Discussion in 'WW2 Battlefields Today' started by LondonNik, Jan 11, 2011.
Look forward to seeing the photos in due course!
I wish you an enjoyable trip, but here's a question.
The Arras counter-attack was not supposed to be a tank attack, it was an Infantry action with tanks in support; albeit in the van. The fact that the tanks sped-off leaving the Infantry to its own devices and not keeping in communication with them was, how can I say, 'not right'. They were chasing the 'fox' instead of doing what they were supposed to be doing.
The fact that they did a lot of damage to enemy soft targets and probably had an impact on the German 'Halt' order is commedable.
But it begs the question, did British Infantrymen involved in the Arras counter-attack lose their lives unnecessarily because of the actions of 4RTR and 7RTR on that day?
I agree with virtually everything you say, but the fact remains that the tanks were supposed to be a supporting arm to the Infantry.
Where my understanding of the action differs from yours is in the 'orders'. The original orders included a start time, but given the Infantry had an 8 mile approach march to the start-line on the Arras-Doulens Road and could not have (and didn't) reach the start line until after the start time, why did the supporting arm set-off alone?
In your analysis you say that "The tanks were ordered off without the Infantry by Martel (certainly under pressure from Franklyn and GHQ) and that was that." I have never seen that stated in the course of my reading and would be interested in your source?! Confirmation of such orders/pressure would certainly change my view about the 4RTR and 7RTR action that day.
A further question for you is whether Franklyn and GHQ were aware that leading elements of 25.PzRegt had reached Acq, SS Totenkopf were getting underway and would have threatened the 9 DLI's flank or that 5. PzDiv would soon be on its way from Amiens and would arrive in mid-afternoon?
Given the state of the Allied communications and general disarray (mainly French), I doubt it. Assuming he/GHQ were not aware of the specific whereabouts of the Germans (as detailed in the foregoing paragraph) then using those facts to support 4RTR and 7RTR’s actions on that day can only be based on fortuitous hindsight; unless of course they were under Franklyn/GHQ orders/pressure.
Assuming Franklyn/GHQ were aware, given the weakness in numbers of the forces available to him/them and the 'no-show’ of the French (excepting 3ieme Division Legeres Mecaniques), then any decision by him/GHQ to continue with the counter-attack was, either, very audacious or incompetent command i.e. sending the atacking forces out on a very tenuous limb and exposing 9DLI’s flank, etc. (and if correct, as you state effectively ordering the splitting his tanks and Infantry).
So, having gone full cicle, either Franklyn/GHQ confirmed the tanks start time order to Martel and they rightly followed those orders, or they wrongly set-off instead of waiting for the Infantry and acting as a supporting arm (and this could be down to Martel)?
I don’t know much at all about Franklyn, but would be interested to find out what he knew about the specific wherabouts of the Germans. Have you any information on this?
Regading ‘blame’, I’m not really interested in blaming anyone; if I was to go down that line it would start with our Allies during this campaign. I am just trying to get to the bottom of this matter; hence the question in my first note. I can see though that my comment regarding ‘chasing the fox’ was rather blunt and would be to some, provocative; my apologies if it offended!
The action of the French forces supporting the attack is woefully underreported in the English Language accounts, however they fought and died in their tanks, running into SS.TotenkopfDiv. and elements of 25.PzRegt. And there is no doubt of their rescue of the DLI from Warlus.
Indeed it is. I think its a shame that some authors forget the French had some 117 Divisions fighting in France and Belgium. Anyone would think it was a BEF war when infact even the Belgiums fielded more Divisions on the battlefield than the British in this campaign (Rant over)
The French (13eme BCC) also ran into friendly fire at Duisans by way of being hit with A/T rounds courtesy of the British Army.
As for the attack in my opinion it was ill conceived, badly co-ordinated and badly prepared and lacking intelligence on the Germans. If I remember correctly due to haste there was no proper recce's done and no maps and probably a whole host of other inadequacies as well if I pulled a couple of books from the shelf.
Ref the Tanks supporting infantry-I'm not a Tankie but am I correct in thinking that in 1940 the armour used by the British Army and its tactics was not designed to support infantry? I seem to remember reading somewhere that the French didn't appreciate the way the British used their armour in battle thinking the British tactics were the same as theirs-heavy and or slow moving armour that supported the infantry.
Anyway to get back on thread. Have a good trip and to second Paul's comment I'm looking forward to the pics. I went to Arras on my first ever 'Dunkirk' Battlefield Tour back in 2004 which started my obsession, so I have found memories of the town.
How many 'Then and Nows' have you got to do related to the battle-I know where there are a few you may not have
Not all RTR shots but there's around 12 Then and Nows plus a few unidentified shots in ATB's Blitzkrieg in the West.
An aspect I haven't followed up in detail is: where were 50 Div's Troop Carrying Coys? They could/should have got the infantry to the assembly areas, saving the long marches and a fair bit of time. Had they been 'borrowed'?
To what extent was the plan based on an assumption that 50 Div's elements would be bussed in, fresh and ready to go? I'm wondering if this might have been an issue at Franklyn's level - Martel, as Div Comd, ought to have known whether or not they were available.
On the 18th May 9 DLI had to do a 37 mile route march (Their first of the war) due to transport being stuck in Geofferdinge and not being able to get through to the battalion due to the volume of refugees.
At 0100 hrs on 20th May the battalion embuss from Lannoy to Meurchin.
9 DLI marched from Meurchin at 1400hrs on 20th May to Lens where they embussed after dark and arrived at Vimy Ridge 0300 hrs on 21st May.
There were a few casualties among the 2pdr crews
Do you know any good English references, which include French 3 DLM actions?
There's this, which is in French and a bit steep if you can find it:
Separate names with a comma.