiment Date of death: 15/09/1916 (aged 22) Cemetery: VII. J. 3. Son of John and Elizabeth J. Woodcock, of Grove Cottage, Great Driffield, Yorks.
Lieutenant Colonel James Mortimer Yorkshire Regiment Date of death: 15/09/1916 (aged 45). Cemetery: IV. J. 5. Son of John Robert and Matilda Mortimer; husband of Dora Mortimer, of Grove Cottage, Driffield, Yorks. Born at Driffield.
Lieutenant Charles Etherington Wharram Royal Flying Corps, 52nd Sqdn Date of death: 26/03/1918 (aged 26) Cemetery: Arras Flying Services Memorial. Son of Williamson Guy and Mary Elizabeth Wharram, of Langtoft, Lowthorpe, Driffield, Yorks.
Private George Neall East Yorkshire Regiment Date of death: 03/05/1917 (aged 32) Cemetery: Arras Memorial. Bay 4 and 5. Son of Vincent and Emma Neall, of Frederick Terrace, Nanobel St., Hull; husband of Mary Neall, of 13, Victoria Rd., Driffield, Yorks.
Private John Edwin Knaggs Yorkshire Regiment Date of death: 23/04/1917 (aged 21) Cemetery: Arras Memorial. Bay 5. Son of Richard and Annie Knaggs, of II, Downe St., Driffield, Yorks.
Private Harold Tasker East Yorkshire Regiment Date of death: 03/05/1917 (aged 19) Cemetery: Arras Memorial. Bay 4 and 5. Son of John and Jane Elizabeth Tasker, of 35, Washington St., Driffield, Yorks.