Today is a big day. Today I take a short trip back to Canada by bike.
Place des Héros, Arras, today.
Place des Héros, Arras for the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
It is getting hotter and the air conditioning in the hotel wasn’t working. Funny that the best a/c that I have had so far in this trip to Europe was in the cheapest hotel. The heat and the lack of sleep promises to make this a tough day even though this is supposed to be a short distance day; just 52 km with only 449 m of climbing. So off we head to a site that I first visited in 2017. As we head off, I realize that we have a new rider in our group. It was Colonel Pierre Haché, the Canadian Defence Attaché in Paris.
I first visited the Hill 70 Monument while it was still under construction. The Memorial Park is dedicated to the Canadian Corps that achieved victory at the Battle of Hill 70 in August, 1917. Here, General Currie had objected to Haig’s demand that the Corps attack the city of Lens, countering that without dominating the high ground any action in Lens would be futile. Currie won and the Canadian Corps attacked and captured the hill and resisted several counter attacks.
The centrepiece of the Memorial is an obelisk signifying the victory of the Canadian Corps. The concrete that forms the walkway up the hill alternates red and white to reflect the Canadian colours. And the maple leaf is embossed in that concrete frequently.
However, immediately upon arriving there I realized that something was wrong. The obelisk at the top of the hill stands proud, but the grounds are untended and the weeds are coming up between the concrete slabs. In fact, the concrete is cracking and spalling in several places. This is a sad situation for such a magnificent monument.
While we all gathered around the obelisk for the regular service, Col. Haché was invited to speak to the group. During his presentation, Pierre spoke about the construction and follow up maintenance issues of the memorial site. He described how the memorial had been constructed with private funding. The City of Loos-en-Goelle granted the land on which the memorial was built, however they did not commit to maintain the site. The private organization that raised funds for and constructed the memorial did not address the need to provide funds for maintenance