I recently made a visit to the battlefield at Arras (April/May 1917) in the footsteps of my grand father, George Knee, from the 8th East Yorkshire Regiment, was killed at Monchy le Preux, a few days after the disaster that struck the Newfoundland Regiment at the same location during the same battle.
It would appear that all 3 Knees in the Regiment – Henry, Harold and Matthew Knee were involved in this action and were either wounded or taken prisoner or both.
MONCHY: ROYAL NEWFOUNDLAND REGIMENT
The first phase of the Battle of Arras had carried the advance some 5 or 6 miles, culminating in the East with the desperate battle to capture the key strategic position of Monchy Le Preux. By this time the advance had begun to suffer from the cost of 5 days intensive engagement. Just beyond Monchy lay the German stronghold around the Bois de Verts. A battalion comprising the 1st Essex Reg and the Newfoundland Regiment were sent to advance up the slope beyond Monchy, as it appeared the Germans had withdrawn. The battalion had pressed up, unsupported on either flank, the incline of Infantry Hill between the Bois de Vert and an adjoining wood, marching into a trap. The Germans had practiced the innovative ‘elastic defence’ to draw the battalion into the centre of the pincers. They then counter attacked, surrounding the battalion. The losses were huge – out of 591 men the Newfoundlanders lost 487 men killed, wounded or taken prisoner, The 1st Essex lost 671 out of 923.
The Germans continued their advance towards Monchy. The Commanding Officer of the Newfoundland Battalion, Lt Col Forbes-Robertson, realising that there were no other supporting troops, rallied the 10 men left in Monchy to oversee the original advance and succeeded in holding Monchy until relieved.
The Regiment received the rare accolade of the title Royal Newfoundland Regiment
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