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Arras Memorial, France Arras Memorial, France
First Name: Samuel Last Name: CONNELLY
Date of Death: 14/04/1917 Lived/Born In: Haggerston
Rank: Private Unit: Essex1
Memorial Site: Arras Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-40

3, Hilcot Street, Haggerston

 

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.

The First Battle of the Scarpe (9-14 April)

Substantial progress was made all along the front during the first two days of the battle but by 11th April this advance had stalled and all future gains were small and costly. There were three main reasons for this: the logistical nightmare of bringing up all the supplies needed over battle-torn ground, the extra new troops that the Germans committed to the battle and the formidable defence system that was the Hindenburg Line, which although breached in places was a defence in depth. On 13th April, 29th Division moved up from reserve and took over the front line around the captured village of Monchy-le-Preux, to the south-east of Arras. Monchy-le-Preux stood on the east end of a spur projecting into the plain of Douai, a fine observational position but a salient inviting attack so it was deemed necessary to act first. At 5.30am on 14th April, 1917, 88 Brigade attacked Hill 100, later to be known as Infantry Hill, which stands about 1000 yards east of Monchy. At first things went well as the two attacking battalions, 1st Essex and 1st Newfoundland advanced behind a strong artillery barrage with the enemy withdrawing to the cover of nearby woods. However, it was from these woods that they launched their inevitable counter-attacks which overwhelmed both 1st Essex and 1st Newfoundland. Small groups, here and there held out for a brief space of time but were surrounded and either killed or forced to surrender and those attempting to fall back were mown down. Monchy-le-Preux was now in extreme danger of falling to the enemy but was saved by the prompt action of a few from both 1st Essex and 1st Newfoundland who had been held back in reserve and the arrival of some of the reserve battalion of 88 Brigade, 2nd Hampshire who made their forward through heavy shelling. The operation had succeeded in doing nothing other than to bring about the deaths of many men and the almost complete annihilation of 1st Essex who suffered over 600 casualties. One of these was Samuel Connelly.

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