"Ark" Force - The Defense of Le Harve
June 1940

On 9th June, General Fortune ordered Brigadier Stanley-Clarke, commanding 154 Brigade, to take a force for the defence of Le Havre. The force was formed in the village of Arques-la-Bataille and took the name "Ark" force after that village. Its task was to form a defensive position about 20 miles east of Le Havre, on the line Fécamp-Bolbec through which the French corps with the 51st Highland Division would withdraw. It would also reconnoitre an inner line of defence close in to Le Havre to cover an evacuation.

ARK force comprised the following:

4th Battalion, The Black Watch
7th Battalion, The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
8th Battalion, The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
6th Battalion, The Royal Scots Fusiliers (Pioneers)
4th Battalion, the Boarder Regiment - "A" Brigade
5th Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters - "A" Brigade
4th Battalion, The Buffs - "A" Brigade
1st Battalion, Princess Louise's Kensington Regiment (less two companies)
17th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
75th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
51st Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (204 battery)
236th Field Company, Royal Engineers
237th Field Company, Royal Engineers
239th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers
213th Army Field Company, Royal Engineers
154th Field Ambulance
Detachments from 525, 526 and 527 Companies RASC

The force set off almost immediately but because of the congestion on the roads the last units did not reach Fécamp until midday on the 10th. At about the same time news reached the Division that German tanks of the 7th Panzer Division were cutting the route between Ark force and the remainder of the Corps. At the same time elements of Ark Force were engaged by the same division.

Brigadier Stanley-Clarke had been given clear orders by General Fortune that, should the Germans cut the line between Ark force and the rest of the Corps he should act on his own initiative to save his troops. This was now clearly the case and he ordered his force to withdraw during the course of the afternoon to a line between Octeville and Contreville two miles east of Le Havre, leaving only a small force on the original line.

Brigadier Stanley-Clarke still hoped that the Division might fight its way through and on 11th June he ordered that the new line should be held to the last man. However when the Navy reported that the Division was completely cut off and plans were being made for its evacuation through St Valéry he began planning the evacuation of his own force. All useable vehicles, material and equipment that could not be taken were destroyed.

Over the two nights of 11/12 and 12/13 June some 4000 men of Ark Force were evacuated from Le Havre and taken to Cherbourg.

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Description:

The defense of Le Havre from Arques-la-Bataille. (The B.E.F. June 1940)

Tags:

154 Brigade . 1940 . 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders . Account / Extract . Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders . Ark Force . Le Havre . major general fortune . st. valery . tanks . The B.E.F.