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La Grande Reconstruction, Arras, ville nouvelle !

La Grande Reconstruction, Arras, ville nouvelle !

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Arras, british stronghold

Arras, british stronghold

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We have mainly selected photographs from the Imperial War Museum showing the presence of British troops in Arras. They defended our city; we pay homage to them and in particular to those, a regretably great number, who never left Arras. They are mostly buried in the monumental "Faubourg d'Amiens" cemetery, details of which can be found in the French original of this blog (The cemetery of the Faubourg d'Amiens).

(The I.W.M.  photographs are supplemented by some from the article "The conflict seen by the Photographic Section of the army")

In 1914, the British army was a professional one. Following the heavy losses suffered at the start of the war, Lord Kitchener, then Minister of War in Great Britain, launched a massive recruitment drive and appealed to volunteers to form the New Army K, "The New Kitchener Army".

We thus see arriving among  the British troops young inexperienced soldiers coming from all Great Britain: England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Also joining the Commonwealth Army were young men  from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, countries still closely linked with Great Britain.

 

 

French Canadians enlist !

 

New Zealand Expeditionary Force recruitment poster from Archives New Zealand's Army Department files.

 

Far from their native land, these volunteers had traveled thousands of kilometers by boat to reach England for training before being assigned to different sectors of the British front which  stretched from Flanders to the Somme.

The British General Headquarters, responsible for stragetic planning, initially located in Saint-Omer, was transferred in March 1916 to Boulogne-sur-Mer.

In the Artois, the British replaced the French troops, en route to Verdun, from February-March 1916.

The first General Staffs settled in Arras in March 1916.

The French "Place Militaire" was  attached to the British Military Authority.

A plaque on the Wellington Memorial mentions : "In April 1917, on the eve of the Battle of Arras, 14 Commonwealth divisions under British command await the start of the offensive on a 22 km front". (Ref.1. See below.)

This British presence in Arras was hailed by two articles in the "Lion of Arras", one of which is in English.

 

Le Lion d'Arras, 5 avril 1916

 

The newspaper called 'Le Lion d'Arras' changes its subtitle from "Journal de Siège : Organe semaine d'Union Atrébate" to "Journal franco-britannique du front d'Arras" ("Franco-British newspaper of the Arras front") as from October 11th. 1917.

 

"Keep to the right". With the arrival of British troops in Arras in March 1916, traffic signs in English appeared. (source : private collection)

 

Arrival of the first trains of British soldiers. (private collection)

 

Corner of rue Méaulens and rue Saint-Maurice, March 11, 1918. (source : Valois albums collection / photo editing: Fred Debuchy)
The walls of this house are marked with several signs in English, including one concerning speed limits .

 

 

Yves Le Maner writes : "The British installed Town Majors in the main towns near the front-line and took charge of the administration of the territories, with the collaboration of the mayors. A French military mission was  assigned to the British army to iron out any difficulties with the local authorities; interpreters, whether British or French, played an important role in relations with the inhabitants. While the English provost-marshall provided the police, French territorial gendarmes were present to oversee the evacuation of civilians." 2

 

Pass belonging to Commandant Boissonnade, commanding officer of the Place d'Arras. (source : Alain Jacques collection)

 

Identity card issued by the British military authorities. (source : private collection)

 

Arras, a British fortified camp

Quoting an Arras resident, Laurent WIART writes : "These troops established themselves in houses, where they set up their administration and their supply stores, canteens, YMCA hostels, etc... The British carried out extensive defense work around Arras and set up numerous telephone installations. They set up barricades and machine gun nests at sensitive points; Mr. Cronfalt then notes: "They seem determined to defend, if necessary, the city street by street." 3

Article concerning the concert given by Miss Margaret Wilson, daughter of the President of the United States of America, at the Concert Hall, for British soldiers. (The Lion of Arras, January 30, 1919)

 

Alain Jacques writes :"The less dangerous areas such as the Lower Town were allocated to the permanent staffs, French and British, where they were  housed in bourgeois houses and mansions.

The quarters traditionally reserved for the army such as the citadel or the barracks proved to be insufficient, and were above all regularly targeted. Also, to reduce the risk of loss and compensate for the lack of housing, the troops were scattered in the northern and eastern districts of the city, in which complete streets were requisitioned, such as rue Baudimont, rue d'Amiens and the Squares  from which civilians were evacuated if necessary.

