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sajackr

Battle of Arleux, 28 - 29 April 1917 8th Bn SLI

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sajackr

After having research carried out on my great grandfather PTE S Trim 68th Coy MGC (DOW 24th Dec 1916) I stumbled across a forgotten brother L/CPL 12156, 8th Bn., Somerset Light Infantry died on the 28th Apr 1917 Remembered at Arras Memorial.

After trawling the net for several nights I have been unable to find any great information on the battle of Battle of Arleux. War Diaries state the battalion moved up from Heron trench to Cuba trench prior to zero hour at 04:25.

I would be grateful for any information you “Old hands” could shed on the battle.

Thanks in advance

Jackr

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david crouch
After having research carried out on my great grandfather PTE S Trim 68th Coy MGC (DOW 24th Dec 1916) I stumbled across a forgotten brother L/CPL 12156, 8th Bn., Somerset Light Infantry died on the 28th Apr 1917 Remembered at Arras Memorial.

After trawling the net for several nights I have been unable to find any great information on the battle of Battle of Arleux. War Diaries state the battalion moved up from Heron trench to Cuba trench prior to zero hour at 04:25.

I would be grateful for any information you “Old hands” could shed on the battle.

Thanks in advance

Jack

I can understand the lack on info on the Battle of Arleux. I have researched the 10th Y & L (another battalion in the 63 Bde). They attacked along side the 8 SMLI on this date, but the battle of Arleux is a bit of a misnomer. They attacked Greenland Hill from trenches just north of Fampoux. Stephen Bakers book on the 8th East Lancs is the best book I have read to date on the subject. Apart from the Official History there appears to be very little written about this battle. There is a little in the war diaries. I have trench maps from 111 & 112 Bde war diaries (other units in 37th Division) which I'd be happy to send. I hope this helps a little

Regards

Dave

Jackr

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sajackr

Dave,

thanks for your prompt reply, would be grateful for any information you are willing to share. I am new to this malarky so not sure if you require my Email address or you can do it via the "send a message" option, that I currently don't have access to?

I'll keep checking this post. Thanks once again.

R'ds

Jack

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JimSmithson

Hi

I've promised Dave for some time that I would look at the German side of the so called Battle of Arleux and have not found the time yet. I will try and go through my German sources and see if I can add anything here, it might be the Christmas break from work before I get the chance, however . There is very little written on this time and place.

Jim

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59165

April 1917.

I can't see how it could be Arleux at all.

Fampoux is a more likely spot but,Arleux is a hell of a hike from there.It's just down the road from us!

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J Banning

The Battle Nomenclature Committee called gave the 28/29 April attacks the title ‘the Battle of Arleux’ as that was the only registerable success on the front (VI, XVII, XIII and Canadian Corps all attacked that day). The 1st Canadian Division captured the village of Arleux. Think of it a bit like the battle of Langemarck on 16 August 1917 – there was fighting all along the front but a battle had to be named and what better name to call it than a prominent village that had been captured…

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david crouch
After having research carried out on my great grandfather PTE S Trim 68th Coy MGC (DOW 24th Dec 1916) I stumbled across a forgotten brother L/CPL 12156, 8th Bn., Somerset Light Infantry died on the 28th Apr 1917 Remembered at Arras Memorial.

After trawling the net for several nights I have been unable to find any great information on the battle of Battle of Arleux. War Diaries state the battalion moved up from Heron trench to Cuba trench prior to zero hour at 04:25.

I would be grateful for any information you “Old hands” could shed on the battle.

Thanks in advance

Guys

Thanks for the help, Jack just send me an email and i can foward you a copy of my MA dissertation. It details the 10th Y & L Bn but this unit was part of 63bde (37 Division) which is the unit containing your battalion 8th SLI. It details the 63 Bde attack on Greenland Hill (near Fampoux) on 23-24th April and follow on attack on 28-29th April, both were unsuccessful. I think it was called the battle of Arleux as the German line around Arleux-en-Gohelle.Fresnoy was called the Arleux Loop. This line, which extended south to the Hyderabad Redoubt, was very important at the time as it was the last major defensive line before the then unfinished Hindenburg Line. The Battlegound Europe Volume Gavrelle:Arras gives a good map on page 31 explaining this. I hope this helps, Give us a shout if you need anything else

Dave

Jackr

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sajackr

Dave,

I have not got the message facility as yet, but my Email address is "Edited" if you would not mind sending it through that?

