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Arkforce was an improvised formation of the British Expeditionary Force during the Battle of France in 1940.

Background[edit | edit source]

At the start of the Battle of France, the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division found itself detached from the rest of the BEF because it had been manning part of the Maginot Line. Eventually, the 51st Highland Division were attached to IX Corps of the French Tenth Army; command of the corps was given to Major-General Victor Fortune of the Highland Division who in turn was under the orders of General Robert Altmayer of Tenth Army. After almost continuous heavy fighting, on 7 June, the Highlanders were tasked with holding a 13 mile (20 kilometre) defensive line along the River Bresle. When the renewed German offensive codenamed Fall Rot ("Case Red") reached the area the next day, the 5th Panzer Division outflanked the Bresle position at Rouen, leaving the Highlanders and the French 31st Division cut-off from their line of retreat across the River Seine.[1] Fortune decided to ignore continuing orders from Altmeyer and the War Office to retire towards the Seine (through an area now occupied by several German divisions), and to head for the port of Le Havre instead, taking the rest of IX Corps with him.[2]

Formation and role[edit | edit source]

The force's formation was centred on Arques-la-Bataille (its name being a modified version of this village). The force was to form a defensive line around 30 km to the east of Le Havre, on the Fécamp-Bolbec line to allow the French corps and the 51st Highland Division to retreat. It was also charged with providing the reconnaissance for a line of defence closer to Le Havre to aid the evacuation.[3][4][5]

Order of battle[edit | edit source]

154th Brigade, 51st Highland Division (acting Brigadier D J Grant MC)

"A" Brigade, Beauman Division but attached to 51st Highland on 9 June 1940 (Brigadier M A Green)

Divisional units

Deployment[edit | edit source]

Due to road congestion units were late arriving and the elements of the 7th Panzer Division were already driving between Ark force and the rest of the its Corps. Following orders which had anticipated this possibility most of Ark force was withdrawn leaving a small force on the original line.[3] The whole force was evacuated from Le Havre on the morning of 13 June; part of Operation Cycle.[4]

References[edit | edit source]

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