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Arras Memorial, France Arras Memorial, France
First Name: William Leonard Last Name: LUCKMAN
Date of Death: 03/05/1917 Lived/Born In: Silvertown
Rank: Private Unit: Middlesex7
Memorial Site: 1. Silvertown, Brick Lane Music Hall Memorial 2. Arras Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-25

5, Gem 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.

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 causing 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, 56th (London) Division attacked from a position east of the village of Guemappe along the Arras-Cambrai road and the Cojeul river. 169 Brigade used 5th London and 2nd London, both of whom attacked with determination and captured Lanyard Trench which was their first objective. From there they continued their advance and reached the nearest of the buildings of the St Rohart factory. 2nd London captured most of Cavalry Farm but stubborn German resistance in one corner here was not overcome until the bombers of 9th London, the support battalion, arrived on the scene. On 167 Brigade’s front, the attack was led by 1st London and 7th Middlesex and was a disaster. The two battalions never stood a chance. The German artillery barrage fell on them at zero, killing and wounding many of them while they were still in their trenches and their objective, the enemy front trench, Tool Trench, lay beyond a crest and had not been hit hard by the British artillery barrage. As the soldiers topped the rise they were met by fire from the Germans standing shoulder to shoulder and were swept away.  Survivors said the whole enemy line seemed to burst into a sheet of flame.  But at least here the darkness helped a bit. In daylight there would have been no survivors. The men of 167 Brigade were pinned down in shell holes and although there were reports of some men breaking into the German lines and beyond, none lived to tell the tale. The offensive ground to a halt all along 56th Division’s front and that night all surviving troops were withdrawn, leaving their many dead behind. One of these was William Luckman of 7th Middlesex.

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