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Remembered Today:

Greenland Hill - when the motorway came


Derek Robertson
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During the Battle of Arras, Greenland Hill became infamous for the number of men lost in its environs.

For instance the 6th Bn. KOSB lost over 400 men there on the 3rd May 1917.

The battlefield later became a large interchange for the A26 and A1 and E17 motorways.

I don't know when these roads were constructed but I'm pretty sure that hundreds of bodies would have been disturbed and unearthed by the large road construction program.

Does anyone know how many bodies were uncovered here and where they were later re-intered?

I've attached a rough amalgam of a trench map and modern motorway map to show that the interchange was constructed left of Greenland Hill.

post-172-0-13770100-1303246094.jpg

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Hi Derek

I believe the motorway has been there since 1967 ,it does seem inconceivable that no bodies were uncovered during the excavation but unfortunately I can shed no light as to where they would have been taken. Maybe there was a report for that year by the CWGC?

John

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Great overlay !

I'm trying to locate the jumping-off position of 8th BW, 26 Bde, on 3rd May.

The map of June 1917 I used on another recent thread shows Cuba Trench extending further South toward Roeux. I think later the Southern part of it was re-named Cauldron possibly to avoid confusion with such a long trench.

GWF members kindly informed me that 8th BW was in Cuba Trench and mentioned Clasp Trench as support (is Clasp on a map ?). Chili Trench is mentioned as the only communication trench. Is it possible to assume that 8th BW were in Cuba trench the vicinity of Chili ? How much of Cuba would 8th BW have occupied and would their companies have been in Clasp and Chili too, or just all along Cuba ?

I'm wondering if Clasp became Chips ?

The War Diary, 8th Battalion, The Black Watch (BWRA 0248) gives the following information:-

1st May 1917

Battalion took over front line from Seaforths, holding same frontage as attack would be launched from on 3rd May. Line runs from BRICKWORKS on GREENLAND HILL due SOUTH for 500 yards towards ROEUX STATION.

APPENDIX A

May 3rd

It had been understood that the attack would start at Dawn, and 4.45 am was named as ZERO hour. It was doubtful whether there would have been sufficient light at that hour to carry out the attack as a Daylight attack, but a few hours before the start, ZERO was changed to 3.45 am, which necessitated attacking in pitch darkness. There was no time to set out “lines” of direction or take bearings and the keeping of direction had to be left chiefly to chance.

THE ATTACK

The moon went down at 3.00 am and the attack started at 3.45 am in pitch darkness. Further troubles were created by all troops losing direction as they were absolutely unable to see where they were going.

The troops on the right had to incline to the right, and we had to incline to our left – both these movements were carried out in too great a degree, with the result that there was a gap between The Black Watch and Camerons. This gap seems to have been partly filled by a Company of the Argylls. The troops on right and left of 26th Brigade also lost direction, with the result that the Camerons came into collision with the 4th Division and the Scottish Rifles charged into The Black Watch. Owing to heavy casualties both in Officers and men, it is impossible to collect anything like a correct story, but it appears likely that only a few scattered parties of men reached the German lines and these were captured or killed. The German artillery barrage started almost simultaneously with ours, and it was obvious that the attack was expected. Machine Gun fire, both from the enemy line and from the CHEMICAL WORKS was very heavy.

The attack was driven back to our lines, and a second was organised but achieved no success. The defence of our line was re-organised under the surviving officers, 2/Lieuts WILSON and McNEAL and CSM McARTHUR.

Many men remained out in shell holes and crawled in during the next few nights.

Casualties amounted to 12 Officers and 208 Other Ranks, 45 of whom were missing.

APPENDIX C

Casualties

3rd May.

Killed: 21; Wounded 129; Missing 43; Total 193.

[NB The War Diaries do not generally give details of Other Ranks casualties.]

The part which really confuses me is the reference to the Brickworks on Greenland Hill. The only brickworks I see on maps is the one at Plouvain, which is well into "German" territory I believe. Was there another brickoworks ?

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No wanting to hijack Derek's topic but this is within the scope of his and Lachlan's question. This ovelay shows the position of the trench's mentioned taken from Rat's Alley. It show's thier proximity to the motorway 'cloverleaf' and reinforces Derek's ascertion that many men must have been found in the construction of it and the TGV which hurles alongside it. Lachlan I think the brickworks was an integral part of the quarry shown on the map. This is a later 1917 map the 1918 shows a clutter of C trenches as the fighting had returned to the area.

Edit meant to say the redlines near the Inn are the 8th BW sector

John

post-12171-0-15512400-1303813412.jpg

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John, Derek - brilliant, thanks !

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Going back to the original question, which the overlays show is a very valid one, I am just about to enter correspondence with Alain Jacques, Arras' head of archaeology services. In the midst of all my questions I have for him I will ask about the building of this junction and if anything was done at the time.

Jim

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Jim,

That would be much appreciated by many of us here.

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I would like to second that,I know I am preaching to the converted here but Rouex and Fampoux are amongst the most 'forgotten fields' on the western front. I would be extremely interested in hearing what Alain knows. A regret I have is when over at Rouex I did not have the opportunity to see the Mayor of Rouex, my landlady told me there had been an exhibition of photos of the tunnels under Rouex a couple of years back I would have loved to have seen.

John

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What became of the bodies ?

Well I honestly do not think that in the mid 1960's that the people running this big contract would have given any thought to the many skeletons

that were in the area. The CAT D9 driver pulling a scraper just would not be concerned if he saw any remains just before he opended the scraper blade

to scoop up X cubic meters of spoil.

So it is my opinion that very, very few remains would have been recovered.

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  • 6 years later...
On 19 April 2011 at 21:50, Derek Robertson said:

During the Battle of Arras, Greenland Hill became infamous for the number of men lost in its environs.

For instance the 6th Bn. KOSB lost over 400 men there on the 3rd May 1917.

The battlefield later became a large interchange for the A26 and A1 and E17 motorways.

I don't know when these roads were constructed but I'm pretty sure that hundreds of bodies would have been disturbed and unearthed by the large road construction program.

Does anyone know how many bodies were uncovered here and where they were later re-intered?

I've attached a rough amalgam of a trench map and modern motorway map to show that the interchange was constructed left of Greenland Hill.

post-172-0-13770100-1303246094.jpg

image.jpeg.16dd6552087406b426fbef4fbd114c3b.jpegimage.jpg.1af2e91ac3dc9049c8fcbad72568566b.jpg

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  • 4 weeks later...

Interesting posting. Thanks Nicky.

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