Whitby High School

Battlefields Tour 22nd-25th March 2013

Arras Memorial, France

Researching Soldiers and Ancestors

On our battlefield visits we try to visit the graves or memorials of ancestors of the students who are on the trip, but in this case it was actually a member of staff - Mr A. Sharples. In fact, we only traced the particular family member the previous evening in Le Chateau where we were staying, where we were able to spend a little time on the internet trying to track down his resting place. Sadly, we discovered that the body of Mr Sharples' relative was never found and consequently he was recorded on the Arras Memorial near to where he was killed in action.

Fortunately, the Arras Memorial was close to our route from Vimy Ridge to Lochnagar on the Somme. It was decided to stop there, and also take the opportunity to track down three men off the Ellesmere Port War Memorial while we were there, who were also recorded on the Arras Memorial.

While the coach and our party waited patiently outside, a small research team went into the memorial, each with a soldier's details to track down. Within a few minutes all had been successfully found, respects paid, and we were on our way to the Somme.

The results of our searches can be viewed on the Ellesmere Port War Memorial Site. In addition it was discovered that Mr Sharples was actually related to another Ellesmere Port soldier also on the same website - see here for the story.


Arras Memorial - Ellesmere Port Soldiers

4318 Private Frank Davies , 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. 
Husband of Miriam Davies of 50 Dock Street, Ellesmere Port and Son of John and Mary Davies of 5 Darwin Terrace, Mountfields, Shrewsbury.  Killed in Action on 28th March 1918, Aged 29.  Bay 1. 


240390 Private Edward Jones  , 1/5th Battalion Cheshire Regiment. 
Son of John & Martha Jones.  Killed in action/Died of wounds, 2nd May 1917, Aged 25.  Bay 5 and 6. 



17487 Private Harry Oakley, 8th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment. 
Husband of Beatrice Oakley of 13 Oak Street, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire and Son of James Oakley.  Killed in Action on 28th April 1917, Aged 24.  Bay 6.

Sam finds Private Harry Oakley on the memorial,
but it is so weathered and worn on this section that the names are very difficult to photograph clearly.

The stories of all three men are presently in preparation, but keep revisiting the site as soldier's biographies are constantly being added.

Mr Sharples finds his relative's name recorded high up on the memorial panels

The Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial

Click the thumbnails to enlarge the display boards pictured on the left of the memorial

Arras Memorial

The French handed over Arras to Commonwealth forces in the spring of 1916 and the system of tunnels upon which the town is built were used and developed in preparation for the major offensive planned for April 1917. The Commonwealth section of the FAUBOURG D'AMIENS CEMETERY was begun in March 1916, behind the French military cemetery established earlier. It continued to be used by field ambulances and fighting units until November 1918. The cemetery was enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields and from two smaller cemeteries in the vicinity. The cemetery contains 2,651 Commonwealth burials of the First World War. In addition, there are 30 war graves of other nationalities, most of them German.

During the Second World War, Arras was occupied by United Kingdom forces headquarters until the town was evacuated on 23 May 1940. Arras then remained in German hands until retaken by Commonwealth and Free French forces on 1 September 1944. The cemetery contains seven Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. The graves in the French military cemetery were removed after the First World War to other burial grounds and the land they had occupied was used for the construction of the Arras Memorial and Arras Flying Services Memorial.

The ARRAS MEMORIAL commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and the German attack in the spring of 1918. Canadian and Australian servicemen killed in these operations are commemorated by memorials at Vimy and Villers-Bretonneux. A separate memorial remembers those killed in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. The ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIAL commemorates nearly 1,000 airmen of the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force, either by attachment from other arms of the forces of the Commonwealth or by original enlistment, who were killed on the whole Western Front and who have no known grave. Both cemetery and memorial were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, with sculpture by Sir William Reid Dick.

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Updated April 2013 by Mike Royden