The horror of Monchy

For the 3rd Cavalry Division, 1916 and early 1917 had been quiet. That was to change when its 8th Cavalry Brigade rode into Monchy-le-Preux Stephen Keoghane charts the bitter holding action of the 1/1st Essex Yeomanry

Spring 1917, and German losses on the Western Front necessitated their withdrawal to a shorter defensive line that required less manpower to garrison. The Allied assault on these new positions, the Hindenburg Line, was scheduled for Easter 1917 and was termed the Nivelle Offensive after the new French commander-inchief, General Robert Nivelle. Some 200ft above the Scarpe river, the farming village ofMonchy-le-Preux was identified as a key feature of the Arras battlefield. Whoever held the pretty, red-roofed village surrounded by fruit orchards, would have commanding views of the rolling countryside. On March 30, 1917, Major-General John Vaughan issued a directive reminding the 3rd Cavalry Division that the cavalry was the arm “to complete a victory, and so reward the other arms for their sacrifice and labour”.

Quite what the infantry thought of this view of the mounted arm is difficult to say, but the rallying call went further: “Killing Germans is not advocated; it is easier and quicker to accept their surrender. Men should however be reminded that Germans sink hospital ships, poison wells, rape women, shoot and torture civilians and commit every possible atrocity.

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