Hundreds of New Zealand soldiers who dug a network of tunnels beneath Arras in the run-up to the Allies' spring 1917 offensive in Northern France are to be honoured with the unveiling of a new memorial this year.
The Earth Remembers, a bronze sculpture outlining the figure of a New Zealander wearing a characteristic 'lemon squeezer' hat, will be inaugurated at a dawn ceremony on 9 April 2017, the centenary of the start of the Battle of Arras.
Designed and made by Marian Fountain, a New Zealand artist based in Paris, it will stand near the entrance to the Carrière Wellington, the subterranean museum in Arras dedicated to British and Commonwealth forces who were garrisoned underground during the First World War.
The 'dug out' shape of the lone tunneller represents a soldier who is no longer there. For more on the concept see WW100 New Zealand.
New Zealand has contributed a lottery grant of $181,000 (€120,000) towards the project, in recognition of the continuing part played by the people of Arras in commemorating New Zealanders.
In the run-up to the Battle of Arras in 1917, British and New Zealand forces dug an extensive network of tunnels beneath the town, linking quarries dating back to the Middle Ages to create vast shelters below ground.
The aim was concentrate thousands of troops close to the front line in readiness for the April offensive, without alerting the Germans.
Part of the system was named Wellington Quarry, after the New Zealand capital. After years of excavations, it was re-opened as a museum, La Carrière Wellington, in 2008.
The New Zealand Tunnelling Company was among more than 30 British and Dominion tunnelling units serving in France by the end of 1916.
Full details can be found here of the Battle of Arras Centenary Programme.
Also in Centenary News:
Former NZ mining town of Waihi commemorates tunnellers.
Source: WW100 New Zealand, Arras Tourist Office
© Images of 'The Earth Remembers' courtesy of Marian Fountain
Posted by: CN Editorial Team