Gallery: Civic leaders, schoolchildren and soldiers from Suffolk join Armistice Day service in Arras, France

UK Territorials take part in the ceremony at the British War Cemetery.
Members of the Ipswich bra

UK Territorials take part in the ceremony at the British War Cemetery. Members of the Ipswich branch of the Royal British Legion, attending the Armistice Day commemoration in the French town of Arras. - Credit: Archant/Geater

A delegation from Ipswich visited the town’s twin city of Arras yesterday to take part in a poignant Armistice Day service. Paul Geater joined them.

UK Territorials take part in the ceremony at the British War Cemetery.
Members of the Ipswich bra

UK Territorials take part in the ceremony at the British War Cemetery. Members of the Ipswich branch of the Royal British Legion, attending the Armistice Day commemoration in the French town of Arras. - Credit: Archant/Geater

Soldiers, former soldiers, civic dignitaries and schoolchildren today come together to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War at the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting during the four-year conflict – Ipswich’s twin city of Arras in northern France.

A delegation from Ipswich joined groups from Belgium, Canada, and even Germany to mark the grim centenary of a conflict that scarred vast areas of Northern France and Belgium.

Ipswich mayor Bill Quinton was joined by Robin Vickery of the Royal British Legion and Roy Brockman from the Royal Navy Association and other civic leaders for the trip to mark Armistice Day.

The day started with a simple but moving ceremony at the British War Cemetery on the edge of Arras. The huge area is immaculately-maintained and has graves of hundreds of people who fell in battle in this part of northern France.

Mr Quinton took part in the ceremony along with M Frederic Leturque, mayor of Arras.

The ceremony also featured the choir from Crescent School in Toronto, Canada. The Arras area has special links with that country because thousands of Canadians lost their lives at the battle of Vimy Ridge, just outside Arras.

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The Canadian national monument is on Vimy Ridge, and the school party was visiting that later in the day.

After the British Cemetery, attention turned to the Arras War Memorial in the city centre.

Again, many nationalities were represented, and one of the most poignant moments came when Karl-Heinz Forst, the Burgermeister of Arras’s German twin town of Herten, laid a wreath to mark the reconciliation between old enemies.

After further commemorations, the formal day ended with a special concert featuring young musicians from the towns represented – including some from the Ipswich High School.

They played to accompany a silent film which captured the mood of the First World War.

Arras was in the front line for most of the First World War and much of the town was razed to the ground. It was later rebuilt using war reparations paid by Germany under the Treaty of Versailles.

Those buildings that were left standing still show the scars of bullets and shellfire.

During the Second World War it avoided much further damage – although the SS did carry out atrocities in the area as the war came to a close.

For more on Ipswich’s commemorative events held this week, see our dedicated web page here

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