5 - 1 - 12
The war was not going well for the Allies in May of 1940. In nearly every battle the French, Belgian and British troops were forced back bloodied and battered by the German Blitzkrieg. Defeat and retreat seemed to be the only thing the weary Allied defenders knew. When the Germans attacked the British forces in and around the town of Arras the tide of battle took a dramatic turn for the Allies. The British planned the counter attack as large scale mopping up operation to support the garrison at Arras and disrupt German communications from the east.The attack was organized as an advance by two mobile columns. Each column included Matilda I and II tanks and supporting troops from the Durham Light Infantry. There was a lot of congestion and refugee traffic on the roads leading north from Arras and some of the reserve troops were late in arriving. There was was little time to study orders and none for reconnaissance. The BEF launched it's counterattack slightly after 2 pm and the ferocity of the attack forced the German 7th Panzer Division to a halt. The Germans watched in disbelief as their 37mm shells bounced off the thick armor of the Matildas. The Matilda tanks cut a swath deep into the enemy lines. The German troops were shaken and morale wavered. The British attack knocked out some 40 German tanks and took several hundred prisoners. Only the timely arrival of Rommel himself and a battery of 88mm guns stopped the British Matildas. The British troops had driven their armored sword deep into side of the German Blitzkrieg.