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Advice please on planning visit to Arras area


mre
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Hello,

My Grandfather served with D (Derby) Battery 232 Brigade Royal Field Artillery from August 1916 till he was invalided out in June 1917. His diaries indicate that he was in the Arras area - Bienvillers au Bois, Monchy, Foncquevillers, La Cauchie, Grouches, Biez Wood, St Amand, Coullemont, Achicourt, Beaurains, Wancourt, Ronville, Tilloy and Berneville. I also have copies of the War Diaries for the 232 Brigade that I got from the National Archives so I have some information on locations and movements but no real detail. I am very keen to try an understand the geography of the area at the time and would like to visit it. I wonder if anyone could give me advice on any books or maps I could use to plan my trip? There is such a lot of information available in these Forums and on the Web that it's difficult to know where to start. As the Battle of Arras took place during the time my Grandfather was in the area I'm wondering if 'Walking Arras' by Paul Reed would be a good place to begin?

Many thanks.

Mike

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Hi Mike,

Paul's book is indeed quite a requirement! Jonathan Nicholl's book 'Cheerful Sacrifice' gives a very good overview of the Arras offensive but you might also be wise to post a request for info in the 'soldiers' and 'units and formations' sections of the Forum in order to beef out what information you already have. Parts of the Arras battlefield have changed an awful lot due to development and the passage of time, but it is still a wonderful place to visit and the town itself is a great base.

aNDY

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Hi Mike,

Paul's book is indeed quite a requirement! Jonathan Nicholl's book 'Cheerful Sacrifice' gives a very good overview of the Arras offensive but you might also be wise to post a request for info in the 'soldiers' and 'units and formations' sections of the Forum in order to beef out what information you already have. Parts of the Arras battlefield have changed an awful lot due to development and the passage of time, but it is still a wonderful place to visit and the town itself is a great base.

aNDY

concur with cheerful sacrifice as the book to read.

also walking arras by paul read - most helpful.

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Hi,

If you're travelling with a sat nav, Arras is covered by the files on my site (link is in the signature block).

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From my point of view Wellington Cavern is a must (I needed to book as they only take a dozen around at time) as is the tourist information in the place des heroes. Didn't think I would enjoy Vimy Ridge, but I did - all free - and with the potmarked landscape very memorable (all out of bounds because of munitions, with sheep used to keep the grass down - but I don't think they lose many sheep!). Don't forget to allow a day to go round the myriad of cemeteries. Enjoy yourself.

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Most locations you mention are easily located. There is some distance between some. A number of the villages you mention were behind the lines and used as billets. Some were in the front line arrea. Depends what you want to achieve. Simply to go to the villages will be easy. However to locate battery positions you would need map references that maybe found in the war diaries and trench maps. That will take more expertise. BTW Fonquevillers is almost on the Somme so you could visit that area as well.

Regards

TT

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  • Admin

Give yourself a week at least, not a day. So much to see

Michelle

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Mike

As you probably realise, the first few place names on your list are all south west of Arras and will take you very close to the northern parts of the 1916 Somme battlefields. If this is your first visit (?), it would be a pity to miss out on such things as the preserved battlefield at Beaumont Hamel (the Newfoundland Memorial Park), Thiepval etc. You will find all these places in Before Endeavours Fade.

Unlike parts of the Arras battlefield, the Somme area is still mainly farmland.

I would guess that 'Monchy' is more likely to refer to Monchy au Bois rather than the more famous Monchy le Preux. Forgive me if you already know this.

Have a great trip - I am sure you will

Paul

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TT

Sorry. I didn't see your comments before posting so apologies for repeating them in part.

But we obviously agree which is nice!

Paul

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Hi All,

Many thanks to everyone who has replied - much appreciated.

I'll be looking into all your suggestions to better plan my trip.

Rather naively I had hoped to be able to find information on battery positions but the Brigade war diaries at Kew are a bit thin on that kind of detail. They do contain quite a lot of map references (e.g. At 10 a.m. this Group shortened its line the Southern most point being E.11.d.6.9. (FONQUEVILLIERS 1/100,000) and details of movements through the various Blue and Brown lines etc of the Battle of Arras towards Wancourt and Monchy so I'd now like to be able to establish roughly where the front lines were during the period and hope that your suggestions will point me in the right direction.

Once again - many thanks

Mike

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Have you looked at Peter Barton/Jeremy Banning's book "Arras"?

Has lots of maps, detail, panoramic views etc etc. A very worthwhile investment (especially if bought through the Amazon link above so it benefits the GWF as well as two of our esteemed members!).

Regards

Ian

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Concur with Ian about the Barton/Banning book, plenty of mentions in the index to the blue and brown lines and I think the Monchy is more likely to be Monchy aux Preux, it isn't far from Wancourt. There are good maps and great panoramas.

Arras is a fascinating area to visit and explore, it is a great place to stay with loads of restaurants and variety of accommodation ( There is more to WW1 than the Somme!)

Michelle

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Michelle

I only mentioned Monchy au Bois because of where it appeared in Mike's initial post i.e. "His diaries indicate that he was in the Arras area - Bienvillers au Bois, Monchy, Foncquevillers, La Cauchie" etc. These are, effectively, adjacent villages to the south west of Arras. The list then moves to what is now the southern suburbs of Arras, then out to the east, "Achicourt, Beaurains, Wancourt, Ronville, Tilloy" where the main action occurred in April 1917.

