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Thursday 3 April 2014

Monchy le Preux , Arras (Somme trip 2014)

On a beautiful spring day with the temperature easily in the 60’s, we decided on a quick drive up to the Arras battlefields and had a pleasant walk around the south east side of Monchy, covering the area around Bois du Sart and Bois du Vert, The Mound and Infantry Hill. 

On the way we stopped off at the two German blockhouses at Wancourt and two cemeteries, Henin Communal Extension and Wancourt British Cemetery.

Above: Images of the larger blockhouse, presumably a command post that was built for defence with several embrasures. The entrance and an embrasure can be seen in the first image. Interior images are poor as my cameras flash decided not to work!!

ABOVE:  HENIN COMMUNAL CEMETREY EXTENSION, HENIN-SUR-COJIEUL (P. De C.). 5 miles S. of Arras, 2 ½ miles NE. of Boyelles Sta., 750 yards S. of village, near St. Leger road. Henin was 1 ½ mile behind front line at beginning of Battle of Arras April 1917, and was used from April to Nov. 1917. Records 191 U.K. burials and 2 special memorials. First image and above text from "Silent Cities"

Capt. and Adj. H. Burkett, Kings Own Yorkshire LI, died 5th June 1917: “POURED OUT THE SWEET RED WINE OF YOUTH”.


ABOVE: WANCOURT BRITISH CEMETERY (P. De C.). 5 ¾ miles SE. Of Arras Sta. S. of main road from Arras to Cambrai. Captured on April 12th 1917, after very heavy fighting. Records 1,026 U.K., 246 Can., 1 Bermuda, 566 Unknown burials, and 96 special memorials.

The  area Bois du Sart / Bois du Vert / The Mound / Infantry Hill, to the east of Monchy,  was  reached by the British  at the formal end to the Battle of Arras.    After the Battle of Arras drew to an official close, the British continued with a policy of active defence in order to cause doubt in the mind of the enemy as to whether the Battle of Arras was to be further developed. The British also hoped to capture the high ground of Infantry Hill – Bois du Vert which would give views almost to Cambrai. Bois du Vert itself was on ground which sloped down to the valley of the River Cojeul, and the enemy positions where not visible to the British.  Fighting consisted of confusing and fierce raids launched by both sides during the remainder of 1917. 

Above: Map showing battlefield to the east of Monchy le Preux.

Above: Looking back towards Monchy from Tites Copse

The site of Bois du Vert, now removed. This wood was on the reverse slope so not visible to the British observers. 

Above: British 18 pdr HE shell and battered trenches, Bois du Sart. Last image shows a British Mills bomb with Bois du Sart in the background. 

Finally, three images which caused a bit of discussion between myself and my brother; was this a British observation post constructed in an old cellar?? At the time of the fighting the British were unable to occupy Monchy due to German shelling with the exception of  a handful of observation posts. The photos show an obvious old cellar with a hole knocked in the wall giving excellent observation over the Bois du Sart and the battlefield but is it period, who knows!!!

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Faviere Wood / Bayern Waldchen - Somme Trip 2014

During the week we spent some time in the Carnoy - Maricourt area, especially around Faviere Wood (Bayern Waldchen to the Germans). The German book, “An der Somme” is quite good for images of this area.  

Above: Top image of Carnoy Hollow (Carnoymulde) form An der Somme. Bottom - the area today, image taken from Casino Point, a German Strong point which dominated the hollow. Not surprisingly, the British blew it up with a mine on July 1st. 

Bayern Waldchen was just behind the German front line and was also in the area where the British and French attacks joined on July 1st 1916 on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme.  The German defences in this area of the Somme were not as strong as those further north, possibly because they had been relatively quite compared to the constant fighting to the north during 1915 at La Boisselle, Ovillers, Serre etc. The wire was not as strong, there were inadequate deep dug outs and not enough communication trenches which could be used as switch lines.   On the eve of battle, during the night of 29th/30th June, the Germans also made the blunder of relieving the front line troops. The British also had the advantage of the deployment of French heavy guns in this area. 

First Image - Trench in Bayern Waldchen from An der Somme
Second Image - dressing station, Bayern Waldchen, from An der Somme
Third Image - Faviere Wood / Bayern Waldchen from the British Front Line at Maricourt Wood
Forth Image - British Front Line, Maricourt Wood, image taken from a German observation post marked on a trench map of Faviere Wood. 

The fighting on July 1st was confusing in this area, the Germans reporting first that the French had entered the wood, but later the report was corrected that it was the English who had attacked.  The German commander in the area had considered a counter attack to recover lost ground in the Mametz-Montauban area during the afternoon  but with insufficient troops decided to concentrate on holding all ground not lost so far, including Bayern Waldchen. The British captured the wood during the fighting between July 2nd and 13th. At the end of July, the French established a Brigade HQ in the wood and it was used as a bivouac for troops.

Remains of trenches and huge shell holes (perhaps the French heavy guns) can still be seen in Faviere Wood today.

The same cratered ground can be seen in nearby Nameless Wood

Above: The greatest thrill of the day for me - the discovery of new concrete on the Somme!! It certainly does not look much, but Linesman GPS Software / trench maps placed this concrete right on the German Front Line where it makes a dog-leg. The wood in the background in the third image is the British Front Line, Maricourt Wood.

Above: Panoramic view of the ground captured by the British / French on July 1st. Image taken from Maricourt Wood and on the horizon can be seen Montauban, Bernafy and Trones Wood.