Neuville Saint Vaast Flambeau de la paixNeuville Saint Vaast Flambeau de la paix
©Neuville Saint Vaast Flambeau de la paix|Devisme.alain, CC BY-SA 3.0
The eternal flameNeuville-Saint-Vaast

The Flambeau de la Paix, Neuville Saint Vaast

In Neuville-Saint-Vaast, a monumental hand rising from the ground holding a torch attracts attention. In this town of 1,500 inhabitants, the “Flambeau de la Paix” symbolizes the rebirth after the turmoil of the Great War. Located not far from the hill of Lorette and Vimy, Neuville-Saint-Vaast comes out of the war completely razed.

A place of memory

Occupied and heavily fortified by the Germans since October 1914, this city was retaken by French troops, house after house, after fifteen days of furious fighting that cost the lives of more than 5,000 men and left only ruins. The French offensive began on May 9, 1915; this date is inscribed on the plaque that encircles the wrist holding the famous torch. At the inauguration of the monument in 1932, white stones from the rubble of the town were symbolically placed at its base.

The "Flambeau de la Paix" at the entrance of the Cité des Mutilés

With a concrete arch that has now disappeared, the Flambeau once marked the entrance to a group of houses called the Cité des Mutilés. When the different national necropolises were created, different countries entrusted the supervision and maintenance of their places of memory to great war veterans. However, the ruined Artois region was faced with the worst difficulties in rehousing its own inhabitants and did not have the means to accommodate these men, who were sometimes severely disabled. Faced with this situation, a philanthropist, Ernest Petit, had 16 individual pavilions built, fitted out according to the needs of the occupants and their families, before selling them for one fifth of their value. Located on rue du 11 novembre 1918, these pavilions were named after officers who had served in the area: Barbot, Mangin, Foch, Joffre, Pétain, etc. In the center of these pavilions, a home was opened for families who came to visit the grave of one of their loved ones who died during the conflict.

For eternity

Just like the phoenix on its coat of arms, Neuville-Saint-Vaast has been able to rise from its ashes while allowing its visitors to remember past battles.