Arras 21st May, 1940

The Allies 1939-1945, and those fighting against Germany.

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gavmeister13
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Arras 21st May, 1940

Post by gavmeister13 » Fri Oct 03, 2003 12:52 pm

can anyone suggest any book/websites detailing the British counterattack at Arras on the 21st May 1940?
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Patrick
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Post by Patrick » Fri Oct 03, 2003 1:20 pm

It might not be scholarly enough for you, but historian Richard Holmes wrote a book called "War Walks" a few years ago (there was also a companion BBC television series) in which he revisits battlefields today and recounts what happened there, including Arras. Might be worth a look.
Cheers,

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Post by Richard Hargreaves » Wed Oct 08, 2003 2:40 pm

This is a pithy extract from an account of the Battle of France I wrote six years ago and which is being re-drafted for a forthcoming book on the campaign. ..



"By attacking and fighting like dogs we will get the better of the panzers," Weygand declared. "The German panzers must be hemmed in within the arena into which they have so rashly advanced. They must not get out again.” [Weygand, p.57; Ellis, pp.112-13] On the morning of the twentieth both General Billotte, commanding the Allied armies in northern France, and the BEF commander Viscount Gort received orders to strike southwards:

The Germans cannot yet be in any great strength and must be considerably disorganised by demolitions, the distance they have marched and above all by air action...Now appears a favourable moment [to attack] with the German mechanised forces tired and main bodies strung out. [Ellis, p.84]

Billotte held out little hope for the attack, mesmerised by the German panzers’ “irresistible” drive.

Under their assault combined with ground attacks by Stukas [he told a Belgian officer] whether it be in the open field or on well-prepared positions, ordinary divisions are broken in an incredibly short time. [Gunsburg, p.254]

His front-line officers too did not believe their ill-equipped forces were up to the task. “If I had my division intact, especially my tanks, I could quite easily reach Cambrai,” one tank commander said, “but all I have is my non-armoured element.” [Horne, p.607]
Gort shared Billotte’s doubts but continued his preparations nevertheless. At 2pm on May 21st, elements of two British infantry divisions and 74 tanks ran headlong into Rommel’s 7th Panzer and the SS Totenkopf Divisions west of Arras. The SS troops briefly panicked, but stood their ground and suffered heavy casualties. [Sydnor, pp.95-6] Rommel, however, found his anti-tank weapons “ineffective” against the heavily-armoured British tanks. His men gave way, artillery was destroyed or over-run and gun crews wiped out. [KTB 7th Pz Div, 21/5/40. AL 596]
Bringing up anti-aircraft guns, Rommel first halted the British tanks then drove them back towards Arras in confusion by nightfall. [Rommel, p.33] Though he regarded his situation as “fully restored”, Rommel’s losses had been heavy – 84 dead and 289 wounded or missing. [KTB 7th Pz Div 21/5/40. AL 596. According to the division’s records, 43 British tanks were destroyed, 200 soldiers killed and 50 prisoners taken.]
The British had penetrated just six miles, but the attack rattled the Germans. “A certain air of panic dominated the staffs,” one officer recalled. [Gunsburg, p.256] The concern extended throughout Panzergruppe von Kleist and Fourth Army. [KTB XIX Pz Corps, 21/5/40. Ellis, p.379] That evening, Kluge conceded that May 21st had been “the first day on which the enemy had met with any real success”. [Jacobsen, p.51]

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Post by El Savior » Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:37 am

I'm too interested about Battle of Arras. Does anyone have any books about this incident. I also would like to have full OOB of the forces on both side.

So far I know that British had 6th and 8th Durham Light Infantry battalions (151st infantry brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division) and 4th and 7th Royal Tank Regiment battalions from 1st Army Tank Brigade.

German had 7th Panzer Division, German 7th Infantry Regiment and SS Totenkopf Division

British called their forces "Frankforce" and they encountered Totenkopft and later Rommel's 7th Pz.

Does anyone have more informaton about German OOB and forces in the area and how fought against Frankforce.


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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » Mon Apr 17, 2006 8:48 am

Scroll down till you reach Frankforce. Also look up Petreforce, which the former incorporated.

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=40054
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Bohemond
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Post by Bohemond » Sat Apr 22, 2006 5:12 pm

For a good book try Destination Dunkirk by Gregory Blaxland .The book covers the BEF in france from 1939-1940,it was printed during the 1970's and you can find a copy of it on abebooks.co.uk from about £12 upwards.

At Arras there was also the French 3e DLM on the British flank that moved down from Mont St Eloi to the area around Angy-les-Dusisans.Also the German 5th Panzer was involved in attacks on the 6th DLI near Beaurains.

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John W. Howard
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Thanks

Post by John W. Howard » Sun Apr 23, 2006 1:16 pm

Hello Behemond:
Thanks for the book suggestion!! Would you care to write a brief review for the "BOOKS" section of this forum? It might help others decide if they wish to read or buy it. Best wishes.
John W. Howard

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Bohemond
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Post by Bohemond » Sun Apr 23, 2006 4:45 pm

Hi John

Yes i'll do a review of the book,hope to have it done by the end of the week.
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Looking Forward

Post by John W. Howard » Mon Apr 24, 2006 2:09 pm

Looking Forward to it!! Best wishes.
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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » Fri Apr 28, 2006 2:54 pm

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.

