Battle of Arras (1917)

Battle of Arras (1917)

Overview
The Battle of Arras was a British
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 offensive during the First World War. From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

, Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, Newfoundland
Dominion of Newfoundland
The Dominion of Newfoundland was a British Dominion from 1907 to 1949 . The Dominion of Newfoundland was situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast and comprised the island of Newfoundland and Labrador on the continental mainland...

, and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n troops attacked German
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 trenches
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 near the French city of Arras on the Western Front.

For much of the war, the opposing armies on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 were at a stalemate, with a continuous line of trenches stretching from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. In essence, the Allied objective from early 1915 was to break through the German defences into the open ground beyond and engage the numerically inferior German army in a war of movement
Maneuver warfare
Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare , is the term used by military theorists for a concept of warfare that advocates attempting to defeat an adversary by incapacitating their decision-making through shock and disruption brought about by movement...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Battle of Arras was a British
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 offensive during the First World War. From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

, Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, Newfoundland
Dominion of Newfoundland
The Dominion of Newfoundland was a British Dominion from 1907 to 1949 . The Dominion of Newfoundland was situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast and comprised the island of Newfoundland and Labrador on the continental mainland...

, and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n troops attacked German
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 trenches
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 near the French city of Arras on the Western Front.

For much of the war, the opposing armies on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 were at a stalemate, with a continuous line of trenches stretching from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. In essence, the Allied objective from early 1915 was to break through the German defences into the open ground beyond and engage the numerically inferior German army in a war of movement
Maneuver warfare
Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare , is the term used by military theorists for a concept of warfare that advocates attempting to defeat an adversary by incapacitating their decision-making through shock and disruption brought about by movement...

. The Arras offensive was conceived as part of a plan to bring about this result. It was planned in conjunction with the French High Command, who were simultaneously embarking on a massive attack (the Nivelle Offensive
Nivelle offensive
The Nivelle Offensive was a 1917 French attack on the Western Front in the First World War. Promised as the assault that would end the war within 48 hours, with casualties expected of around 10,000 men, it failed on both counts. It was a three-stage plan:...

) about eighty kilometres to the south. The stated aim of this combined operation was to end the war in forty-eight hours. At Arras, the immediate Allied objectives were more modest: to draw German troops away from the ground chosen for the French attack and to take the German-held high ground that dominated the plain of Douai.

Initial efforts centred on a relatively broad-based assault between Vimy
Vimy
Vimy is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography and history:Vimy is a farming town, situated some north of Arras, at the junction of the D51 and the N17 roads....

 in the northwest and Bullecourt
Bullecourt
Bullecourt is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in France.-Geography:Bullecourt lies on the Upper Cretaceous plain of Artois between Arras and Bapaume and east of the A1 motorway. This shows Bullecourt just north of centre. Quéant is the larger of the two...

 in the southeast. After considerable bombardment, Canadian troops advancing in the north were able to capture the strategically significant Vimy Ridge, and British divisions in the centre were also able to make significant gains. In the south, British and Australian forces were frustrated by the elastic defence
Defence in depth
Defence in depth is a military strategy; it seeks to delay rather than prevent the advance of an attacker, buying time and causing additional casualties by yielding space...

 and made only minimal gains. Following these initial successes, British forces engaged in a series of small-scale operations to consolidate the newly won positions. Although these battles were generally successful in achieving limited aims, these were gained at the price of relatively large numbers of casualties.

When the battle officially ended on 16 May, British Empire troops had made significant advances, but had been unable to achieve a major breakthrough at any point. Experimental tactics—for instance, the creeping barrage, the graze fuse, and counter-battery fire
Counter-battery fire
Counter-battery fire is a type of mission assigned to military artillery forces, which are given the task of locating and firing upon enemy artillery.-Background:...

—had been battle-tested, particularly in the first phase, and had demonstrated that set-piece assaults against heavily fortified positions could be successful. This sector then reverted to the stalemate
Stalemate
Stalemate is a situation in chess where the player whose turn it is to move is not in check but has no legal moves. A stalemate ends the game in a draw. Stalemate is covered in the rules of chess....

 that typified most of the war on the Western Front.