Thanks again for your help

R'ds

Jack

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pondlife252

Do you need any further information as to the 8th Som LI in this action?

I mifght be able to assist.

Regards

Pondy

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sajackr

Thanks Pondy,

I would be grateful for anything you would not mind sharing with me, as I can not seem to find much on the battle. Planning on taking the father and son across in April so anything that would give some substance to the area would be appriciated.

R'ds

Jackr

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Graham-McAdam

The best substance in the area is the garlic - Arleux is the garlic capital of the universe. Unfortunately a lot will be gone by April - the festival is in late September when the streets are full of the smell of smoke from the wonderful garlic smokeries and you can buy a pot of fresh garlic soup from one of a dozen makers. Great fun. Sorry I can't help with the battle, just bit of olfactory colour. And its not far into Cambrai or Douai or Arras - lots of interesting expeditions all around to WW1 places.

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pondlife252

Right oh !

Are we sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin !

According to the British Red Cross Enquiry List no.14 (enquiries up to 20th July 1917), L/Cpl Trim is believed to have served within HQ Company, although in what capacity is not known.

Following the fighting previously at Monchy le Preux between 9th - 11th April and again days earlier on 23rd April in the fighting around Greenland Hill as part of 2nd Scarpe offensive, 8th Somerset Light Infantry, along with other units within 37th Division, were reduced to around 220 men fighting strength, being subsequently subdivided into 4x50 man platoon sized Companys for the attack.

As the 23rd April assault in the Greenland Hill area (to the East of Fampoux and slightly to the north of Roeux) had only been partially successful in reaching its line of exploitation, the Divisional objectives on 28th April, were by and large to take the line on the map that remained in enemy hands as is made clear in the excellent Somerset Light Infantry 1914 - 1918 Regimental History - "The objectives were Wish and Whip Trenches (running along the Plouvain - Gavrelle Road), thence a north - south line from the latter trench southwards to the right Divisional Boundary", (pages 182 - 184 cover the 8th Battalion role in the Battle of Arleux).

Attacking towards a line on a map as opposed to a physical geographical feature was to prove the undoing of the attack as far as the Somersets were concerned and was certainly one of, if not the most relevant factor in the confusion leading up to the near destruction of the 63rd Brigade.

The 63rd Brigade duly attacked at around 04:25am in darkness. The main mass of Greenland Hill was to the right of the Battalion, with 111th Brigade to their left as they faced the enemy. In the dark, and not helped by a German counter barrage as the attack commenced, the attack soon "lost direction" as the few remaining officers and SNCO's became casualties (all having been given compass bearings to assist in maintaining the right direction of the attack).

Both the Regimental History and the 63rd Brigade Narrative of Events note that the Brigade swung too much to the left, apparently passing through the intended objective of Wish and Whip Trenches, before sweeping through the German front line in the process. The 63rd Brigade had over reached itself and had lost direction.

In fact, a glance at a map of the area, (WO/95/2532 contains a useful copy; annotated with trench names and features, and which is available for download from TNA online), would indicate that in the absence of geographical features to reference their advance to the "line on the map", troops had simply continued along the Fampoux to Fresnes road. All relevant histories/sources agree that the Brigade swept along to the south of Square Wood and Hollow Copse, up to the area around Railway Copse, a depth of over a mile behind the enemy lines, (the Official History of the Great War 1917 vol 1 noting that the advance forced German Command elements to hastily evacuate their positions around Hollow Copse in the process).

Having advanced way too far, and although bringing along elements of 111th Brigade (x-ref: Statement by 2/Lieut M.V. Vaughan 13 R.F. and Statement by 2/Lieut J B Whaley 13 R.F. and again both at WO/95/2532), the mass of 63rd Brigade now found themselves out of touch with and consequently unsupported by both 111th and 112th Brigade, and not only at the mercy of German counter attacks, but also under British MG and Artillery fire against those same Germans massing in the area of Railway Copse - no word having got back to Division as to the location of the Brigade or the depth of its penetration. Undoubtedly some of the casualties incurred were as a result of "friendly fire".

