ONE hundred years ago, on April 9, 1917, the Battle of Arras was beginning in France.
This battle would last until May 16 and would see significant strategic territorial advances by the allies, but would lead to around 150,000 British casualties.
For the Battle of Arras to be a success the Allies needed to find a way of bringing their troops as close to the German front line as possible without the enemy noticing, unlike the Battle of the Somme in the previous year.
To do this they began to explore the tunnels under the town and soon whole barracks were being established allowing the Allies to be positioned right under the Germans, escaping into No Man’s Land at night to cut through the enemy’s defences.
Whilst the battle did give some advantages it was not the great success many had hoped for and resulted in many casualties.
In recognition of this, memorials were built for those lost in the battle.
In Arras itself, in the western part of the town, a memorial was built to remember almost 35,000 soldiers who died whilst serving in the Arras area between 1916 and August 1918, of these five names can be traced back to Romsey. Harry Betteridge, Bruce Stoker, Eggins Goulding and Reginald Withers served in the Battle of Arras whilst Arthur Joyce died in the Arras Sector in early 1918.
Another great memorial is that of Vimy Ridge. Inside the 240 Acre Canadian Memorial Park lies the white limestone structure that commemorates 66,000 Canadians killed during the war, 11,285 of which have no known grave. Amongst the names is the name of Albert Pearce. Albert was 25 years old and came from Romsey and was serving with the Canadian infantry when he died.
To discover more about the battle, residents flocked to the Abbey United Reformed Church last month to view an exhibit on the battle. The display, in connection with their World War One Project, detailed the battle, memorials and told the stories of the brave Romsey men who fought a hundred years ago.
Local historian Sarah Stewart, who put on the exhibit, was delighted by the amount of people that turned out.
“This exhibit is part of workshops we have been running monthly.
“Lots of residents have been coming along to try to find out more about their relatives; this has really helped us with the project as it is about finding more information on the people that were involved in World War One.”