Remembrance - The Yorkshire Regiment, First World War
The Fighting Cousins,
- Frank & Samuel Maltby

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Chris Weekes, <>, a great nephew of Frank Maltby, has researched the careers of Frank, - and his cousin Samuel, in the Yorkshire Regiment in the First World War. Frank lost his life in the conflict, though Samuel survided (after being made a Prisoner of War. The description of the background and careers of the two Maltby cousins, below, is a result of this research. THis account has been broken down into sequential "chapters", which can be selected from the links below.

In the Battle of the Somme 4 Autumn & Winter, 1916/17

5  ARRAS, APRIL 1917

The Battle of the Somme had been an attempt to take the pressure off the French at Verdun and to tie down the Germans as well as to dislodge them from the heavily fortified areas like Thiepval. It had been a costly battle as anyone who has visited the area and seen the cemeteries and the Thiepval memorial will have seen. Frank and Samuel Maltby in A Company, no 2 Platoon had seen their fair share of the fighting and the horrors on the Somme but had come through 1916 unscathed physically.

Having passed in and out of the front line in the winter of 1916/17, on April 1st 1917 they began a route march that ended on 12th April with their arrival in the caves of Arras. (Map ref J 6). It was a diversionary offensive, agreed somewhat reluctantly by Haig, to take the attention of the Germans away from a French offensive by General Nivelle in the Champagne area. The Arras offensive opened on Easter Day, 9th April and lasted for thirty-nine days. It has been described by many military historians as the most savage infantry battle of the war with daily casualty rates higher than those on the Somme and Passchendaele. The ancient city of Arras was the staging post and had been handed over to the British in March 1916, so that from then it effectively became a British town with British administration, laws and road signs. By 1917 the town was full of the troops of the British Empire.

The Bishop of Arras summarised it well when he said:
“Arras will be able to brag that it has been defended by all the races of the universe.”

Arras in WW1 Arras in WW1

In preparation for the April offensive and to ensure an element of surprise the BEF had constructed a series of tunnels in the chalk under the city. LES CAVES became the home to the soldiers as well as the jumping off points for the initial attacks on April 9th. Today, one such tunnel the WELLINGTON Tunnel, so called because it was created by the New Zealand tunneling company, provides physical evidence of what it was like. It also shows the range of BEF units that served in Arras during the conflict.

Wellington Tunnel – entrance todayWellington Tunnel – entrance today

Map of the Arras CavesMap of the Arras Caves

At the commencement of the Battle of Arras the 5th Battalion Yorkshires were in Divisional Reserve in the RONVILLE caves awaiting their turn. The initial attack from 9th to 14th April was extremely successful, with low casualties, gaining four miles of ground including, most importantly, the high ground south of Arras. Haig was in favour of stopping the action and transferring resources and attention to the Flanders theatre. However, he had to continue the Arras campaign to divert attention from the French attack in Champagne. This was to prove costly to the BEF and to the Maltby boys.

The delay from 14th to 23rd April enabled the Germans to regroup and to fortify their defences. On St George’s Day, 23rd April, the 150th Infantry Brigade lead an attack near Wancourt (Map ref K6) with the 5th battalion in reserve. The attack did not go well and the enemy put in a strong counter attack so that the 5th Battalion was pushed forward to meet this. At 6pm on 23rd the attack was renewed with more success and the line held.

Original map of the Arras Battle Zone 1917
Original map of the Arras Battle Zone 1917

The Wancourt Tower ruins todayThe Wancourt Tower ruins today

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