BAILLEUL to LENS

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This section covers the ground to the South of Bailleul as far as Lens. This includes the battlefields of Aubers, Neuve Chapelle, and Loos. The area around Bailleul itself was subject to fighting in 1914 in the early weeks of the war and again in 1918 when the Germans made their last great offensive in March of that year.

The battlefields of Neuve Chapelle and Aubers are relatively easy to follow on the ground, either by walking or driving as the area is well served by small roads. It is a remarkably small area when one considers the fighting that took place here. The German front is fairly easy to see as so many bunkers still remain, some in very good condition, and many are easily seen from the road. One notable bunker is in the shape of a house. Originally, this was built inside the structure of an existing house, using the house as camouflage. The house is long gone but the reinforced concrete bunker remains. The bunker in the trees is in the Bois du Biez, which was part of a German strongpoint in both the battles of Neuve Chapelle and Aubers Ridge. Today it is still possible to trace the lines of trenches running through the trees.

The Battle of Loos in late 1915 was the first battle to use significant numbers of Kitchener's volunteer army who were now replacing the former professional army of 1914, this having been largely destroyed over the preceding year. Loos was also the first time that the British used gas after the Germans had used it shortly before at Ypres and on the Eastern Front. In 1915 this battlefield was dominated by the landscape of the coal mines, with a mixture of slag heaps, mine winches, and rows of miner's cottages. The scars of this mining history are still clearly visible although the industry is now gone. The two enormous slag heaps seen in several of these pictures dominate the landscape like a pair of pyramids. They can be seen from many miles away, from the Aubers Ridge on one side and Vimy on the other.

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