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Giant memorial to 579,606 war dead

Inauguration of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette ceremony will be last official commemoration of First World War centenary

PRESIDENT Hollande, German chancellor Angela Merkel and British prime minister David Cameron will tomorrow inaugurate the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette International Memorial in Pas-de-Calais.

Built beside the French Flanders and Artois First World War battlefields and alongside France’s largest military cemetery, the giant concrete “Memorial Ring” at Albain-Saint-Nazaire near Arras carries stainless steel tablets with the names of 579,606 victims known to have died there.

The names are engraved in alphabetical order, regardless of nationality, rank or religion, with friends and former foes mixed together.

Designed by architect Philippe Prost, the monument does not celebrate the victors of the war, but evokes the suffering shared by all the combatants in a conflict that killed 10 million people.

Tomorrow’s ceremony at 15.30 will be the last of a year of commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the war. It follows Mr Hollande’s taking part in the traditional ceremony at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris earlier in the morning.

Among the nearly 580,000 names on the 500 steel plates on the 2.2hectare site is that of war poet Wilfred Owen, who wrote Dulce et Decorum Est. He was shot and killed near the village of Ors on November 4, 1918 taking part in the 100 Days Offensive that was the start of the end of the war.

The list of the names of the dead were collated from official lists, with 241,214 names of British and Commonwealth soldiers from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 173,876 names of German troops from the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraberfursorge, 106,012 names of French dead – this number is reduced as troops had been sent to fight at Verdun – and also 2,326 Belgians, 2,266 Portuguese, 1,037 Russians and six Americans.

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