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Men of the 7th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, on 7 June 1940

Arkforce was an improvised formation of the British Expeditionary Force during the Battle of France in 1940.


At the start of the Battle of France, the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division had been reinforced and detached from the rest of the BEF to man part of the Maginot Line. Eventually, the 51st Highland Division was 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 the Tenth Army. After almost continuous heavy fighting, on 7 June, the Highlanders were ordered to hold a 13 miles (21 km) 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.[1] Fortune decided to ignore 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.[2]

Formation and role[edit]

The units grouped into Arkforce were in the vicinity of Arques-la-Bataille and its name was a version of the eponymous village. Arkforce was to form a defensive line about 19 miles (30 km) to the east of Le Havre, on the FécampBolbec line, to allow the 51st Highland Division and the rest of IX Corps to retreat. It was also charged with providing the reconnaissance for a line of defence closer to Le Havre to aid the evacuation.[3][4]

Order of battle[edit]

Arkforce was composed of the following units:[5]


Due to congested roads, units were late arriving and elements of the 7th Panzer Division were already driving between Arkforce and the rest of IX Corps. Following orders that had anticipated this possibility, most of Arkforce was withdrawn, leaving a rearguard on the original line.[3] Arkforce was evacuated from Le Havre on the morning of 13 June during Operation Cycle.[3]


  1. ^ Ellis 2004, pp. 271–292.
  2. ^ David 2004, pp. 151–168.
  3. ^ a b c Ellis 2004.
  4. ^ a b Lothians & Border Horse site
  5. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 341.
  6. ^ Drenth & Mills 2006.