And so as I patrol in the valley of the shadow of the tricolour I must fear evil, For I am but mortal and mortals can only die

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Re: Arras 21st May, 1940

Post by tigre » Sat May 19, 2012 5:27 am

Hello to all :D; while looking around I've stumbled with this article dealing with the defense of Arras in 1940..............

The Battle for Arras.

The story of the battle of Arras begins on 18 May, when enemy tanks were already near St. Quentin.The decision to retreat was maturing at the Headquarters of the British Expeditionary Force at Arras. General Gort with his field staff was already in Belgium. The defense of Arras was entrusted to General Petret, who was called for this purpose from Abbeville, where he was at the Headquarters of the 12th Division.

A small number of troops, which were stationed in this region, was distributed so as to offer best resistance to the Germans. The 36th Infantry Brigade (which later was crushed by the Germans) was placed at Doullens for the defense of the rear zone. One battalion was detailed for the guarding of the Somme crossings at Péronne. Two brigades of the 23d Territorial Division were distributed along the du Nord Canal for meeting the enemy, who was advancing into the 30-kilometer wide gap between Allied units.

Sources: The Battle for Arras. [“Bor’ba za Arras”. Translated from the Russian by Lieutenant
Joseph Dasher, ORC, from Krasnaya Zvyezda, 22 November 1940]. Foreign Military Digests. Vol XXI. Nº 81.
http://souvenirfrancaisarras.com/node/70

Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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tigre
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Re: Arras 21st May, 1940

Post by tigre » Fri May 25, 2012 7:04 am

Hello to all :D; more follows..............

The Battle for Arras.

For the defense of the city proper there remained: one battalion of Welsh Guards, several small mixed units including engineer and supply units, and a French tank division in a rather shabby state. Save for the British guards these forces were poorly trained.

General Petret established his headquarters in the ancient St. Waast castle, whose cellars were ideal as air raid shelters. To aid him he received only two staff officers and a codifier, There was a total lack of clerks, and the liaison means were limited to two messenger orderlies and a radio receiving set, General Petret had practically no contact with the GHQ.

By then the city’s population fell to 3,000, all of them hiding in air raid shelters or in the famous Arras caverns, formed by quarry operations.

Sources: The Battle for Arras. [“Bor’ba za Arras”. Translated from the Russian by Lieutenant
Joseph Dasher, ORC, from Krasnaya Zvyezda, 22 November 1940]. Foreign Military Digests. Vol XXI. Nº 81.
http://souvenirfrancaisarras.com/node/70

Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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Displaced civilians in Arras ...............
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Serás lo que debas ser o no serás nada. General José de San Martín.

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Re: Arras 21st May, 1940

Post by tigre » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:01 pm

Hello to all :D; more follows..............

The Battle for Arras.

The forces defending the city were situated to the south and east, behind hastily constructed fortifications. Beginning on 20 May violent battles developed, accompanied by frequent air raids by German dive bombers which were causing heavy clamage. The enemy pressure was so strong that General Petret was compelled to issue an order to retire to the line of the railroad station.

The entire space before the station was transformed into a rubbish heap of destroyed railroad cars and locomotives. The switch house was blown up, and the hollow through which seven railroad tracks were laid near the station, became an impassable antitank obstacle. Behind this hollow, and also in the houses standing near the station, the British garrison took up its new defensive positions.

The enemy conducted a whole series of heavy air raids, unloading mostly incendiary bombs. Fires broke out, but due to the lack of wind the fires only smoldered. The city became covered with a shroud of black smoke. On 22 May the pressure on Arras increased still further and General Gort decided to organize a counterattack for dual purpose.

Sources: The Battle for Arras. [“Bor’ba za Arras”. Translated from the Russian by Lieutenant
Joseph Dasher, ORC, from Krasnaya Zvyezda, 22 November 1940]. Foreign Military Digests. Vol XXI. Nº 81.
http://souvenirfrancaisarras.com/node/70

Cheers. Raúl M 8).
Serás lo que debas ser o no serás nada. General José de San Martín.

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tigre
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Re: Arras 21st May, 1940

Post by tigre » Fri Jun 08, 2012 12:21 pm

Hello to all :D; more follows..............

The Battle for Arras.

Firstly, it was necessary to effect a junction with the French in the south, who, apparently, were intending to begin the long awaited counterattack in the northerly direction. Secondly, the command was hoping thus to relieve the situation of the Arras garrison.

This mission was entrusted, to the commander of the 50th Division, General Martel, who was to employ for the counterattack one of his brigades and a tank brigade assigned to him.

General Martel received the order to move to a point approximately 15 kilometers to the southeast of Arras. For this it was necessary to split his forces into two columns, advancing parallel to each other, at a distance of several kilometers. Each column was formed as follows: infantry battalion, tank battalion, field battery, machine-gun company, antitank battery.

Sources: The Battle for Arras. [“Bor’ba za Arras”. Translated from the Russian by Lieutenant Joseph Dasher, ORC, from Krasnaya Zvyezda, 22 November1940]. Foreign Military Digests. Vol XXI. Nº 81.
http://souvenirfrancaisarras.com/node/70

Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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