Rendez-vous at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery - Souchez
Designed by the architect Frank Higginson, the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery in Souchez is one of the largest in the region and contains 7,655 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, more than half of them unidentified.
When the French retook Souchez in September 1915 they found the village had been razed to the ground. 'There wasn't a wall left standing,' remembers veteran Henri Barbusse. In March 1916 the French on the Artois Front were relieved by British troops who subsequently established, on the site where a bar called Le Cabaret Rouge once stood, a cemetery for the British and Canadian soldiers killed in the region.
After the Armistice, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission concentrated in Souchez the remains of 7,000 soldiers who were initially interred on the battlefields of Arras and in 103 other burial grounds in the departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais.
On 25th May 2000 the remains of an unknown Canadian soldier were exhumed from the Caberet-Rouge Cemetery in Souchez and returned to Canada where they were finally laid to rest at the foot of the National War Memorial in Confederation Square, Ottawa.
In 1917 the six countries of the Commonwealth created a joint-funded War Graves Commission (CWGC) to commemorate all the Commonwealth war dead individually and 'in a uniform and equal fashion, irrespective of military or civil rank, race or creed'. The CWGC was given the responsibility of maintaining the 23,000 cemeteries and memorials to the unknown soldiers which were erected after the war in 148 countries across the world. The organization also conserves archive material on the 1.7 million soldiers who died in the two world wars.
The French branch of the CWGC is located in Beaurains near Arras and employs more than 400 people, three-quarters of whom are gardeners who are responsible for the upkeep of the 2,900 places of remembrance dedicated to the 600,000 soldiers laid to rest in French soil.