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Webmatters : Arras 1917 - VI Corps
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Arras

VI Corps

10th April 1917

On learning that Orange Hill had been occupied by 37th Division, Lt General Haldane ordered that as soon as the remainder of the Wancourt-Feuchy Line had been taken, he wanted 12th Division to finish clearing up the redoubt at Feuchy Chapel. 37th Division would then continue with their assault on Monchy le Preux.

Battle of Arras: VI Corps

3rd Division on the right would advance through Guémappe towards the Cambrai Road whilst on the other flank 15th Division would secure the are between Monchy and the Scarpe river.


The 12th Division Monument at Feuchy Chapel

12th (Eastern) Division Monument
Sits on the rise of the hill as you come out of Arras

That morning the 3rd and 12th Divisions had little difficulty in pressing on through the Feuchy Chapel redoubt and up onto Chapel Hill (The autoroute junction these days) which the Germans had abandoned.

37th Division had the hardest task to crack – Monchy le Preux. During the night they had reorganised themselves after soldiers had become intermingled with other units and they were now in a good position to force the pace.

In theory the task of taking the village had been allotted to the 111th Brigade but as the 63rd were already well in advance and sitting on Orange Hill, it was decided to push on with the 63rd as far as possible.

Once the gap had been widened the 111th would pass through and swing down into the village.

On the right the 112th would follow behind 12th Division and then (once Chapel Hill had been secured) form a defensive flank on the southern outskirts of Monchy.

Monchy sits high on its hill and completely dominates the surrounding area.

As the 63rd Brigade tried to advance on the village they came under constant fire from artillery and the defenders well protected amongst the ruins of the houses and in their bunkers.

Almost all French houses have a cave or cellar which could be used as a shelter and had often been tunnelled through to the next house. Much of the time, the artillery shelling would remove the top of the building which then (as rubble and debris) provided more shelter for the defenders to hide behind.

As the 111th Brigade launched their assault the 10th and 13th Bn Royal Fusiliers found themselves brought to a halt some 500 metres short of the village.

On the right the 112th stormed off Chapel Hill under a barrage of fire put down on Guémappe and Monchy from Orange Hill which now provided as excellent a view in one direction as it had a few days earlier for the Germans in the other.

The attack was pressed home but with VII Corps held up to their right the Brigade found its right flank hanging in the air and highly vulnerable. Not wishing to jeopardise their gains they consolidated what they had and finished the day just short of Guémappe.

The day had gone fairly well for VI Corps but Monchy was still holding out.

 

The Cavalry

During the day word was sent back that actions by the cavalry might be possible at any moment and 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Divisions were sent up in readiness to exploit any breakthrough.

The 2nd was supposed to have installed itself on Hill 90 in VII Corp’s area but as this was still being fiercely defended by the Germans the troopers found themselves under fire with nowhere to shelter. Eventually with little water available for their mounts most of the regiments retired for the night. Those that stayed, clustered their horses in shell holes and waited the night out.

In VI Corp’s area of operations the 3rd Cavalry Division thought that things looked promising to the north of Monchy as the 37th Division continued trying to press home their attack. However, when the 10th Hussars and Essex Yeomanry attempted to gallop forward to take ground on the Monchy-Pelves Road they came under heavy fire and it was only a sudden snowstorm that helped cover their retreat and prevented severe casualties.