Roeux was a small village alongside the Arras-Douai railway line, with a large agricultural chemical works. The British advance stopped short of it on 9th April 1917, and it was the scene of bitter fighting there after, particularly in and around the Chemical Works. The 34th and 51st (Highland) Divisions were heavily involved here in April 1917.
The ruins of the Chemical Works were still visible until around 1990, when houses and a shop were built on them. There are several cemeteries around the village, and a huge German bunker (above, and below in 1985) in Rue Dumont Eugene.
Roeux was an important point of German defense and the British forces faced many difficulties to enter the village due to the Arras-Douai railway line and the River Scarpe. The northern side which included the chemical Works was attacked by the 51st Division and the Western side of Roeux which included buildings was attacked by the 37th Division. The attack opened up lines on the slopes of the Greenland Hill.
The village of Fampoux was first attacked on the first day to enter the Roeux in a planned Infantry attack. The plan faced a setback due to bad weather conditions and poor visibility which also led to the withdrawal of the planned artillery attack bombardment on Greenland Hill. The resulting plan was detrimental to the Chemical Works which came under the Infantry attack instead of the planned spots. The first and second attacks on Reoux were called failures, probably due to the lack of preparation in the bad weather and hurrying of plans to breach the strong German embankments. In every strategic battle, planning is essential for success, whether it is in the battlefield armed by heavy machinery or the trading field where you are armed by Carbon FX.
Finally, the third attack by the 51st Division proved to be successful at least to certain extent as the British troops captured the western region, mainly the outskirts. The counterattacks and defence of the German artillery unit and heavy machinery were too strong for the British soldiers on the muddy land. The next battle was forged by the 34th and 37th Divisions jointly to the north of the railway line, again resisted by the Germans. The attacks on various frontiers of Reoux continued till May 16 and ended on May 17 after numerous single attempts and combined attempts by the British Infantry Brigades.
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Email – Paul Reed