The sectors occupied by the soldiers were quickly provided with cinemas, hostels (YMCAs), games rooms. Two police stations were installed on the Place du Théâtre and on the Grand'Place. They  were responsible for maintaining order for the new occupants, whose numbers were sometimes greater than that of the pre-war population." 4

Dr. Georges Paris writes :"The English staff had moved into Mr. Anselin's building, at the corner of rue Gambetta and rue St-Jean, and had fitted out the  "boves" (underground quarries) . A shell that fell on the house prompted him to change residence and  move to the Place Victor Hugo, not far from the offices of the Place française which remained on rue des Promenades. ". 5

And again : At the beginning of 1917, a contingent of 18,000 soldiers settled in the city, in the buildings still standing and in the boves of the Grand’ Place. . 6

 

 

A police report dated May 3, 1916 tells us that the British army only authorized the opening of drinking establishments to the troops from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The report mentions: “[we] noticed that several English soldiers were entering the Duhamel tavern  , located rue St Aubert n° 81, in Arras. This establishment was brightly lit and the door wide open. We entered and found that the innkeeper, Mrs. Duhamel, 27, was serving a mug of beer to an English soldier, and that about sixty English soldiers were standing and seated in the bar of this inn. Many drinks: wine and beer, were served to them. We pointed out to the innkeeper that it was 8:20 p.m. » 7

 

1 - Plaque on the memorial at the Wellington Quarry.

2 - Le Maner Yves, La Grande Guerre dans le Nord et le Pas-de-Calais, Editions La Voix, 2014, p. 295

3 - Wiary Laurent, Master's Thesis "Arras ville de l'Arrière Front pendant la Première Guerre Mondiale" , 1996. Page 77.

4 - Jacques Alain, Mortier Laurence, La bataille d'Arras, Editions Degeorge, 2014, p. 27

5 - Docteur Georges Paris, Un Demi-siècle de vie arrageoise, 1971, p 56

6 - Ibidem p. 57

7 -  File : "Mission militaire française DEN à F", Municipal Library Archives.

Arras, British Headquarters, 1916 - 1918. Map of the organisation of the city with its quarries (in black) its tunnels (dotted lines) and air defences.The names of the quarries (which the tunnels leading from them carried also)show that those in the upper section of the map were manned by men from Britain and those in the lower section by men of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company.(map made by Alain Jacques)

 

English position, Palais Saint-Vaast, March 22, 1916. (source : Valois / La Contemporaine albums)

 

The Canadian Minister of Militia, Lieutenant-General Sir Sam Hughes (right) in Arras, August 1916. On the outbreak of war, Hughes had been largely responsible for creating the Canadian Expeditionary Force. - © IWM (CO 671)

 

British soldiers take part in a boxing contest at Toutencourt, between Amiens and Arras, September 1916. - © IWM (Q 1448)

 

Battle of Arras. A 4.5inch howitzer battery in action on the outskirts of Arras. End of March, 1917. - © IWM (Q 7805)

 

A ration party from the 6th Battalion, The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey), with containers of food entering a communications trench. Arras, March 1917.

 

Soldiers carrying ammunition through the bandstand at Arras to the guns, 1 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 6455)

 

Electric lighting sets in one of the two engine rooms by which were lighted the extensive caves under the suburbs of Arras. The system was installed for the Arras-Lens Offensive in April 1917, and reinstalled at the beginning of 1918 in anticipation of a defensive battle. It was taken over by the Australian Electrical and Mechanical Company just before the German Offensive. - © IWM (Q 10400)

 

Troops of the 10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers at Wagonlieu, 8 April 1917. This battalion took Monchy-le-Preux on 10 April 1917 with the loss of 12 officers and 240 other ranks. - © IWM (Q 5111)

 

Working party moving up through Arras, with timber, saws etc. 9 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 5114)

 

The Battle of the Scarpe. The tank "Iron Duke" moving through Arras on its way to the front, 10 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 6418)

 

Mark II tank "Lusitania" of the 1st Tank Brigade going forward along a ruined street in Arras, April 1917. - © IWM (Q 6302)

