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WW1 Memorial demolished by road smash

3 July 2019
This is one of the most hallowed sites in modern naval history – lying partially in ruins.

The monument to the sailors and Royal Marines killed in the Battle of Arras in 1917 has been partially destroyed by a car accidentally smashing into it and needs rebuilding.

The memorial at Gavrelle was erected nearly 30 years ago when historians and veterans decided the actions in the village and sacrifices made here in April 1917 deserved belated recognition.

Over six days the Royal Naval Division – a mix of sailors serving in the trenches as soldiers and Royal Marines Light Infantry – suffered 3,794 dead, wounded and missing, including the bloodiest day in the Corps’ history when 846 marines became casualties.

The memorial is in a shocking state and to see it like this is heartbreaking,

Petty Officer John MacRae

Funded by donations from Royal Naval and Royal Marines Associations across the land, the memorial recreates the ruins of a red-brick cottage typically found in the region 100 years ago, adorned with a three-ton anchor which was recovered from the seabed and donated by the Royal Navy, while plaques mark the names of the naval formations which once fought here.

Since the memorial was dedicated in May 1991, it has become a regular site of pilgrimage not just for families of those lost at Arras but serving personnel and reservists retracing the division’s path in the Great War; each visiting group left cap tallies tied to the anchor as a mark of respect.

The monument was sited on the old German front line. Today it’s just a few feet from the main dual carriageway between Arras and Douai… and earlier this year a French motorist left the road and hurtled into the memorial; legal efforts are being made to recoup some of the cost of rebuilding the monument, but it will probably need donations, time and labour to restore the memorial.

“I am a passionate follower of the Royal Naval Division and have visited there many times,” said logistician Petty Officer John ‘Kipper’ MacRae of East Midlands reservists unit HMS Sherwood. “The memorial is in a shocking state and to see it like this is heartbreaking,

“Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Marines units in particular need to be made aware of the state of this memorial – and would possibly contribute towards rebuilding this unique and totally naval monument.”

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