In out latest podcast, we visit one of the lesser-known battlefields of the Great War, the small villages of Fampoux and Roeux which are located to the east of the city of Arras. On the 9th of April 1917, Fampoux and the formidable Hyderabad Redoubt stood in the way of the 4th Division, but they were both taken with relative ease. The 1st Rifle Brigade captured the redoubt in a masterpiece of infantry assault, and in the process captured a German general who happened to be visiting the redoubt at the time of the attack. His driver, on seeing the advancing British, fled and left his General to his fate – one can only imagine what might have happened to the driver had the General got his hands on him!
Our journey begins at Fampoux British Cemetery, located on a farm track to the west of Fampoux village. The track was known as York Lane to the British during the fighting. Men from the 4th Division began the cemetery during the fighting in 1917, and this small cemetery now contains just 118 graves, of which 8 are unidentified. During the fighting the cemetery was known as Helena Trench Cemetery, to the small trench which ran parallel to the current track.
To the north of Fampoux lies a sunken lane known to the British during the War as Northumberland Lane, and it was from here that men of the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders set off on their ill fated attack on the Rouex chemical works on the afternoon of the 11th April.
Located along the lane stands on a small embankment a magnificent stone memorial cross to the men of the Seaforth Highlanders who fell in their hundreds across the fields in this area. About 300 metres behind the cross on the fields was the site of the Hyderabad Redoubt, and the location of the cross provides excellent views across the battlefield to Rouex and in the distance Greenland Hill.
Further along the lane past the memorial lies the beautiful Sunken Road Cemetery. Begun during the fighting in 1917 by men of the 4th and 34th Divisions the cemetery contains 196 graves from WW1 of which 26 are unidentified. There are special memorials to sixteen men buried at the time in the cemetery whose graves were destroyed by shell fire in later battles. Like the memorial, the cemetery offers commanding views over the battlefields.
As we continue our visit to the battlefield we come to Level Crossing Cemetery located to the south of the River Scarpe, and adjacent to the TGV train line, it’s another charming cemetery, looked after with the level of care and attention that one sees in all CWGC cemeteries. The cemetery was begun in May 1917 with the dead from the battlefield being collected and buried in this cemetery created by the Divisional Burial Officer of the 4th Division. The cemetery contains 405 burials from WW1, the vast majority of whom died during the fighting around Fampoux and Rouex.
In the cemetery lies the grave of Lt Angus Dodgshon the youngest member of the Magic Circle whose father made such efforts to save him from being sent to the front line.
Our final stop on the trip around the battlefield is at the grave of Lt Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly DSO buried in Browns Copse Cemetery. One of the great eccentrics of the RFC, he was mad,bad and a liability to know but was immensely popular due to his effervescent personality and wicked sense of humour. A lover of women, wine, fine cigars, and gambling, Harvey-Kelly was an exceptional pilot who joined the RFC from the Royal Irish in 1913. During the battle of Le Cateau he forced a German plane to land, but, not happy with this as a result, he landed his plane and chased the German aviator across a cabbage field firing shots from his revolver at him.
He would always fly with a potato and a cotton reel in his pocket, in the belief that if he were captured the gift of such useful items would surely lead to fair treatment by the Germans.
He lost his life on the 29th April 1917 at the end of “Bloody April” and is buried in the peaceful surroundings of Brown’s Copse Cemetery.
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