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Arras Memorial, France Arras Memorial, France
First Name: John Lucien Last Name: McVEIGH
Date of Death: 23/04/1917 Lived/Born In: Silvertown
Rank: Rifleman Unit: King's Royal Rifle Corps16
Memorial Site: 1. Silvertown, Brick Lane Music Hall Memorial 2. Arras Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-20

14, Muir Street, Silvertown

 

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 Second Battle of the Scarpe (23-24 April, 1917)

The British offensive at Arras was resumed on 23rd April, 1917, when they attacked eastwards along an nine mile front from Croisilles to Gavrelle on both sides of the  River Scarpe in what some came to consider was the hardest fighting of the war so far. On the right of the British line, 33rd Division attacked the Hindenburg Line astride the Sensée, more of a stream than a river. The main attack was made by 98 Brigade north of the stream but a detachment made up of 1st Royal West Surrey (Queens), two companies of 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, both of 100 Brigade, and 222nd Field Company, Royal Engineers attacked to the south of it with the intention of forming a defensive flank there and preventing the main force from being hit by enfilading machine-gun fire. At 4.45am on 23rd April, 1st Queens attacked in four waves on a 300 yard front either side of the Croisilles –Fontaine road with the two companies of 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps making up the 5th and 6th waves and bringing up extra ammunition and bombs (grenades). Despite the wire not being very well cut and the two tanks allotted to the attack breaking down, the enemy front line trench was soon captured and blocks were made to prevent German infiltration. However their efforts to take the enemy support line were not so successful. The wire in front of that was still very strong and by now they were running out of bombs and other ammunition despite the valiant efforts of 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps to supply them. Only in a few isolated places did they gain access and then only briefly. At midday the enemy counter-attacked at five separate points and although 1st Queens and 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps fought them off for two hours by 2pm the Germans, supported by trench mortars that they had brought up, had rushed the trench blocks. The men of the two battalions were evicted with many of them becoming casualties or prisoners. Those who could made it back to their starting line. One of the many who were killed during this operation was John McVeigh of 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

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