 

Battle of Vimy Ridge. British cavalry riding through Arras, 11th April 1917. - © IWM (Q 2825)

 

Troops embussing in Arras after the fighting at Monchy-le-Preux (captured by 37th Division on 11 April 1917). - © IWM (Q 6178)

 

First Battle of the Scarpe. Cheerful British troops boarding London omnibuses at Arras on their return from the capture of Monchy-le-Preux (by men of the 37th Division), 11 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 6228)

 

Column of the Royal Field Artillery advancing through Arras, 12 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 5793)

 

Battle of the Scarpe. Royal Field Artillery gunners getting an 18 pounder gun into position in Arras cemetery, 12 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 6222)

 

The Battle of the Scarpe. Pack mules waiting to move up in Arras on 12 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 6192)

 

The Battle of the Scarpe. Pack mules waiting to move up in Arras on 12 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 3094)

 

First Battle of the Scarpe. Stretcher cases awaiting transport to a Casualty Clearing Station lie on the ground outside a dressing station at Blangy, 14 April 1917. The building being used as a dressing station is badly pockmarked by shell damage and has no windows or doors. Several vehicles are making their way towards the station. In the background, damaged trees and more devastated buildings can be seen. On the right, a horse-drawn vehicle is also just visible. - © IWM (Q 6195)

 

Royal Engineers repairing a ruined lock on a canal at Saint-Laurent-Blangy, 22 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 5824)

 

A light railway on the bank of the River Scarpe and the Royal Artillery gunners loading pontoon boats with shells. Saint-Laurent-Blangy, 22 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 5831)


 

British soldiers crossing the Scarpe near Blangy by an improvised bridge, April 1917. - © IWM (Q 5169)

 

British stroops of the road beside the Scarpe river at Blangy, April 1917. - © IWM (Q 6453)

 

Scottish troops advancing east of Arras, April 29, 1917, Brooks, Ernest (Lieutenant) (Photographer). - © IWM (Q 2104A)

 

Battle of the Scarpe. Horse ambulances and wounded outside an advanced dressing station at Tilloy-les-Mofflaines, April 1917. - © IWM (Q 2011)

 

Medics of the Royal Army Medical Corps placing wounded on a light railway. Near Feuchy, 29 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 6227)

 

Troops of the Army Service Corps having their dinner in the open-air. Arras, 30 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 5786)

 

The Ramparts, Arras, 30 April 1917. Showing tents on top and horse lines below. - © IWM (Q 6199)

 

British military band playing in the ruined town square of Arras, 30 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 7249)

 

British military band playing on Grand Place in Arras, 30 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 6444)

 

Officers of the 7th Battalion (Pioneers), York & Lancaster Regiment, in a wrecked house in Arras, 30 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 5267)

 

One of the Gates of Arras, 30 April 1917. - © IWM (Q 6443)

 

British soldiers tending the graves of the fallen near Blangy, 3 May 1917. - © IWM (Q 5290)

 

Troops of the Royal Field Artillery, Royal Engineers, Machine Gun Corps, Royal Garrison Artillery and Army Service Corps bathing during a rest period at Rollancourt, 5 May 1917. - © IWM (Q 5302)

 

15th Division Horse Show at Liencourt, west of Arras, 13th May 1917. Tug-of-War. - © IWM (Q 2124)

 

15th Division Horse Show at Liencourt, west of Arras, 13th May 1917. The "Grand Stand". - © IWM (Q 2130)

 

British cavalry await orders to move forward during operations in the Arras region, 26 May 1917. - © IWM (Q 2213)

 

British Army battalion marching through Arras on coming out of action after the Battle of Bullecourt. - © IWM (Q 3872)

 

British Army battalion marching through Arras on coming out of action after the Battle of Bullecourt. - © IWM (Q 3873)

 

The Grand'Place in Arras was devastated by the bombardments of 1915. In front of the ruins of the Town Hall, a YMCA hangar welcomes British soldiers on leave. June 30, 1917. This photo was censored following a decision of July 26, 1917. (source : ECPAD)

 

