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Visiting France

Hollande to open France's Ring of Memory in homage to World War One dead

media The "Ring of Memory" located in Notre Dame de Lorette, northern France Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

A new memorial is to be inaugurated by President Hollande today, in memory of all the soldiers who died in northern France during the First World War - whatever their country or religion.

A huge circular monument, called the Anneau de la mémoire (the Ring of Memory) has been built and inscribed with the names of the 579,606 soldiers who died in the region.

The monument is situated on a hill at an altitude of 165 metres near the national war cemetery at Notre Dame de Lorette, in Ablain-Saint-Nazaire near Arras and it can be seen for miles around.

It was designed by French architect Philippe Prost and the idea is to unite all those who died for their countries in what many are calling a ‘posthumous fraternity’.

Maurice Felicien, a guard of honor of the ossuary, at the "Ring of Memory" Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Ministers from many countries are to attend the opening ceremony this afternoon.

241,214 British soldiers are named on the monument, the highest number for any country. There are 173,876 Germans and 106,012 French soldiers.

The names are listed in alphabetical order and the soldiers hailed from 40 countries including former colonies.

In an interview with the local newspaper La Voix du Nord, François Hollande was asked if he thought public opinion was ready for a memorial building which registered the names of what were enemy soldiers at the time of the war.

He said that he thought “the people have this maturity, even concerning the 1939-45 war.”

Hollande went on to say that “new generations must understand that the fight for peace is never over.”

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