the-battle-of-cambrai-november-december-1917The Battle of cambrai november december 1917
©The Battle of cambrai november december 1917
Douai in the hand of German army

Douai Surrounded by WW1 heritage

The First World War, the Great War as it is also known, had a heavy impact on the souls, bodies and landscapes of the Hauts-de-France region between 1914 and 1918.

The Douai region was more or less spared from the fighting, Douai becoming an ‘Etappen-kommandantur’ – rear command centre – in the hands of the German army from October 1914. This very comfortable rear base, with concerts, a theatre, cinema and shops, served as a troop depot and welcomed soldiers leaving or returning from the front. When the German army left the town in October 1918, all the strategic points were destroyed (bridges blown up, mines flooded, factories dismantled, etc.), and the houses, institutions and works of art of the Chartreuse Museum were looted.

Douai, a strategic place close to the frontline

A highly strategic place, the Douai region was situated about ten kilometres from the front line, between Lens, Arras (lien battle of arras) and Cambrai, where battles as famous as they were deadly took place: Battle of Arras (1917), Battle of Vimy Ridge (lien battle of vimy) (April 1917), Battle of Cambrai (lien battle of Cambrai), (Nov-Dec 1917), Hundred Days Offensive (Aug-Nov 1918)…

Moving places to visit from Douai


Today, although life has long resumed its course, the memory of these battles and the men who fell is still vivid. Along bucolic country roads, nestled at the foot of a hill or in the heart of a town, military cemeteries still shelter the remains or the memories of several thousand soldiers of all origins and nationalities.

Quiet, melancholic places known only, or almost only, to the families of the missing soldiers. But also great sites of memory of the Great War, as impressive as restful: the National Necropolis of Notre-Dame de Lorette, the Canadian Memorial of Vimy… And also museums or interpretation centres such as the Cambrai Tank 1917, the Interpretation Centre of the Battle of Cambrai, or the History Centre of the Memorial 14-18 Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.

Less than 30 minutes from Douai, you have an appointment with history!