Frankforce, and the Defence of Arras, 1940...


...a new 'Battleground' guide from Pen and Sword


Title: Frankforce and the Defence of Arras, 1940

Author: Jerry Murland

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47385-269-3

I continue to be a fan of these Battleground Guides from Pen and Sword, and I particularly like this one.  For the military historian Arras is perhaps best known for its' position during WW1 and I suspect most of the battlefield visitors to the area are there searching out WW1 events and maybe the burials of their relatives in one of the many cemeteries that can be found there.  Just 22 years later, in 1940, Arras and the countryside around it was once again caught up in a war with Germany and this new guide from Jerry Murland provides not just the history of what happened with units of the BEF around Arras in 1940 but gives details of 2 walks and 3 driving tours that you might like to take if you visit Arras and your interest covers the WW2 part of the Arras story.

Two temporary units were created in the face of the German Blitzkrieg.  Petreforce was an ad-hoc formation under the command of Major General Roderick Petre, whose task was the defence of Arras itself.  Added to this was Frankforce, another ad-hoc unit, under the command of Major General Harold Franklyn.  This combined elements from 5th and 50th Divisions plus 1 Tank Brigade who were tasked with holding the line of the Escaut.  They got the job of mounting a counter attack against the advancing German Panzer divisions.  Among these were the 7th Panzer Division, under the command of Erwin Rommel.  One of the points on the battlefield is known as 'Rommel's Hill' and one which is included in one of the car tours.

In addition to the background of the earlier history of Arras that is outlined at the start, the first half of the book gives a detailed account of the events of 1940 and when the British tanks clashed with the advancing Panzer Divisions, though unable to stop the success of Blitzkrieg.  It is well illustrated  with archive photos, modern day comparisons and maps to give even more detail.  In the second half you are given 2 Walking Tours.  The first walk is in Central Arras, a circular walk within the town covering 2 miles.  The second is another 2 mile circular walk tackling St.Nicolas and St.Catherine,  Then there are three Car Tours, starting with the 70th Brigade Disaster, covering 8 miles.  The second is another 8 mile route, dealing with Frankforce - The Left Flank Route and the third is a nine mile route dealing with Frankforce - The Right Flank Route.  They all include good clear directions and describe what to look out for as you make your way round.  Also included are the various cemeteries that you can visit where graves from the WW2 fighting can be found.

If you have an interest in the story of the BEF in France in 1940 this will help with lots of detail and if you want to visit the area, which is also some lovely countryside these days, then this will be an invaluable guide to have in your car with you.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.