Vacances en France – 2018 – Carrière Wellington

On our last day stopping with the rellies, we headed out to Arras. On previous visits we had only ever dipped our toes into what this town has to offer and we had passed by on many occasions.

One thing we did know was that Arras is sitting on a maze of tunnels, and therefore felt it was way past time for us to find out more.

So of we went to Carrière Wellington.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say…

The Carrière Wellington is a museum in Arras, northern France. It is named after a former underground quarry which was part of a network of tunnels used by forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth during the First World War. Opened in March 2008, the museum commemorates the soldiers who built the tunnels and fought in the Battle of Arras in 1917.

500 miners from the New Zealand Tunnelling Company, including Māori and Pacific Islanders, recruited from the gold and coal mining districts of the country, were brought in to dig 20 kilometres (12 mi) of tunnels. They worked alongside Royal Engineer tunnelling companies, made up by now of British coal miners and expert tunnellers who had built the London Underground. Many of them were “Bantams“, soldiers of below average height who had been rejected from regular units because they did not meet the height requirements; others had been initially rejected as too old, but their specialist mining experience made them essential for the tunnelling operation.

Thousands of soldiers were billeted in the tunnels for eight days prior to the start of the Arras offensive on 9 April 1917. At 05:30 that morning, exits were dynamited to enable the troops to storm the German trenches. The Germans were taken by surprise and were pushed back 11 km (6.8 mi). This counted as an extraordinary success by the standards of the time. However, the offensive soon bogged down and it was eventually called off after casualties reached 4,000 a day.

From <>
Ready for the tour

Hopefully, the following pictures, will give a sense of the conditions under which the men of the New Zealand Tunelling Company worked and also the cramped space that thousands of men endured prior to beginning the attack.

The following image shows just one of the many stairways, to be used by the men as they exited the tunnels. They would have climbed in single file, popping out above ground to confront the German soldiers. I wonder if the first man up was a volunteer ?

With all the men inhabiting the tunnels a fair amount of drinking water would be required. They had their own water supply. The following image shows a water trough to the left. The trough is full of water, showing just how clean the water was. Center of the image is a mirror whose reflection shows the well from which the water comes.

Also from Wikipedia …..

The Carrière Wellington museum consists of a visitor centre displaying historic artifacts and presenting the historical context of the Battle of Arras, including the work of the tunnelers and the military strategy that underlay the tunnels’ construction. It was opened to the public on 1 March 2008.
The tunnels are accessed via a lift shaft that takes visitors approximately 22 m (70 ft) under the ground inside the galleries of the underground quarry. The tour consists of both guided and audio-guided tours on a planned path accessible for wheelchairs. The visitors discover the development of the strategy of the Battle of Arras, and also the daily life of the tunnelers of New-Zealand and the soldiers of the British Expeditionary Forces sent in these tunnels to prepare this battle.

The site is also a memorial dedicated to the battle of Arras, with a memorial wall remembering all the regiments involved in the battle of Arras. Since the Hundred Years of the battle in 2017, a second memorial wall is dedicated to portraits of NZ Tunnelers, and a statue was installed in the park for the remembrance of these tunnelers. Each year, a ceremony is organised at 6.30 am on April 9th.

An interesting and enlightening day. I am ever amazed at the amount of effort, the soldiers of the First World War, expended for so little gain.

As this was to be our last day, before heading back to good ol’ Blighty, we all went out for a family meal. And so, after a good meal at Beers & Co., it was back to Achiete and bag packing.

Vacances en France – 2018 – Lochnagar, Australian National Memorial and Amiens

Having travelled up from Troyes to Achiete le Grand, we settled in to spend time with Gerry’s brother and family who live in France.

Living as they do in the middle of the Somme department, they are surrounded by many memorials and graveyards dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives during the 1st World War.

Our first trip out took us to the crater formed by the Lochnagar Mine

The Lochnagar mine south of the village of La Boisselle in the Somme département was an underground explosive charge, secretly planted by the British during the First World War, ready for 1 July 1916, the first day on the Somme. The mine was dug by the Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers under a German field fortification known as Schwabenhöhe (Swabian Height).
The British named the mine after Lochnagar Street, the British trench from which the gallery was driven. The charge at Lochnagar was one of 19 mines that were placed beneath the German lines on the British section of the Somme front, to assist the infantry advance at the start of the battle.
The mine was sprung at 7:28 a.m. on 1 July 1916 and left a crater 98 ft (30 m) deep and 330 ft (100 m) wide, which was captured and held by British troops. The attack on either flank was defeated by German small-arms and artillery fire, except on the extreme right flank and just south of La Boisselle, north of the Lochnagar Crater. The crater has been preserved as a memorial and a religious service is held each 1 July.

Amongst the many memorialised, at the crater site, is Cecil Arthur Lewis (29 March 1898 – 27 January 1997). He was a British fighter pilot who flew in WW1, went on to be a founding executive of the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) and also enjoyed a long career as a writer.