Few accounts of the struggle around Railway Copse exist. The Official History of the Great War 1917 vol 1 notes that about 125 prisoners were taken from the men who over reached themselves. Perhaps the final word should be from 2/Lt Whaley, who was involved in the fighting in the area when he confirms that "Out of the large party who pased their objective, I am positively certain there were not many who returned to our lines".

The Somerset casualty returns for the period 20th - 29th April were combined as they were in the front line for the duration of this time and the Regimental History on page 184 notes that losses were 2 Officers and 17 O/R killed, 4 Officers and 180 wounded and 99 O/R missing.

Analysis of SDGW confirms total KIA for the 28th to be 71, 55 of these also being found as listed on the Red Cross Enquiry list noted previously. There were an additional 4 men who are lsited as DOW between 30th April and 9th May, but it is not clear as to which action they received their fatal wounds. Again, the Red Cross Enquiry List also notes 5 men as missing who were not subsequently listed within SDGW or CWGC rolls.

Of all the dead, only 4 or 5 were ever positively identified and if memory serves, 2 of these men lay buried in Brown's Copse Cemetery. Although Chili Trench Cemetery contains the remains of 37th Divisional men involved in the fighting of 23rd April, I don't believe that any of the casualties from 28th April were buried there, leading one to assume that the bulk of the casualties were not identified but most probably lie in Brown's Copse. Both are close to each other.

The Battleground Europe series "Walking Arras" and "Gavrelle" cover the area in question and "The Germans at Arras" relates pretty much what the Official History has to say on the action, at a snip of the price (unless you have a good library nearby which might have a copy of The Official History to hand). TNA has the "Documents online" for both 8th Somerset LI and 13th RF.

Hope this is of use to you - any further assistance required; let me know : I have walked the area thoroughly !

Regards

Jeremy Fenton

remembering Sjt Harry Fenton, 8th Somerset Light Infantry, KIA 28th April 1917

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sajackr

Thanks Jeremy,

For a very detailed account and the reference sources these will be very useful.

One final question (well for now, anyway!!!!). As you have spent alot of time in the area, any recommendations for accomdation in Arras?

Regards

Jackr

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pondlife252

I normally stay in the Express at Holiday Inn: bang opposite the railway station and pretty central to all amenities and not far from the old front line. There are a number of good hotels in the town centre, it just depends upon your requirements and budget.

just google away.........

Regards

pondy

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Guest HLI Molloy

I'm new to this, but visited Arras Memorial last week to see the name of my great grandfather Serjeant Martin Molloy of 2Bn Highland Light Infantry. He was also killed on 28th April 1917. Presumably at Arleux, having looked at the war diary. Does anyone have more details of this battle? Or know where I could find a copy of A D Telfer-Smollett's book on 2 Battalion Highland Light Infantry in the Great War? Very grateful for any assistance!

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Auimfo

I have a copy of Telfer-Smollett's history of the 2nd Bn HLI (74th Regiment) but I couldn't tell you where to find another copy except in a library - it's hard to come by.

The copy I have is very fragile and I can't scan it without risking further damage. Usually I'd transcribe the contents for you but on this occasion there's no real need because excepting some slight rewording, it's basically been reproduced in Lt-Col L.B. Oatts book, Proud Heritage - The Story of the Highland Light Infantry Vol 3 (obviously Oatts used Telfer-Smollett as his reference).

Chapter XXII

THE BATTLE OF ARRAS

The 10th/11th H.L.I. at the capture of Monchy le Preux, 11 April 1917—the 16th H.L.I. at the capture of Fayet—the 74th at the Battle of Arleux, 26 April 1917— the 10th/11th H.L.I. at Guemappe—the Glasgow Highlanders at Sensee—the 15th, 16th and 17th H.L.I. in the fighting for the Nieuport Bridgehead, 10 July 1917— the 10th/11th and 12th H.L.I. at the taking of the Frezenburg Redoubt, 31 July 1917— The Glasgow Highlanders at Gheluveldt, 25 September 1917.

