The first time we properly came face-to-face with French war graves was at La Targette, a hamlet near the town of Neuville-Saint-Vaast. The Necropole Military, or French National Cemetery, at La Targette was created in 1919. It covers 44,000 square metres and contains the graves of 11,400 known and 3,800 unknown French soldiers.
|La Targette cemetery from the air, Google Satellite image|
|The British cemetery at La Targette|
When we were at the Arras tunnels, Adam saw a postcard featuring a beautiful white church. We tracked down the church, finding it high on a hill near the town of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire. It is the Notre Dame de Lorette, the French National Cemetery where over 40,000 soldiers are buried. The site stretches as far as the eye can see in each direction, covering the entire hilltop. It was the most shocking cemetery we saw while in Europe - just rows and rows of beautiful white crosses. So poignant.
|The basilica, Notre Dame de Lorette|
|The stunning Lantern Tower.|
|Mass grave in which the bodies of over 5,000 unknown soldiers are buried|
|The cemetery from the air. Note how large it is compared to the nearby town of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire.|
I love how beautiful the memorials and cemeteries are in these places that saw such destruction. Oases of calm and peace that are a contrast to the noise and chaos experienced by the men when they fought here. Not happy places to visit, but beautiful, haunting places. Memories of them will stick with us forever.