Page 54 - A-History-of-The-Black-Watch-Royal-Highlanders-in-the-Great-War-1914-1918-Volume-III

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CHAPTER VI
FEBRUARY TO JUNE,
1917
The Battles of Arras
T
OWARDS the end of February orders were received
that the Division would soon return to the line, and
on March 2nd the 8th left Monchy Breton for"
Y "
Huts, an encampment about four miles behind Arras.
Here Lieutenant-Colonel Sir G. Abercromby rejoined and took
over command from Major Anstruther Captain and Quarter–
master P. Goudy also arrived and took over his old duties from
Second Lieutenant Soutar.
On March 3rd the Battalion moved into billets in Arras,
companies being quartered in the Convent and Battalion Head–
quarters in the Hotel de Universe. From the 4th to the 7th,
the 8th was employed in finding working parties for R.A. and
R.E.
in St. Catherine on the outskirts of Arras. This area was
crowded with batteries of every description, which were con–
stantly bombarded by the enemy, as indeed was the whole city.
By this time the Germans had become aware that something
was brewing, and the consequent increased activity of their
guns caused many casualties. Fortunately the Battalion was
lucky in escaping lightly, only one officer, Second Lieutenant
Young, being wounded.
On March 8th the Battalion moved into the support trenches
of
J
Sector in relief of 5th Camerons, and on the 9th took
over the front line from the 7th Seaforths, Second Lieutenant
Chambers being wounded by an aeroplane bomb during the relief.
The Battalion was now holding the line which would eventu–
ally be the starting-point of 26th Brigade in the Arras battle.
The line was over a thousand yards long, with its right resting on
the River Scarpe. As a trench line, it left much to be desired,
especially on the right, where hostile heavy trench mortars had
completely flattened the parapets of the front line trenches.
The Battalion remained in the line until the 14th, and had a
quiet tour, the only incident being an attempted enemy raid
on the loth, which did not materialise owing to timely notice of
its coming having been given by the Battalion patrols. On the
14th the 8th was relieved by the 9th Scottish Rifles and moved
back to
"Y"
Huts, and on the 21st it returned to
J
Sector
in relief of the 12th Royal Scots.
South of Arras the enemy had suddenly retreated, and
touch had been temporarily lost. The Army Commander
feared that the same might happen north of Arras and thus
bring to nothing all preparations for attack. Orders, there–
fore, were issued that all work was to be hurried forward,
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