Prelude


At the beginning of 1917, the British and French were still searching for a way to achieve a strategic breakthrough on the Western Front. The previous year had been marked by the costly failure of the British offensive along the Somme river, while the French had been unable to take the initiative because of intense German pressure at Verdun
Verdun
Verdun is a city in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.Verdun is the biggest city in Meuse, although the capital of the department is the slightly smaller city of Bar-le-Duc.- History :...

. Both confrontations consumed enormous quantities of resources while achieving virtually no strategic gains. This impasse reinforced the French and British commanders' belief that to end the stalemate they needed a breakthrough. However, while this desire may have been the main impetus behind the offensive, the timing and location were heavily influenced by a number of political and tactical factors.

Political background


The mid-war years were momentous times. Governing politicians in Paris and London were under great pressure from the press, the people, and their parliaments to bring the war to a victorious close. The casualties from the battles of Gallipoli
Battle of Gallipoli
The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign or the Battle of Gallipoli, took place at the peninsula of Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916, during the First World War...

, the Somme, and Verdun
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

 had been high and there was little prospect of victory in sight. The British prime minister, H. H. Asquith
H. H. Asquith
Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, PC, KC served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916...

, resigned in early December 1916 and was succeeded by the "Welsh wizard", David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

. In France, premier Aristide Briand
Aristide Briand
Aristide Briand was a French statesman who served eleven terms as Prime Minister of France during the French Third Republic and received the 1926 Nobel Peace Prize.- Early life :...

, with the redoubtable General (later Marshal) Hubert Lyautey
Hubert Lyautey
Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey was a French Army general, the first Resident-General in Morocco from 1912 to 1925 and from 1921 Marshal of France.-Early life:...

 as Minister of Defence, were politically diminished and would soon, in March 1917, resign.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the United States was close to declaring war on Germany. American public opinion was growing increasingly incensed by a long succession of high-profile U-boat attacks upon civilian shipping, starting with the sinking of RMS Lusitania
RMS Lusitania
RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner designed by Leonard Peskett and built by John Brown and Company of Clydebank, Scotland. The ship entered passenger service with the Cunard Line on 26 August 1907 and continued on the line's heavily-traveled passenger service between Liverpool, England and New...

 in 1915 and culminating in the torpedoing of seven American merchantmen in early 1917. The United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 finally declared war on Imperial Germany
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 on 6 April 1917, but it would be more than a year before a suitable army could be raised, trained, and transported to France.

Strategic background



Although the French and British had intended to launch a 1917 spring assault, two developments put the plan in jeopardy. First, in February, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 couldn't meet a commitment to a joint offensive, meaning that the planned two-front offensive would be reduced to a French-only assault along the Aisne River. Second, the German Army began to retreat and consolidate its positions along the Hindenburg line
Hindenburg Line
The Hindenburg Line was a vast system of defences in northeastern France during World War I. It was constructed by the Germans during the winter of 1916–17. The line stretched from Lens to beyond Verdun...

, disrupting the tactical assumptions underlying the plans for the French offensive. In fact, until French troops advanced to compensate during the Battles of Arras, they encountered no German troops in the planned assault sector. Given these factors, it was initially uncertain whether the offensive would go forward. The French government desperately needed a victory to avoid civil unrest but the British were wary of proceeding in view of the rapidly changing tactical situation. In a meeting with David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

, French commander-in-chief General Nivelle
Robert Nivelle
Robert Georges Nivelle was a French artillery officer who served in the Boxer Rebellion, and the First World War. In May 1916, he was given command of the French Third Army in the Battle of Verdun, leading counter-offensives that rolled back the German forces in late 1916...

 was able to convince the British Prime Minister that if the British launched a diversionary assault to draw German troops away from the Aisne sector, the French offensive could succeed. It was agreed that the French assault on the Aisne would begin in mid-April and that the British would make a diversionary attack in the Arras sector approximately one week prior.

Opposing forces


Three Allied armies were already concentrated in the Arras sector. They were deployed, roughly north to south, as follows: the First Army under Horne
Henry Horne, 1st Baron Horne
General Henry Sinclair Horne, 1st Baron Horne GCB, KCMG was a military officer in the British Army, most notable for his generalship during World War I. He was the only British artillery officer to command an army in the war. Until recently Horne was the unknown General of the Great War and did...

