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Arras Memorial, France Arras Memorial, France
First Name: Arthur Lewster Last Name: HOVENDEN
Date of Death: 03/05/1917 Lived/Born In: East Sheen
Rank: Second Lieutenant Unit: East Surrey7
Memorial Site: Arras Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-18

Sheen House, East Sheen

 

The Battle of Arras was a series of offensives by the British Army between 9th April 1917 and 16th May 1917. It had been planned in conjunction with the French who would attack in Artois and between them the Allies would force the Germans out of the large salient they had held since the line of trenches was first established. But the Germans had spoiled this plan by falling back to the new and very strong Hindenburg Line in January 1917 and the salient no longer existed.  For the want of an alternative plan the attack went ahead anyway. It all started well for the British who made substantial gains on the first two days but then the offensive ground to a halt and by the end their losses amounted to over 150,000.

Third Battle of the Scarpe (3–4 May 1917)

The Third Battle of the Scarpe was launched in conjunction with an attack by British and Australian troops at Bullecourt to the south of Arras. Its objective was to force a German retreat further to the east and to try and reach the Wotanstellung, a strong German defensive line. This did not happen. It started badly as a result of the decision to fix zero hour at 3.45am, half an hour before sunrise which made it very difficult to see what was going on. To add to this, the nearly full moon, which set at 3.35am, silhouetted the assembling troops drawing enemy fire which caused heavy loss and confusion.  During two days of fierce fighting the British and Canadians were unable to make any significant advances and the offensive was abandoned. Once again the casualty rate had been shockingly high.

On 3rd May, 12th Division attacked with 36 and 37 Brigades from a position near the village of Monchy, 37 Brigade used the 6th East Kent (Buffs) and 7th East Surrey battalions in their assault with their first objective being a line running north-west from Keeling Copse. It was very dark when they went over the top at 3.45am behind an artillery barrage that lifted 100 yards every 3 minutes.  After that it became very confused and very bloody. Little information trickled back to battalion and brigade headquarters as most of the runners were killed or wounded by enemy snipers or shell fire. Very few made it to Keeling Copse where, after a German counter-attack they found themselves completely isolated and cut off from their own lines. When night fell 2 officers and 40 men from 7th East Surrey managed to fight their way back to their own lines, leaving behind 250 dead, wounded or missing. One of those killed was Arthur Hovenden.

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