Published By Ben Hillidge
Fresnoy. 11 Bn East Yorkshire Regiment. 8 November 1917.
During November 1917 the 11 Bn East Yorkshire Regiment was operating in the trenches around Fresnoy with billets in the Mont St Éloi, north of Arras. On 8 November 1917 they were ordered to carry out a raid on the enemy lines at Fresnoy. The raid was to be on Tobacco and Tulip trenches and portions of Tortoise and Fresnoy trenches up to the Fresnoy Road (Route d’Acheville) with the task to gather intelligence and to destroy dugouts and fortifications. The battalion made its way forward via Hudson Trench during the early morning of 8 November and formed up in Nova Scotia Trench in front of the objectives.
Preparations and planning of the raid had been rehearsed and adopted the new military tactics being introduced. The advance would be made under a creeping barrage and would go over in 3 waves with each leapfrogging as each objective was taken, a fourth wave would be held in reserve. The preliminary barrage was intense aimed at the enemy front line and, as soon as it lifted at Zero hour, at 12 noon, the men went over the top. They were not overburdened with packs or equipment carrying only rifles, small arms and grenades and were able to move quickly. Machine guns and mortars laid down a suppressing fire on the left and right flanks forming a corridor down which the assault progressed. Dummy gas and smoke shells were also fired off. The first wave entered Tortoise Trench and then moved at speed through the trench system, enemy dug outs were bombed, in one dug out the enemy, deceived by the dummy gas shells and wearing their gas masks, refused to come out for fear of gas, regardless 20lb demolition charges were tossed inside, it was reckoned there were over 150 inside, all were reported as killed. The creeping barrage, advancing at a rate of 100 yards every 2 minutes, then lifted to the second line, Fresnoy trench. This too was rushed and captured. Many Germans fled and became easy targets and were either were shot or killed by the barrage. They then moved on to the Fresnoy Road but it had been so obliterated it was unrecognisable. At zero hour + 20 minutes the withdrawal was called. The men returned to their front line and the raid was over. All told they destroyed 16 dugouts, as well as 3 MGs & 3 TMs. German casualties were nearly 200 KIA and 21 prisoners. Battalion casualties were 5 officers and 52 ORs.
GOOGLE MAPS Satellite view centres on Fresnoy Road with Fresnoy Trench running parallel just to the west.
References and Sources WAR DIARY 11 Bn East Yorks.
B&O 1917. Arras. Fresnoy. 11 Bn East Yorkshire Regiment. 8 November 1917.