, the Third Army under Allenby
Edmund Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby
Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby GCB, GCMG, GCVO was a British soldier and administrator most famous for his role during the First World War, in which he led the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in the conquest of Palestine and Syria in 1917 and 1918.Allenby, nicknamed...

, the Fifth Army under Gough
Hubert Gough
General Sir Hubert de la Poer Gough GCB, GCMG, KCVO was a senior officer in the British Army, who commanded the British Fifth Army from 1916 to 1918 during the First World War.-Family background:...

. The overall British commander was Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig
Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig
Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC, was a British senior officer during World War I. He commanded the British Expeditionary Force from 1915 to the end of the War...

 and the battle plan was devised by General Allenby. Unusually in that war, three Scottish divisions (all of Third Army) were near each other for the start of the attack:- the 15th Scottish Division of VI Corps and 9th Scottish Division and 51st Highland Division of XVII Corps
XVII Corps (United Kingdom)
The British XVII Corps was a British infantry corps during World War I.- History :British XVII Corps was formed in France in January 1916 under Lieutenant General Julian Byng. In April 1917 the Corps attacked to the east of Arras near the River Scarpe but became bogged down in rain and snow...

. The strongly Scottish-influenced 34th Division was also positioned in the midst of their Scottish XVII Corps neighbours.

Facing the Allied forces were two German armies: the Sixth Army under 73-year-old General von Falkenhausen
Ludwig von Falkenhausen
Ludwig Freiherr von Falkenhausen was a German general most notable for his activities during World War I.- Biography :Falkenhausen was born in Guben. His parents were the Prussian Lieutenant-General D...

 and the Second Army under General von der Marwitz
Georg von der Marwitz
Johannes Georg von der Marwitz was a Prussian cavalry general, who commanded several German armies during the First World War on both the Eastern and Western fronts.-Early military career:...

 (who was recovering from an illness he had contracted on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern Front was a theatre of war during World War I in Central and, primarily, Eastern Europe. The term is in contrast to the Western Front. Despite the geographical separation, the events in the two theatres strongly influenced each other...

). The armies had been organised into three groups – Gruppe Souchez, Gruppe Vimy, and Gruppe Arras – deployed in that order north to south. Seven German Divisions were in the line; their remaining divisions were in reserve to reinforce or to counterattack as required.

General von Falkenhausen reported directly to General Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

, operational chief of the German High Command (the Oberste Heeresleitung
Oberste Heeresleitung
The Oberste Heeresleitung or OHL was Germany's highest echelon of command of the German Army in World War I, while the Navy was led by the Seekriegsleitung or SKL ....

, or OHL
Oberste Heeresleitung
The Oberste Heeresleitung or OHL was Germany's highest echelon of command of the German Army in World War I, while the Navy was led by the Seekriegsleitung or SKL ....

). Ludendorff's staff contained several extremely capable officers, notably Major Georg Wetzell, Colonel Max Bauer and Captain Hermann Geyer. Since December 1916, Ludendorff's staff had been developing counter-tactics to oppose the new Allied tactics that had been used at the Somme and Verdun
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

. Although these battles proved extremely costly for the Allied Powers, they also seriously weakened the German army. In early 1917 the German army was instructed to implement these counter-tactics (the Elastic Defence
Defence in depth
Defence in depth is a military strategy; it seeks to delay rather than prevent the advance of an attacker, buying time and causing additional casualties by yielding space...

); Falkenhausen's failure to do so would prove disastrous.

Preliminary phase


The British plan was well developed, drawing on the lessons of the Somme and Verdun
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

 of the previous year. Rather than attacking on an extended front, the full weight of artillery would be concentrated on a relatively narrow stretch of twenty-four miles. The barrage was planned to last about a week at all points on the line, with a much longer and heavier barrage at Vimy to weaken its strong defences. During the assault, the troops would advance in open formation, with units leapfrogging each other in order to allow them time to consolidate and regroup. Before the action could be undertaken, a great deal of preparation was required, much of it innovative.

