At the start of the Battle of France, the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division was detached from the rest of the BEF because it had been manning part of the Maginot Line. Eventually, the 51st Highland Division were attached to IX Corps of the French Tenth Army; command of the corps was given to Major-General Victor Fortune of the Highland Division, who in turn was under the orders of General Robert Altmayer of Tenth Army. After almost continuous heavy fighting, on 7 June, the Highlanders were tasked with holding a 13 mile (20 kilometre) defensive line along the River Bresle. When the renewed German offensive codenamed Fall Rot ("Case Red") reached the area the next day, the 5th Panzer Division outflanked the Bresle position at Rouen, leaving the Highlanders and the French 31st Division cut off from their line of retreat across the River Seine. Fortune decided to ignore continuing orders from Altmeyer and the War Office to retire towards the Seine (through an area now occupied by several German divisions), and to head for the port of Le Havre instead, taking the rest of IX Corps with him.
Formation and role
The force's formation was centred on Arques-la-Bataille (its name being a modified version of this village). The force was to form a defensive line about 30 km to the east of Le Havre, on the Fécamp-Bolbec line, to allow the French corps and the 51st Highland Division to retreat. It was also charged with providing the reconnaissance for a line of defence closer to Le Havre to aid the evacuation.
Order of battle
- 4th Battalion, The Black Watch
- 7th Battalion, The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
- 8th Battalion, The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
"A" Brigade, Beauman Division but attached to 51st Highland on 9 June 1940 (Brigadier M A Green)
- 4th Battalion, The Border Regiment
- 1/5th Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters
- 4th Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
- 1st Battalion, Princess Louise's Kensington Regiment (less two companies)
- 6th Battalion, The Royal Scots Fusiliers (Pioneers)
- 17th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 75th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 51st (West Highland) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (204 Battery)
- 51st (Midland) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery (without guns)
- 236th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 237th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 239th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers
- 213th Army Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 154th Field Ambulance
- Detachments from 525, 526 and 527 Companies Royal Army Service Corps
Due to road congestion, units were late arriving and elements of the 7th Panzer Division were already driving between Arkforce and the rest of the Corps. Following orders that had anticipated this possibility, most of Arkforce was withdrawn, leaving a small force on the original line. The whole force was evacuated from Le Havre on the morning of 13 June; part of Operation Cycle.
- Ellis, pp. 271-292.
- David, pp. 151-168.
- 51st Highland Division site
- Lothians & Border Horse site
- Joslen, p. 341.
- Wienand Drenth & T F Mills (29 May 2006). "5th (Derbyshire) Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 16 November 2007.
- Saul David, Churchill's Sacrifice of the Highland Division: France 1940, Brassey's (UK) Ltd 2004, ISBN 9781857533781.
- Major L.F. Ellis, History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series: The War in France and Flanders 1939–1940, London: HM Stationery Office, 1954.
- Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2003, ISBN 1-843424-74-6.