Zivy Crater © Cwgc (2)Zivy Crater © Cwgc (2)
©Zivy Crater © Cwgc (2)|CWGC
Mine cratersThelus

Lichfield and Zivy Crater Thelus

Between Thélus and Neuville-Saint-Vaast, the fields that run up to the Vimy National Forest no longer bear many traces of the fighting of the Great War. At the foot of Vimy Ridge, however, the Canadian soldiers discovered an almost lunar-like landscape as they prepared for their assault on the German positions in April 1917. The mine craters and shell holes bear witness to the fighting that took place in the area, particularly the French offensive of May 1915 and the German attack when the French army was relieved by the British army in May 1916.

A mine crater as a burial ground.

Since the beginning of the conflict, the Germans have held the 140-meter high Vimy Ridge. From there, they dominated, on one side, the mining basin they occupied and, on the other, the Artois region in the hands of the Allies.

Reunited for the first time in a single corps under the command of Canadian Lieutenant-General Julian Byng, the four Canadian divisions meticulously prepared their assault on the ridge. The sappers dug twelve tunnels at least 10 metres deep, perpendicular to the enemy lines, to bring the fighters as close as possible to them. In the rear, German lines were reconstituted to train their men. Their gunners had been shelling enemy positions since mid-March and underground mines exploded in no-man’s-land on the morning of April 9. The Canadians launched the assault at the same time as the British in front of Arras. Within half an hour, the Canadian Corps had taken the first German line. The next day, it had complete control of the ridge.

Engraved in the earth

During the offensive and in the month that followed, the officer in charge of burials took advantage of two old mine craters to bury a hundred bodies. Initially named CB1 and CB2A, the Zivy Crater and the Lichfield Crater are today the only two Commonwealth cemeteries to preserve this particular shape along the old Front. In Zivy Crater lie 53 bodies, 5 of which are unidentified; in Lichfield Crater, 57, 15 of which are unknown. In the absence of a stele, the names of the identified victims are inscribed on panels affixed to the surrounding wall at the foot of the Cross of Sacrifice.