NEW IN 2017 : An temporary exhibition dedicated to the Centenary 1917 - 2017.

Graffiti Badge Canadien - cliché de Dominique Bossut - Inrap
Graffiti Badge Canadien - cliché de Dominique Bossut - Inrap

Vimy 1917, Canadian underground war

This exhibition sheds light on a little-known aspect of the Great War : the underground war fought by Canadian soldiers, hidden in the bowels of the earth to shield themselves from the deadly force of the artillery.

Coming from a new country, and fighting–and for many, dying–thousands of kilometres from their homes, they, more than all the other soldiers, left their mark in France in the form of graffiti and sculptures etched on to the chalk walls of underground cavities in Artois and Picardy, where they stayed prior to going over the top or during rest periods behind the front.

After a synopsis of the stages of Canada’s involvement in the fighting and the losses it sustained, a description is provided of the troops’ living conditions between assaults, as well as their cantonment sites, hospitals, training camps in the villages along the " Chaussée Brunehaut " and the relationships formed with the civilian population.

 inscriptions and graffiti underground vimy

The traces ( inscriptions and graffiti ) left behind by Canadian soldiers are then presented, by means of topography of the preserved remains, the techniques used and their content ( names, badges, images of women, religious and patriotic symbols, caricatures, masonic themes and so on ).

Two major Canadian sites are evoked specifically, in particular through the realisation of shot campaigns and 3D modelling : the undergrounds of Maison-Blanche in Neuville-Saint-Vaast (the neighboring villages of Souchez and Vimy, Pas-de-Calais) and those of Bouzincourt ( Somme ).

 inscriptions and graffiti underground vimy 1917

Conversely, the productions of other warring nationalities are also brought to light : American ( Froidmont quarry in Braye-en-Laonnois ), Australian ( Naours caves ), New Zealander ( Wellington quarry in Arras ), and of course, French and German ( Chemin des Dames quarries ).

The traces thus revealed are an occasion to follow in the footsteps of a large number of soldiers, from their homes in Canada, to the place of their death, on the French front, thanks to additional research carried out in the archives, as well as with their families.

The exhibition therefore highlights unknown and fragile testimonies, exposed to natural erosion and to vandalism, but also irreplaceable as they often constitute the only trace of the passage of ordinary men, who came to die in a foreign land during the First World War.


From the 8th April to 12nd November 2017- Free admission

Open from Tuesday to Sunday - From 10.00 AM to 6.00 PM

Exceptional opening the Mondays 10th and 17th April.

exhibition in partnership with library and archives canada www.bac-lac.gc.ca

and the warmuseum of canada www.warmuseum.ca Canadian War museum