Battle of Artois
La Targette French cemetery is located in La Targette in Neuville-Saint-Vaast.
The village was completely destroyed during the Second Battle of Artois, an offensive that took place in May 1915.
La Targette French Cemetery is located next to the British war cemetery, along the D55 road that links Lens to Maroeuil.
La Targette French Cemetery is understated, as all French war cemeteries.
The white crosses are aligned and create geometrical patterns.
They stand out against the manicured lawn.
Most soldiers, buried in this cemetery, were killed during the offensive that began on 9 May, 1915.
The purpose of the Second Battle of Artois was to break the heavy lines of German defense before attacking Vimy Ridge.
The Germans then occupied Neuville-Saint-Vaast and turned it into a stronghold.
They had protected the village with four lines of defense.
These consisted of a vast and complex network of trenches and underground galleries defended by blockhouses and forts and crisscrossed with barbed wire.
This huge defense sector that spread over several kilometers was known as the labyrinth.
The Germans had also turned the 150 village houses into bunkers defended by cannons and machine guns.
The offensive began on May 9 and lasted until to June 17.
The French succeeded, meter by meter, trench by trench, to seize the sector.
This also included the much coveted Colline Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.
The fierce battle tragically ended in an astronomical number of dead on both sides.
La Targette French Cemetery
La Targette French Cemetery was open in 1919.
It contains the graves of 11,443 soldiers killed during the battles of Artois WWI, and 593 killed during WWII.
The remains of 3,282 unidentified soldiers who died in the two wars were placed in an ossuary.
The cemetery contains also a few Jewish soldiers’ graves.
The men of the French Colonial Troops are buried in the cemetery’s Muslim section.
Their tombstones are turned towards Mecca.
La Targette French Cemetery and the British war cemetery cover nearly 50,000m2.
Here are the official links to the WWI 100th Anniversary Commemorations:
Mission Centenaire 14-18 in English
Location: Neuville-Saint-Vaast – Pas-de-Calais department
Coordinates for La Targette French Cemetery: Lat 50.349849 – Long 2.747102