The Grand'Place of Arras with its Flemish-style houses was very badly damaged by the bombardments. The cellars of the houses were converted into quarters for the British soldiers. June 30, 1917. This photo was censored following a decision of July 26, 1917. (source : ECPAD)

 

On the Grand'Place of Arras, the British army occupied the town and the houses which remained partly intact. The cellars were then used for billets and for shelter; their entrance was protected by a sandbag wall. In the foreground, latrines have been installed in the square. June 30, 1917. (source : ECPAD)

 

Troops of the 1st Battalion, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (15th Division), billeted in a ruined house in Arras, 18 October 1917. - © IWM (Q 6101)

 

Indian labourers from Manipur near Arras, 20 October 1917. - © IWM (Q 6117)

 

Indian labourers and butchers from Manipur at work near Arras, 20 October 1917. - © IWM (Q 6120)

 

British trench near Roclincourt. Camouflaged patrolmen going out on patrol, January 9, 1918.

 

Troops of the 8/10th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders in Arras, 24 January 1918. - © IWM (Q 7260)

 

 

Highland Dance by men of the 8/10th (Service) Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders outside Arras Cathedral, 24 January 1918. - © IWM (Q 6465)

 

Highland Dance by men of the 8/10th (Service) Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders outside Arras Cathedral, 24 January 1918. - © IWM (Q 6466)

 

Highland Dance by men of the 8/10th (Service) Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders outside Arras Cathedral, 24 January 1918. - © IWM (Q 6464)

 

Troops of the 8/10th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders listening to their pipe band outside the ruins of Arras Cathedral, 24 January 1918. - © IWM (Q 7263)

 

Troops of the 8/10th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders listening to their pipe band outside the ruins of Arras Cathedral, 24 January 1918. - © IWM (Q 7262)

 

Troops of the 8/10th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders outside the ruined Cathedral in Arras, 24 January 1918. - © IWM (Q 7261)

 

Film of the three previous photographs.

 

 

British photographic reconnaissance aircraft. The pilot, the operator and the protective machine gun. Near Arras, February 22, 1918. - (source : albums Valois / La Contemporaine)

 

British aviation camp. Plane of the Photographic Section returning from mission; the observer is giving his photos to a soldier. Near Arras, February 22, 1918. - (source : albums Valois / La Contemporaine)

 

British aviation camp. Airman from the Photographic Section looking at a print. Near Arras, February 22, 1918. (source : albums Valois / La Contemporaine)

 

Men of the 8/10th Battalion, the Gordon Highlanders and men of other unidententified units, part of 44th Brigade, 15th Division, in an underground cook-house, situated in a cave 60ft below ground at Les Fosses Farm, near Arras, 7 March 1918. - © IWM (Q 10713)

 

A Royal Engineer working party being conveyed by a light railway which passed through a ruined building in Arras, 8 March 1918. - © IWM (Q 8578)

 

A Royal Engineer working party being conveyed by a light railway which passed through a ruined building in Arras, 8 March 1918. - © IWM (Q 8577)

 

German prisoners pulling down a barricade at Arras before going into a POW camp, 29 April 1918. - © IWM (Q 23594)

 

Soldiers of one of the Territorial battalions fixing barbed wire to knife-rests. Near Arras, 17 May 1918. - © IWM (Q 8799)

 

The German Spring Offensive. Notice in the ruins of Arras Cathedral stating that the French authorities intend to preserve them as a historic feature and war memorial and forbidding the removal of material or interference with the site. 13 June 1918. - © IWM (Q 7896)

 

Royal Highlanders resting at the foot of a wall. Arras, 14 June 1918. - © IWM (Q 6700)

 

British soldier behind a barricade of masonry blocks across a street in Arras, 16 June 1918. - © IWM (Q 7905)

 

British heavy artillery in position. (12 gun, 144th siege battery). Near Arras, July 19, 1918. (source : albums Valois / La Contemporaine)

 

Grand'Place,kit inspection . British soldiers and their uniforms are inspected by officers. August 30, 1918. (source : ECPAD)

 

Canadian-Scottish band near the belfry. In ruined Arras the military band (of the 42nd battalion of the Royal Highlanders of Montreal's 3rd Canadian Division) is playing behind the ruins of the belfry. The musicians are getting their musical instruments ready(bass drum and bagpipes). August 30, 1918. (source : ECPAD