...........Since the commencement of the Battle of Arras the 74th had been holding captured enemy trenches on Vimy Ridge. During this period Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Grahame was promoted to the command of the battalion on the promotion of Brigadier-General A. A. Wolfe-Murray, who had taken it to France in 1914. Colonel Grahame had had the remarkable experience of commanding the 10th, 10th/11th, 12th and 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) battalions of the Highland Light Infantry in turn in the field, before taking over command of the 74th, whom he had joined on first commission in India, over twenty years before. The day of his arrival must have been a proud one for him, for his devotion to the 74th bordered on the eccentric—and was none the worse for that. He found them in excellent shape and ready for battle in whatever form it might take. They had incidentally, a piper to each platoon at this time, who played it in and out of the line. There was also a corps of drums, but these were left in rear and joined the pipes only when the battalion was resting. The pipers however, although reasonable care was taken of them, went forward and played in action on many occasions in accordance with their ancient tradition.

Colonel Grahame’s luck was out. The 74th went into the line on 26 April before Arleux, and while the Colonel was visiting the forward companies, battalion headquarters was established in an enemy concrete gun-pit. It was a poor choice, being in a conspicuous position and filled with detonated 4.2 shells and cordite charges. However, there was probably nowhere else suitable, and the place was certainly very comfortable. There were two stairways leading down to it with a small dug-out at the foot of each, in one of which lived the officers and orderly-room staff and in the other the mess-staff Just after the Colonel had returned, the enemy opened heavy artillery fire on it, which blew in one of the entrance doors and set fire to a box of Very lights. As if this were not enough a further shell came through the door and burst in the gun-pit itself. The occupants being in the dug­outs were unhurt, but as the shelling went on and the de­tonated shells began to explode, it became apparent that they would have to get out quickly, if they were not to be burned or buried alive. The cordite was ablaze however, and the flames shooting up to a height of several feet through the gun-pit exits. Leading the way up from the dug-outs Colonel Grahame assisted in beating out the flames, and the officers and orderly-room staff got out except for the sergeant, who was blown back by an exploding shell and had to be carried out by Major Murray-Lyon. Colonel Grahame and Captain Stewart then returned to look for the mess-staff but were both severely wounded. The reserve company commander, Captain Whistler, then arrived with a rescue party, and having carried the Colonel into shelter said he would go down and get out the mess-party. The medical officer tried to dis­suade him, pointing out that to re-enter the pit meant almost certain death. Captain Whistler however, said that it was his duty to make the attempt and did so, being mortally wounded in the process. Captain Somerville, the Medical officer, who had fought throughout the war, afterwards stated that this was the bravest action he had ever either seen or heard of. It seems certain that Captain Whistler would have been put forward for the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross, only that the 74th went into action shortly afterwards and all the eye-witnesses were killed, wounded or scattered; while Colonel Grahame’s wounds put him out of the rest of the war. It was later found that the blazing cordite had penetrated into the second dug-out and that the five unfor­tunate men of the mess-staff had been quickly destroyed.

As may be imagined, this disaster was particularly un­toward, in happening only an hour or two before the 74th went into action; especially as they were the right leading battalion of the 5th Brigade. The 2nd Division was facing part of the former German third line, which crossed the Lille road in a deep loop in front of Arleux and continued south before the village of Oppy. On the left of the 2nd Division the Canadians had been ordered to take Arleux while the 2nd Division attacked Oppy with its right flank covered by the 63rd Division. The task was a most difficult one, for the third line was heavily wired and behind it a strong point had been established in Oppy Wood, covering the approaches to the village.

After the usual preliminary bombardment the 74th advanced at 4.30 a.m. with two companies up, moving in half-company column. They came under heavy fire immediately and on reaching the wire found that the bombardment had done it little damage. ‘B’ Company on the right found a gap, through which the whole company had to pass. ‘A’ Company on the left could find no gap and had to cut one themselves. The Company Commander was severely wounded at this work, but led his company through to the third line. By the time this was cleared the Company had lost touch with the barrage—and also with ‘A’ Company. Both companies however, pressed on towards the final objec­tive, but came under heavy enfilade fire from Oppy Wood— for the advance of the left-leading Brigade of the 63rd Division had failed, causing the right leading Brigade of the 2nd Division to expose its flank, and thus fail in its endeavour to reach Oppy Wood. The 74th was thus isolated, and although they found a position were eventually shot off it, and with great difficulty withdrew back to the third line.

