Welcome to this blog which is intended to accompany a website on how Suffolk was defended during the Second War. The blog will describe my trips out and about looking for the remains of the Second War defences while the Website will concentrate on putting these into context.

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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Somme Trip 2012 - Visit To Hindenburg Line: Part 2

I have already mentioned the German retirement to the Hindenburg Line in 1917. In the area of Neuville Vitasse the Hindenburg Line met the original German Front Line and the Germans had maintained the defences in front of Neuville Vitasse as an outpost position to the new Hindenburg Line. By 19th March 1917 British troops discovered that the Germans were holding Neuville Vitasse, The Harp and Telegraph Hill in strength.

Above: Map of the area - 1917

Part of the Hindenburg Line (the Cojeul Switch) ran to the east of Neuville Vitasse in a northwesterly direction to Telegraph Hill where it joined up with a formidable network of trenches known as The Harp.

Above: Trench Map, Telegraph Hill area showing The Harp and Cojeul Switch

It was the task of 5th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (14th Div) to attack this position on the opening day of the Arras offensive.  56th Div was to attack Neuville Vitasse. The barbed wire obstacle was formidable – Capt Tanner 5th KSLI thought to himself “My God, they’ve got an impossible task”.  However tanks greatly assisted the rolling down of the wire and by keeping close to the barrage the KSLI broke into and captured the German defences.

Although the tanks got through the wire, their subsequent progress was dismal. At least three were ditched on String Trench and one in The Harp.

Today the whole area is gradually being swallowed up by the spread of suburbia although  Telegraph Hill is still open. It is possible to follow a short length of trench - Telegraph Lane -  in a small copse and the remains of presumably an observation post still exists.

Image 1: Telegraph Lane can still be followed in one of the small copses on Telegraph Hill
Image 2& 3: Remains of concrete dugout / observation post
Image 4: London Cemetery, Neuville Vitasse. The majority of the burials are from the London Regt's who fell in the Battle of Arras when the village was taken. The rising ground of Telegraph Hill can be seen in the background

Once 56th Div had captured Neuville Vitasse it was to assault the northern extremity of the Hindenburg Line – this was the task of the 14th and 1st Londons. The 14th Londons experienced some lively fighting which lasted about two hours. They captured about 100 of the enemy, a mass of trenches and a number of pillboxes. The remains of two of these pillboxes can be still seen today.

Above: The remains of two machine gun pillboxes. These would have obviously been incorporated into the trench system and have been camouflaged, probably something similar to the bottom image of a captured German pillbox.

As well as various Battalion and Divisional histories, references for the last two posts also came from:
Hindenburg Line, P Oldham, Battleground Europe Series, Leo Cooper
Cheerful Sacrifice - The Battle of Arras 1917, J Nicholls, Leo Cooper

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