Mining and tunnelling



Since October 1916, the Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

 had been working underground to construct tunnels
Royal Engineer tunnelling companies
Royal Engineer tunnelling companies were specialist units of the Corps of Royal Engineers within the British Army, formed to dig attacking tunnels under enemy lines during the First World War....

 for the troops. The Arras region is chalky and therefore easily excavated; under Arras itself is a vast network (called the boves) of caverns, underground quarries, galleries and sewage tunnels. The engineers devised a plan to add new tunnels to this network so that troops could arrive at the battlefield in secrecy and in safety. The scale of this undertaking was enormous: in one sector alone four Tunnel Companies (of 500 men each) worked around the clock in 18-hour shifts for two months.
Eventually, they constructed 20 kilometres of tunnels, graded as subways (foot traffic only); tramways (with rails for hand-drawn trolleys, for taking ammunition to the line and bringing casualties back from it); and railways (a light railway system). Just before the assault the tunnel system had grown big enough to conceal 24,000 men, with electric lighting provided by its own small powerhouse, as well as kitchens, latrines, and a medical centre with a fully equipped operating theatre. The bulk of the work was done by New Zealanders, including Maori and Pacific Islanders from the New Zealand Pioneer battalion, and Bantams
Bantam (military)
A bantam, in British army usage, was a soldier of below the British Army's minimum regulation height of 5ft. 3ins.During the First World War, the British Army raised battalions in which the normal minimum height requirement for recruits was reduced from 5'3" to 5'...

 from the mining towns of Northern England.

Assault tunnels were also dug, stopping a few metres short of the German line, ready to be blown open by explosives on Zero-Day. In addition to this, conventional mines were laid under the front lines, ready to be blown immediately before the assault. Many were never detonated for fear that they would churn up the ground too much. In the meantime, German sappers (military engineers) were actively conducting their own underground operations, seeking out Allied tunnels to assault and counter-mine. Of the New Zealanders alone, 41 died and 151 were wounded as a result of German counter-mining.

Most of the tunnels and trenches are currently off-limits to the public for reasons of safety. A 250 metre portion of the Grange Subway at Vimy Ridge is open to the public from May through November and the Wellington tunnel was opened to the public as the Carrière Wellington museum
Carrière Wellington
The Carrière Wellington is a museum in Arras, northern France. It is named after a former underground quarry which was part of a network of tunnels used by forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth during the First World War...

 in March 2008.

Battle in the air



Although the Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 entered the Battle with inferior aircraft to the Luftstreitkräfte
Luftstreitkräfte
The Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte , known before October 1916 as Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches , or simply Die Fliegertruppen, was the air arm of the Imperial German Army during World War I...

, this did not deter their commander, General Trenchard
Hugh Trenchard as commander of the Royal Flying Corps in France
Hugh Trenchard was the commander of the Royal Flying Corps in France from 25 August 1915 until 2 January 1918.-Appointment and style of command:...

, from adopting an offensive posture. Dominance of the air space over Arras was essential for reconnaissance, and the British carried out many aerial patrols. Trenchard's aircraft, acting in support of ground forces, carried out artillery spotting, photography of trench systems and bombing. The reconnaissance activities were coordinated by the 1st Field Survey Company, Royal Engineers.
Aerial observation was hazardous work as, for best results, the aircraft had to fly at slow speeds and low altitude over the German defences. It became even more dangerous with the arrival of the "Red Baron", Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen , also widely known as the Red Baron, was a German fighter pilot with the Imperial German Army Air Service during World War I...

, with his highly experienced and better-equipped "Flying Circus
Jagdgeschwader 1 (World War 1)
The Jagdgeschwader 1 of World War I, was a fighter unit comprising four Jastas or 'fighter squadrons', originally raised by combining Jastas 4, 6, 10 and 11, on 24 June 1917 with Manfred von Richthofen as commodore...

" in March 1917. Its deployment led to sharply increased casualty rates among Allied pilots and April 1917 was to become known as Bloody April
Bloody April
During the First World War, the month of April 1917 was known as Bloody April by the Royal Flying Corps . The RFC suffered particularly severe losses — about three times as many as the Imperial German Army Air Service over the same period — but continued its primary role in support of the ground...

. One German infantry officer later wrote "during these days, there was a whole series of dogfights, which almost invariably ended in defeat for the British since it was Richthofen's squadron they were up against. Often five or six planes in succession would be chased away or shot down in flames". The average flying life of a Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 pilot in Arras in April was 18 hours. Between 4 and 8 April, the Royal Flying Corps lost 75 aircraft in combat, with the loss of 105 aircrew. The casualties created a pilot shortage and replacements were sent to the front straight from flying school: during the same period, 56 aircraft were crashed by inexperienced RFC pilots.