I could be wrong and Mike might be quoting the names out of the order in which they appear in his grandfather's diaries but, if I am correct, Monchy au Bois seems more logical. Assuming the more well known Monchy le Preux - which will be mentioned often in the books that have been recommended - might put his grandfather's RFA battery in very much the wrong place at the wrong time i.e. several miles ahead of the infantry to the east of Arras and having lunch with their opposite numbers :w00t:

I agree with you about Arras - a great place to stay.

Paul

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( There is more to WW1 than the Somme!)

Michelle

I don't think you will get any argument about that. Witness the number of threads on other theatres of war!

Roger

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I think Monchy Au Bois likley contender too? Ernst Young was there and talks of a cat that stalked the lines! Given the time line ie Fonquevillers / Bienvillers I think it logical. Agree with comment there's more than the Somme but you can't ignore it! Still festers today like an open unhealing wound.

TT

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Hi,

Once again many thanks for all your replies. I have ordered the books you mentioned. With regards to the Monchy au Bois and Monchy le Preux discussion I think that both are probably relevant although I'm afraid I muddied the waters when I listed locations in my first post. There are entries in my Grandfathers diaries for Oct 17th 1916 and "Bapaume taken. Essarts, Monchy, Bucquoy etc evacuated" for Mar 17 1917 which I think are related to Monchy au Bois. In April 1917 his diary entries are 9th - "Moved up in front of Beaurains at 3.0pm", 11th - "Success everywhere except Wancourt – Infantry held up. Cavalry busy. Heaps of prisoners – very young", 12th - "Moved to Wancourt – wretched position.Took Wancourt last night. News still good", 17th -"Boche strafed round about us early this morning & again in afternoon. Moving to Achicourt (Ronville) tonight.", 20th - "Three guns went up (RT of Monchy) tonight", 22nd -"Came up to guns RT Rear of Monchy – rough time coming the road." - all of which I think refer to Monchy le Preux.,

This is absolutely fascinating - I'm completely hooked.

Mike

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Mike

There is no going back now!

Roger

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Hi Mike

Being an Army brigade the 232 dodged around quite a bit! For the attack on the 9th April it supported 14th Division (VII Corps) in taking Telegraph Hill and beyond. Thus the mention of Beaurains and Wancourt. For the Second Battle of the Scarpe, 23rd April, it had moved to support VI Corps attack further north around Monchy le Preux, supporting 15th Division. With the books you have ordered these units will now allow you to identify the area to walk over. All of which, by the way, is not built on massively and you will be able to follow the actions fairly well. I will have a look through VI and VII Corps HQ diaries and see if any positions crop up but I doubt it. You would probably need the CRA diaries for the Corps.

I know the area fairly well so don't hesitate to ask if anything other questions crop up.

Jim

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Hi Jim,

Many thanks for your information. You mention the CRA diaries - just to confirm - these are the Commander Royal Artillery diaries that I can find references to at a Divisional level in the National Archives? Are these worth going to take a look at?

Cheers,

Mike

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Hi Mike

I have got VII Corps CRA diaries but not VI Corps as yet. I've had a quick look through and found the map coordinates for the brigade:

8th April

A/232 - G34 d.2.4

B/232 - G34 d.0.2

D/232 - M4 a.8.7

C/232 - M10 a.8.5 The latter one is more to the south and doesn't fully make sense (see map later)

After the attack on the 9th they moved night 9/10th to M12 d in all cases bar C battery which moved to M17 c showing it may well have been detached.

Then on night 13/14th moved to

A/232 - N21 b.5.8

B/232 - N22 a.4.3

D/232 -N22 a.5.4

C/232 - N34 a Then on 17/18th moved to battery lines and to VI corps.

A nice map as well showing the initial positions. The map references stretch the area a little to the north east into G34 compared to the map but it does give you a nice idea of where they were as the offensive went in on the 9th April.

post-28845-0-98697800-1382464909_thumb.j

Jim

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Care of the excellent Linesman I have plotted the 4 initial battery positions on a modern map. Marked with flags

post-28845-0-90267900-1382466518_thumb.j

Hope all that helps. Afraid it may be some months before I am in Kew to get the VII Corps artillery diaries.

Jim

PS By the way, if you want the VII Corps artillery diaries they are WO95/811 for the period in question.

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Jim

As ever, great maps.

Roger

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Hi Jim,

Many thanks for the additional information and the fantastic maps!

In the 232 War Diaries for March 23rd :-

"Brigade moved to BERNEVILLE – C/232 detached and moved to WAILLY under 56th Div. – Bde H.Q. established in ARRAS"

and April 2nd

"The Bde moved to Battle H.Q. in the caves at RONVILLE sharing a mess with 124 A.F.A Brigade (Lt. Col. Maddocks C.M.G.) D/48 R.F.A. (14th Division) grouped with the Brigade as Group II of the 14th Div. Arty (C/232 with 56th Div. on the right)"

Does that explain the odd initial position of C/232 in the map references or have I misunderstood your comment?

Cheers,

Mike

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Yes it does Mike, with C battery further south supporting 56th Division. Not sure why that was done - always a communication problem when you split a battery.

Jim

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  • 4 weeks later...

http://library.mcmaster.ca/maps/ww1/ndx5to40.htm is a site with the best WWi maps and they are free and great quality.

My grandfather served a similar time and has a war memoir which I have put on a FB page which is open. The actual album is in the photo section.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/447405788667155/

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