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Arras Tunnel in Wellington, New Zealand

During the First World War, the underground tunnels of Arras called “Boves” were extended by tunnellers from New Zealand to create a tactical advantage for Allied forces. These tunnels were intended to house Allied troops massing for the 1917 Arras Offensive in complete safety and totally unknown to the Germans.

Two large quarry and tunnel networks were completed within five months. They ran from the centre of Arras to near the German front lines. The tunnel systems could accommodate up to 25,000 men and were fitted with running water, electric lights, kitchens, toilets, a light rail system and a fully equipped hospital. 24,000 British soldiers launched a successful attack against the Germans from there. This famous attack called “The Battle of Arras” was the only Allied victory of the year 1917.

The tunnellers dug 4,300 metres of tunnels. The record for metres of tunnel in a single day was set on 16 December 1916 when they dug 100 metres of tunnel. Tunnelling was carried out seven days a week, 24 hours a day, with individual tunnellers carrying out eight-hour shifts followed by 24 hours rest.

Apart from graves and memorials, the quarries are one of the very few physical traces left behind by the New Zealanders on the Western Front.

In August 2012, the Government of New Zealand announced the project to put Buckle Street (State Highway 1) underground to create a National War Memorial precinct in Wellington.

This project was a key part of New Zealand’s commemoration of the centenary of the First World War.

Pukeahu National War Memorial Park was built between 2013 and 2015 on Wellington’s Mount Cook hill and ready for Anzac Day, 25 April 2015 – 100 years since the landings at Gallipoli, New Zealand’s first major battle. It officially opened on 18 April 2015. Pukeahu is the Maori name for the hill.

For the park to happen, Buckle Street, which runs in front of the National War Memorial, had to be placed underground. The tunnel was called the “Arras Tunnel” to pay tribute to the miners/tunnellers from New Zealand who came to Arras to extend the underground tunnels.

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Photo from : http://www.learnz.org.nz/memorialpark134/bg-easy-f/project-update

The Arras tunnel is adorned with 273 decorative poppies, which symbolize the 2,721 New Zealand citizens killed during the Anzac campaign at Gallipoli and serve as a reminder that the tunnel is a memorial space.

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A commemorative ceremony held at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, during Anzac Day. Photo credit : Brett Tomkins

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Photo credit : Brett Tomkins

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Photo credit : Brett Tomkins

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Photo credit : Brett Tomkins

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Photo credit : Brett Tomkins

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Photo credit : Brett Tomkins

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Photo credit : Brett Tomkins

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Photo credit : Brett Tomkins

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Photo credit : Brett Tomkins

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Photo credit : Brett Tomkins

What is Anzac Day ?

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers were known as Anzacs. Anzac Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand.

Here is a video of the Arras Tunnel in Wellington :

For more information about the Arras’ underground tunnels, click on this link :

http://arras-france.com/the-arras-undergound-tunnels/

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