Creeping barrage


To keep enemy action to a minimum during the assault, a "creeping barrage" was planned. This requires gunners to lay down a screen of high explosive and shrapnel shells that creeps across the battlefield about one hundred metres in advance of the assaulting troops. The Allies had previously used creeping barrages at the battles of Neuve Chapelle
Battle of Neuve Chapelle
The Battles of Neuve Chapelle and Artois was a battle in the First World War. It was a British offensive in the Artois region and broke through at Neuve-Chapelle but they were unable to exploit the advantage.The battle began on 10 March 1915...

 and the Somme but had encountered two technical problems. The first was accurately synchronising the movement of the troops to the fall of the barrage: for Arras, this was overcome by rehearsal and strict scheduling. The second was the barrage falling erratically as the barrels of heavy guns degrade swiftly but at differing rates during fire: for Arras, the rate of degradation of each gun barrel was calculated individually and each gun calibrated accordingly. While there was a risk of friendly fire, the creeping barrage forced the Germans to remain in their trenches, allowing Allied soldiers to advance without fear of machine gun fire. Additionally, the new No. 106 instantaneous fuze
No. 106 Fuze
Number 106 Fuze was the first British instantaneous percussion artillery fuze, first tested in action in late 1916 and deployed in volume in early 1917.-Background:...

 had been developed for high-explosive shells so that they detonated on the slightest impact, vaporising barbed wire. Poison gas shells were used for the final minutes of the barrage.

Counter-battery fire


The principal danger to assaulting troops came from enemy artillery fire as they crossed no man's land
No man's land
No man's land is a term for land that is unoccupied or is under dispute between parties that leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty. The term was originally used to define a contested territory or a dumping ground for refuse between fiefdoms...

, accounting for over half the casualties at the first day of the Somme. A further complication was the location of German artillery, hidden as it was behind the ridges. In response, specialist artillery units were created specifically to attack German artillery. Their targets were provided by 1st Field Survey Company, Royal Engineers, who collated data obtained from "flash spotting" and "sound ranging". (Flash spotting required Royal Flying Corps observers to record the location of telltale flashes made by guns whilst firing. Sound ranging used a matrix of microphones to triangulate the location of a gun from the sound it made during firing.) On Zero-Day, 9 April, over 80% of German heavy guns in the sector were neutralised (that is, "unable to bring effective fire to bear, the crews being disabled or driven off") by counter-battery fire. Gas shells were also used against the draught horses of the batteries and to disrupt ammunition supply columns.

First phase


The preliminary bombardment of Vimy Ridge started on 20 March; and the bombardment of the rest of the sector on 4 April. Limited to a front of only 24 miles (38.6 km), the bombardment used 2,689,000 shells, over a million more than had been used on the Somme. German casualties were not heavy but the men became exhausted by the endless task of keeping open dug-out entrances and demoralised by the absence of rations caused by the difficulties of preparing and moving hot food under bombardment. Some went without food altogether for two or three consecutive days.

By the eve of battle, the front-line trenches had ceased to exist and their barbed wire defences were blown to pieces. The official history of the 2nd Bavarian Reserve Regiment describes the front line as "consisting no longer of trenches but of advanced nests of men scattered about". The 262nd Reserve Regiment history writes that its trench system was "lost in a crater field". To add to the misery, for the last ten hours of bombardment, gas shells
Poison gas in World War I
The use of chemical weapons in World War I ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas and the severe mustard gas, to lethal agents like phosgene and chlorine. This chemical warfare was a major component of the first global war and first total war of the 20th century. The killing capacity of...

 were added.

Zero-Hour had originally been planned for the morning of 8 April (Easter Sunday) but it was postponed 24 hours at the request of the French, despite reasonably good weather in the assault sector. Zero-Day was rescheduled for 9 April with Zero-Hour at 05:30. The assault was preceded by a hurricane bombardment lasting five minutes, following a relatively quiet night.

