France’s new war memorial

A new memorial in Northern France commemmorates the soldiers who died during World War I

A new memorial in Nord-Pas-de-Calais is a moving symbol of the losses incurred on the Western Front Remembrance sites in Nord-Pas-de-Calais now include an impressive and moving tribute to the 580,000 soldiers who died on this part of the Western Front during World War I.

L’Anneau de la Mémoire (The Ring of Remembrance) is located next to France’s National Cemetery of Notre-Dame de Lorette, south-west of Lens-Liévin.

The names of the Fallen – friend and foe from more than 40 countries – are inscribed in white letters on 500 gold-coloured steel panels, which are laid out in an oval more than 300 metres in circumference. The names are in alphabetical order, in all simplicity, without note of religion, rank or nationality. Equal in death.

The Parisian architect Philippe Prost, who designed the memorial, said his aim was to “combine art and history to give a form to man’s common identity and brotherhood to serve as their lasting memory.”

For historian Yves Le Maner, who was closely involved with the project, this extraordinary monument expresses “the epitome of mass death, but also of so many individuals who existed and whose talent and intelligence were lost to humanity.”

Looking around inside the ring, the sheer number of names is overwhelming. There are whole panels of soldiers with the same surname such as Johnson or Smith. Famous names include the English war poet Wilfred Owen, whose verses brought home the horror and pain of war, and the Canadian John McCrae, whose poem In Flanders Fields became the symbol of remembrance with its images of the poppies growing there.

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The Ring of Remembrance was inaugurated by President François Hollande on 11 November last year. In June came a further addition to the area’s World War I memorials: Lens’14-18 – Centre d’Histoire Guerre et Paix in Souchez. This impressive, modern museum presents the events in the Artois region and French Flanders during World War I in chronological order. There are archive films, maps and a display of around 400 photographs, but the most interesting section is where visitors can consult the records of the soldiers commemorated on the Ring of Remembrance.

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 67 66 66

Read more about the World Wars in France: 8 World War I museums to visit; Legacy of war in Verdun; World War I: Journey of remembrance; Scars of the Somme