By 10 a.m. the battalion was much scattered and The position obscure. Captain Ross Skinner and a runner, Private Clapham, went out to clear up the situation, and found that the battalion right flank was in the air, for the leading troops of the Brigade on that flank had been driven back by a counter-attack. Measures were instantly taken to strengthen the flank, which was done just in time, for at II a.m. the enemy launched a heavy counter-attack on it from Oppy Wood. This attack and another much stronger one during the afternoon, were beaten off with heavy loss to the enemy. The 74th held this advanced position until 30 April when they were relieved by the Royal Fusiliers. They had been opposed by a fresh German Division newly arrived, and they had gone into battle, it will be remembered, immediately after the disaster to their battalion headquarters. Their losses at Arleux—subsequently awarded as a battle honour, though not carried on the colours—amounted to 7 officers and 43 rank and file killed, and 8 officers and 226 rank and file wounded.

I hope that's useful to you.

Cheers,

Tim L.

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Wayne Grimley

Hi, my relative Rifleman Leonard Grimley R/37927 fell at Gavrelle on 28th April 1917, does anyone know if there are any pictures of information on 13th Bn since they joined the war.

I'm also trying to find out the rough area of where he fell. I visited his grave in April this year and he is buried in Chilli Trench cemetery.

Would he have been buried here as it was the closest cemetery to where he fell?

Or could he have been killed a distance away and brought to this cemetery?

I appreciate any response

Kind regards Wayne

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MBrockway

Hi, my relative Rifleman Leonard Grimley R/37927 fell at Gavrelle on 28th April 1917, does anyone know if there are any pictures of information on 13th Bn since they joined the war.

I'm also trying to find out the rough area of where he fell. I visited his grave in April this year and he is buried in Chilli Trench cemetery.

Would he have been buried here as it was the closest cemetery to where he fell?

Or could he have been killed a distance away and brought to this cemetery?

I appreciate any response

Kind regards Wayne

Pals - Wayne's forgotten to mention R/37927 Rfn Grimley served in 13/KRRC, 111 Bde, 37th Div.

Cheers,

Mark

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JimSmithson

This may help place the likely area he died.

post-28845-0-44795400-1378148665_thumb.j

I think you can assume he was directly buried in Chili Trench being south and behind where he will have been killed but not a great distance and in a cemetery started by 37th Division.

Jim

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Tucker Buck's grandson

Could anyone provide any detail of the Bedfordshire Regiment - 4th Battalion - D Company - 190th Brigade 63rd (Royal Navy) Division deployment along the offensive line in the Battle of Arleux.

The person involved from our village whom we are commemorating in a pamphlet, now being drafted, is Pvte Edgar Clarence Born (14913) a signaller who died on the 29th. He is commemorated at the Arras Memorial.

Andrew

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Donald D

Could anyone provide any detail of the Bedfordshire Regiment - 4th Battalion - D Company - 190th Brigade 63rd (Royal Navy) Division deployment along the offensive line in the Battle of Arleux.

The person involved from our village whom we are commemorating in a pamphlet, now being drafted, is Pvte Clarence Edgar Born (14913) a signaller who died on the 29th. He is commemorated at the Arras Memorial.

Andrew

This site should be of some interest to you for the Bedfordshire regiment:

http://www.bedfordregiment.org.uk/4thbn/4thbattalion.html

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Tucker Buck's grandson

Thanks very much Donald that certainly explain how he became to be a member of the Bedfordshire Regiment as he was serving in the Royal Navy at Harwich before transferring.

Their deployment details are also very interesting but the Arleux phase is only briefly mentioned. Was not hoping for the amazing detail provided for the SLI above but a little more in the context of where on the offensive line the Beds regiment were would help if anyone has it.

Andrew

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Tucker Buck's grandson

Thanks Donald,

Read through it and then copied relevant parts referring to 190th Brigade/Bedfords to pass on. It refers to the 190th Brigade/Bedfords being involved in the unsuccessful and costly action on the 23rd..

Went back to the Bedfordshire website and read the War Diary for 22nd to 29th April which confirms the above RM referral and gives details of the casualties plus an account for the action on the 29th which says they initially captured their target but were then driven back. Casualties for that actiion (the day on which Edgar Clarence Born died), just lists two wounded officers.

Andrew.

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