 

French woman making camouflage netting screens under British supervision. Near Arras, 4 September, 1918. - © IWM (Q 7091)

 

Dominion journalists visit the ruins of Arras Cathedral, 5 September 1918, during a visit to the Western Front. - © IWM (Q 11291)

 

Dominion journalists visit the ruins of Arras Cathedral, 5 September 1918, during a visit to the Western Front. - © IWM (Q 11296)

 

Journalists from the British Dominion countries passing the ruined of the Town Hall of Arras. Men of a Canadian battalion are lying full-length in the middle of the square, 5 September 1918. - © IWM (Q 11486)

 

Journalists from the British Dominion countries passing the ruined of the Town Hall of Arras. Men of a Canadian battalion are lying full-length in the middle of the square, 5 September 1918. - © IWM (Q 11485)

 

Conversation between two British soldiers and inhabitants of Ecourt-Saint-Quentin who had taken refuge in Arras, September 5, 1918. (source : municipal media library). (source : médiathèque municipale)

 

In front of the ruined cathedral, 1919. - © IWM (Q 37092)

 

Grande Place, Arras, in 1919. Intended as a memorial, but now restored. The Notice reads; - "This spot is being preserved by the French Authorities as an historic feature and war Memorial. It is strictly forbidden to remove any material from, or interfere in any way with, this site". - © Artist's Estate (IWM Q 49543)

 

Facades of the houses in the Petite Place. We read the inscription "TO.C": "To cellars " . (source : municipal media library).

 

The houses located at 15 and 17 Petite Place also have the indication TO.C (source: municipal media library).

 

Horatio Bottomley, editor of the "John Bull" journal (in civilian cloths), being driven around destroyed Arras, probably by staff officers of the 17th Division, including the Commander. - © IWM (Q 3940)

 

 

We can read on the front door: “PHOTOS – in the event of absence 26 bis rue des Teinturiers – private – french occupation”. A poster is seen at the window, it says: “photograh – Post Card." (source : municipal media library).

 

 

A house in the rue des Teinturiers. We can read on the door: "Photos, open from 2h30 to 4h". (source: municipal media library)

 

To the left of the cathedral,can be seen the notices which are enlarged below. (source : municipal media library)

 

"Public urinal", "Catholic club", "For the English: Church (chapel) and recreation room for soldiers"

 

English chapel in a cellar, rue des Chariottes. (private collection)

 

On the front, near Arras, British observation post. (source : private collection)

 

Transport of Britsh prisoners through a ruined village on the Arras front. (source : Europeana collections)

 

Transport of 3,000 British prisoners to an assembly point near Arras. (source : Europeana collections)

 

Greeting card (source : Jean-Claude Leclercq collection).

 

 

The British presence in our city during the Great War can still be detected on our facades!

 

Last trace of an inscription in English in tar, indicating that a hairdresser is avaiable at 1 bis rue du Temple. The word "SALOON" in capital letters can just be made out underneath. And since the letters D.C.L.I are traced there too, we can suppose the saloon was reserved for men of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. (Our thanks to Jean-Marie Prestaux for mentioning them)

 

1 st Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantery. (merci à Jérémy Bourdon pour cet éclairage)

Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantery

Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it  careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )
Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it  careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )
Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it  careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )
Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it  careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )
Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it  careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )
Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it  careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )
Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it  careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )
Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it  careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )
Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it  careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )
Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it  careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )

Three dates are visible: 12/12/1916 - 1916 - 08/23/1916. And ,giving it careful examination this house has other surprises in store...Names of soldiers and regiments have been carved in the bricks. (our thanks to Jérémy Bourdon for these discoveries )

 

Great Britain at Arrageoise time! 42 babies born in the country of His Gracious Majesty were named "Arras"!!! (source : National Archives)

 

Program : Battle of Arras - 100 years.

The title of this article is inspired by the title of a chapter - "Arras à l'heure anglaise" - of the excellent book: Jacques Alain, Mortier Laurence, La Bataille d’Arras, Editions Degeorge, 2014

 

A big thank you to our British friend and also from Arras Barrington Cross for the wise proofreading of these translations and the additional information he was kind enough to give us.

 

 

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