Monchy-le-Preux (Newfoundland) Memorial
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|Canada (formerly Dominion of Newfoundland)|
The Newfoundland Monchy-le-Preux War Memorial
|For the actions of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War Battle of Arras.|
|Location||near Monchy-le-Preux, France|
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The memorial commemorates an encounter that took place during the Arras offensive in which the British First and Third Armies attacked eastward from Arras on a 22-kilometre front. The 88th Brigade, the brigade in which the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was serving, was to execute a two-battalion attack against an objective known as Infantry Hill. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel James Forbes-Robertson, was on the right and the 1st Essex Battalion on the left.
At 5:30 a.m. on 14 April, the barrage opened and the two battalions began their advance.As the Royal Newfoundland Regiment advanced towards the high ground of Infantry Hill they were subjected to a strong German counterattack which surrounded both the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the 1st Essex Battalion. By 9:00am the surviving groups of men were forced to surrender. Although all communication by telephone had been cut by artillery fire, a wounded man from the 1st Essex Battalion managed to make it to battalion headquarters to report that all men in the 1st Essex Battalion and Royal Newfoundland Regiment had either been killed or captured. The Germans pressed their counterattack, and soon advanced to the edge of Monchy-le-Preux capturing the trenches from which the 1st Essex Battalion and Royal Newfoundland Regiment had launched their attack.
Lieutenant-Colonel James Forbes-Robertson quickly collected all available men of his headquarters staff, as well as weapons and ammunition from dead and wounded soldiers, and led twenty men through the shattered streets of Monchy-le-Preux under heavy artillery fire to a small berm on the outskirts of village. Establishing themselves in this shallow ditch the nine remaining men opened fire on the approaching Germans and kept the Germans ignorant of their pitifully weak numbers. A tenth man who was knocked unconscious joined the other 9 an hour and a half later. These ten men held their position for 11 hours until they were finally relieved after dark. After 4 hours they were able to send one of the men several kilometres to the rear to apprise the British of the situation which allowed them to get artillery support. A Platoon of Hampshires were sent up and provided infantry support amongst the ruins of Monchy. The British bombardment not only helped keep the Germans at bay but also led to a lot of the Newfoundland Regiment soldiers still lying wounded out in the field to be killed.
Total casualties for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment numbered 460. 166 were killed or died of wounds, 141 were wounded and 153 became prisoners. The 1st Essex Battalion fared no better and suffered 602 casualties of which 400 were taken prisoner. The heroic action of these ten men, who never thought they would survive 15 minutes, let alone 11 hours stopped the British planners from major embarrassment. The planning of this action was so inept that had they been successful they would have occupied an extreme salient covering a lot of ground. Far too much territory for the amount of men sent out. As well the planners forgot to occupy the village in case of a counter attack. The village had been a hard won victory of the 37th Division only 3 days before. If those 10 men failed the Germans would have literally walked into Monchy and taken over. And considering Monchy's importance to the overall success of the Battle of Arras, this makes the mistake all the more incredible.
The memorial is one of five memorials erected by the Newfoundland government following the First World War. Five were erected in France and Belgium and a sixth Caribou was a gift from Major Howe-Green to Bowring Park in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. The memorials are all bronze caribou, the emblem of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, with most standing atop a cairn of Newfoundland granite and surrounded by native Newfoundland plants. The Monchy-le-Preux Memorial faces a point known at the time as Infantry Hill and is slightly different from the other Newfoundland memorials in that it stands atop the ruins of what was a German bunker.
- Busch, Briton Cooper (2003). Canada and the Great War: Western Front Association Papers. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 0-7735-2570-X.
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