Lieut. Cecil Arthur Lewis

From the crater we made our way over to the Australian National Memorial & Sir John Monash Centre, about 30 kilometers away, at Villers-Bretonneux.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is the main memorial to Australian military personnel killed on theWestern Front during World War 1. It is located on the Route Villiers-Bretonneux (D 23), between the towns of Fouilloy and Villers-Bretonneux, in the Somme départementFrance. The memorial lists 10,773 names of soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force with no known grave who were killed between 1916, when Australian forces arrived in France and Belgium, and the end of the war. The location was chosen to commemorate the role played by Australian soldiers in the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux (24–27 April 1918).
Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the memorial consists of a tower within the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, which also includes a Cross of Sacrifice. The tower is surrounded by walls and panels on which the names of the missing dead are listed. The main inscription is in both French and English, on either side of the entrance to the tower. The memorial and cemetery are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Touring this site was very emotional and the Sir John Monash Centre provides huge amounts of historical information as well as an intense audio/visual experience.

These are some of the signs along the entrance way ……

And then it was time for lunch which was at the Leon de Bruxelles restaurant, Glisy. Here we had Fish and Chips and moules. Yuuumy!!

The afternoon was spent in Amiens, walking the streets and touring The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens, or simply Amiens Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church and the seat of the Bishop of Amiens.

Suitably filled with history and architecture we headed back to Achiete, for cheese, meats and alcohol.

Erddig Hall


We had the pleasure of visiting the  National Trust property Erddig Hall near Wrexham. Wrexham is the largest town in North Wales, nestled in the Dee Valley between the Welsh mountains and the English border.

Erddig Hall

Erddig (roughly pronounced air-thig) was built between 1684–1687 for Josiah Edisbury, the then High Sheriff of Denbighshire, to a design by Thomas Webb.

More recently the property has been passed down through generations of the Yorke family until March 1973, when it was given to the National Trust.

Fancy Vase – Erddig

The property was in a severe state of disrepair and structurally unsound. Due in part to subsidence caused by the collapse of old coal mine workings. The National Trust managed to get some compensation from The National Coal Board which, coupled with funds raised by the sale some park land has enabled the preservation of Erddig and its contents.

Weapons Display – Erddig

And, it’s the contents that make Erddig such an interesting place. The Yorke family never threw anything away, or indeed never repaired anything. The house is undoubtedly a treasure trove of antique furniture and furnishings. Added to the physical items are the social historical records for both the family and specifically the staff, who were especially well treated.

Polyphon Music Box – Erddig
Ready to play Der Mikado

It should be noted that one of the conditions that Philip S. Yorke (1905–1978) imposed on handing over the house and estate to the National Trust in 1973 was that nothing was to be removed from the house. He is quoted as saying: “My only interest for many years has been that this unique establishment for which my family have foregone many luxuries and comforts over seven generations should now be dedicated to the enjoyment of all those who may come here and see a part of our national heritage preserved for all foreseeable time.”


Carpenters Shop – Erddig

This is the carpenter’s shop, apparently the tools were found exactly as you see in these photos.

Thomas Rogers c1830 – Erddig

Thomas Rogers was carpenter at Erddig. From the info board by his photo ….

During the Napoleonic Wars, he only escaped being press-ganged into the Navy because Simon Yorke paid his ransom. He was granted a pension by the Yorkes when he retired in 1871 at the age of ninety.

Carpenters Shop – Erddig

Some of the tools on display belonged to Thomas Rogers.

Alternative examples of wood craftsmanship are to be found in the yard outside of the Carpenters Shop.

Simon O’Rourke is the “artist in residence” at Erddig.

Erddig had its own Lime Works ….

Amongst all the various artworks around the Hall, we stumbled across this psychedelic Sheep ….

Psychedelic Sheep – Erddig

Must be the Beatles influence but on a previous visit “oop north”, north of the Mersey, we were surrounded by numerous psychedelic pigs.


General view of Outbuildings – Erddig

Just off this courtyard, there are stables housing a number of shire horses. Unusually, they were all asleep, and it was quite humorous watching one of them, his head slowly drooping, then suddenly jerking up, his eyes opening briefly before repeating the cycle. I get that feeling most evenings, when the soaps are on the TV.

Among the various outbuildings, numerous forms of wheeled vehicles may be found. Including bicycles, motor cars and motorcycles. These are just a few  ….

On, into the interior of the house, starting with the laundry …..

….. and then on into the kitchen …..

With all the cooking going on in this house they needed some decent silverware to serve it in ….

Silverware – Erddig

And somewhere decent to eat the food prepared below stairs ….

Interesting to note that most of the Yorke family were vegetarians, though their menus did include meat and fish. Presumably, to cater for the tastes of their guests when entertaining. Once a meal was over, perhaps the Yorke family would retire to the Saloon for a drop of Port, a cigar, and some polite conversation.

Saloon -Erddig

The ceiling in the Saloon, and in one of the bedrooms, is notable for the fact that it is clad in sheet steel. This was applied as a form of fire retardant. The metal was then painted over.

And so, body and soul satisfied, the Yorkes would take themselves off to bed ….

Bedroom – Erddig

This room is known as the White Bedroom. It has a Chippendale period mahogany four-poster bed and is named after the white-painted seventeenth-century panelling.

After a good nights sleep, what could be more refreshing than an invigorating shower ….

Shower – Erddig

Although this “Heath-Robinson” affair looks as if it would be more at home on a jungle campsite.

After touring the house we ventured outside. Due to other commitments we were not able to do justice to the grounds. These are a few of the pictures I took close to the house.

And so it was time to call it a day and head back to the Wirral. One last photo before we leave this beautiful house …

Dovecote – Erddig