When the time came, it was snowing heavily; Allied troops advancing across no man's land were hindered by large drifts. It was still dark and visibility on the battlefield was very poor. A westerly wind was at the Allied soldiers' backs blowing "a squall of sleet and snow into the faces of the Germans". The combination of the unusual bombardment and poor visibility meant many German troops were caught unawares and taken prisoner, still half-dressed, clambering out of the deep dug-outs of the first two lines of trenches. Others were captured without their boots, trying to escape but stuck in the knee-deep mud of the communication trenches.

First Battle of the Scarpe (9–14 April 1917)




The major British assault of the first day was directly east of Arras, with the 12th Division attacking Observation Ridge, north of the Arras—Cambrai road. After reaching this objective, they were to push on towards Feuchy, as well as the second and third lines of German trenches. At the same time, elements of the 3rd Division began an assault south of the road, with the taking of Devil's Wood, Tilloy-lès-Mofflaines
Tilloy-lès-Mofflaines
Tilloy-lès-Mofflaines is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Tilloy-lès-Mofflaines lies on the south-eastern side of Arras, at the junction of the N39, D34 and D60 roads.-Population:...

 and the Bois des Boeufs as their initial objectives. The ultimate objective of these assaults was the Monchyriegel, a trench running between Wancourt and Feuchy, and an important component of the German defences. Most of these objectives, including Feuchy village, had been achieved by the evening of 10 April though the Germans were still in control of large sections of the trenches between Wancourt and Feuchy, particularly in the area of the heavily fortified village of Neuville-Vitasse
Neuville-Vitasse
Neuville-Vitasse is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Neuville-Vitasse situated southeast of Arras, at the junction of the D14 and D5 roads.-Population:-Places of interest:...

. The following day, troops from the 56th Division were able to force the Germans out of the village, although the Monchyriegel was not fully in British hands until a few days later. The British were able to consolidate these gains and push forward towards Monchy-le-Preux
Monchy-le-Preux
Monchy-le-Preux is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Monchy-le-Preux is situated southeast of Arras, at the junction of the D33 and the D339 roads...

, although they suffered heavy casualties in fighting near the village.

One reason for the success of the offensive in this sector was the failure of German commander von Falkenhausen to employ Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

's new Elastic Defence
Defence in depth
Defence in depth is a military strategy; it seeks to delay rather than prevent the advance of an attacker, buying time and causing additional casualties by yielding space...

. In theory, the enemy would be allowed to make initial gains, thus stretching their lines of communication. Reserves held close to the battlefield would be committed once the initial advance had bogged down, before enemy reinforcements could be brought up. The defenders would thus be able to counterattack and regain any lost territory. In this sector, however, von Falkenhausen kept his reserve troops too far from the front and they were unable to arrive in time for a useful counterattack on either 10 or 11 April.

Battle of Vimy Ridge (9–12 April 1917)




At roughly the same time, in perhaps the most carefully crafted portion of the entire offensive, the Canadian Corps
Canadian Corps
The Canadian Corps was a World War I corps formed from the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September 1915 after the arrival of the 2nd Canadian Division in France. The corps was expanded by the addition of the 3rd Canadian Division in December 1915 and the 4th Canadian Division in August 1916...

 launched an assault on Vimy Ridge. Advancing behind a creeping barrage, and making heavy use of machine guns – eighty to each brigade, including one Lewis gun
Lewis Gun
The Lewis Gun is a World War I–era light machine gun of American design that was perfected and widely used by the British Empire. It was first used in combat in World War I, and continued in service with a number of armed forces through to the end of the Korean War...

 in each platoon – the corps was able to advance through about 4000 yards (3,657.6 m) of German defences, and captured the crest of the ridge at about 13:00. Military historians have attributed the success of this attack to careful planning by Canadian Corps commander Julian Byng and his subordinate General Arthur Currie
Arthur Currie
Sir Arthur William Currie GCMG, KCB , was a Canadian general during World War I. He had the unique distinction of starting his military career on the very bottom rung as a pre-war militia gunner before rising through the ranks to become the first Canadian commander of the four divisions of the...

, constant training, and the assignment of specific objectives to each platoon. By giving units specific goals, troops could continue the attack even if their officers were killed or communication broke down, thus bypassing two major problems of combat on the Western Front.

