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. 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.
Formation and role
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 Fécamp–Bolbec 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.
Order of battle
Arkforce was composed of the following units:
- 154th Brigade, 51st Highland Division (acting Brigadier D. J. Grant MC)
- "A" Brigade, Beauman Division (Brigadier M. A. Green), attached to 51st Highland Division, 9 June 1940
- Divisional units
- 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, Royal Army Medical Corps
- Detachments from 525, 526 and 527 companies Royal Army Service Corps
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. Arkforce was evacuated from Le Havre on the morning of 13 June during Operation Cycle.
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- Drenth, Wienand; Mills, T. F. (29 May 2006). "5th (Derbyshire) Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 16 November 2007.
- Ellis, Major L. F. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1953]. Butler, J. R. M., ed. The War in France and Flanders 1939–1940. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 978-1-84574-056-6. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- Joslen, Lt-Col H. F. (2003) . Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945 (Naval & Military Press, Uckfield ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 1-843424-74-6.