First Battle of Bullecourt (10–11 April 1917)



South of Arras, the plan called for two divisions, the British 62nd Division
62nd (2nd West Riding) Division
- History :During the First World War the division fought on the Western Front at Bullecourt in the Battle of Arras and Havrincourt in the Battle of Cambrai. In the First Battle of the Somme , they were in the line near Arras and in the Second Battle of the Marne, in the Ardre Valley...

 and the Australian 4th Division to attack either side of the village of Bullecourt
Bullecourt
Bullecourt is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in France.-Geography:Bullecourt lies on the Upper Cretaceous plain of Artois between Arras and Bapaume and east of the A1 motorway. This shows Bullecourt just north of centre. Quéant is the larger of the two...

 and push the Germans out of their fortified positions and into the reserve trenches. The attack was initially scheduled for the morning of 10 April, but the tanks intended for the assault were delayed by bad weather and the attack was postponed for 24 hours. The order to delay did not reach all units in time, and two battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment
West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's Own)
The West Yorkshire Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army. In 1958 it amalgamated with The East Yorkshire Regiment to form The Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire...

 attacked and were driven back with significant losses. Despite protests from the Australian commanders, the attack was resumed on the morning of 11 April; mechanical failures meant that only 11 tanks were able to advance in support, and the limited artillery barrage left much of the barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

 in front of the German trenches uncut. Additionally, the abortive attack of the previous day alerted German troops in the area to the impending assault, and they were better prepared than they had been in the Canadian sector. Misleading reports about the extent of the gains made by the Australians deprived them of necessary artillery support and, although elements of the 4th Division briefly occupied sections of German trenches, they were ultimately forced to retreat with heavy losses. In this sector, the German commanders correctly employed the Elastic Defence and were therefore able to counterattack effectively. The Germans acquired two of the tanks which had been used, and after seeing them perforated by armor-piercing bullets, believed the rifle A.P. bullet was an effective anti-tank weapon, which threw them off-guard.

Second phase


After the territorial gains of the first two days, a hiatus followed as the immense logistical support needed to keep armies in the field caught up with the new realities. Battalions of pioneers built temporary roads across the churned up battlefield; heavy artillery (and its ammunition) was manhandled into position in new gun pits; food for the men and feed for the draught horses was brought up, and casualty clearing stations were established in readiness for the inevitable counterattacks. Allied commanders also faced a dilemma: whether to keep their exhausted divisions on the attack and run the risk of having insufficient manpower or replace them with fresh divisions and lose momentum.

In London, The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

commented: "the great value of our recent advance here lies in the fact that we have everywhere driven the enemy from high ground and robbed him of observation. [H]aving secured these high seats [Vimy, Monchy and Croisailles] and enthroned ourselves, it is not necessarily easy to continue the rapid advance. An attack down the forward slope of high ground, exposed to the fire of lesser slopes beyond, is often extremely difficult and now on the general front ... there must intervene a laborious period, with which we were familiar at the Somme, of systemic hammering and storming of individual positions, no one of which can be attacked until some covering one has been captured".

The German press reacted similarly. The Vossische Zeitung
Vossische Zeitung
The Vossische Zeitung was the well known liberal German newspaper that was published in Berlin . Its predecessor was founded in 1704...

,
a Berlin daily newspaper, wrote: "We have to count on reverses like that near Arras. Such events are a kind of tactical reverse. If this tactical reverse is not followed by strategical effects i.e., breaking through on the part of the aggressor, then the whole battle is nothing but a weakening of the attacked party in men and materiel." The same day, the Frankfurter Zeitung
Frankfurter Zeitung
The Frankfurter Zeitung was a German language newspaper that appeared from 1856 to 1943. It emerged from a market letter that was published in Frankfurt...

commented: "If the British succeed in breaking through it will render conditions worse for them as it will result in freedom of operations which is Germany's own special art of war".

General Ludendorff, however, was less sanguine. The news of the battle reached him during his 52nd birthday celebrations at his headquarters in Kreuznach. He wrote: "I had looked forward to the expected offensive with confidence and was now deeply depressed". He telephoned each of his commanders and "gained the impression that the principles laid down by OHL
Oberste Heeresleitung
The Oberste Heeresleitung or OHL was Germany's highest echelon of command of the German Army in World War I, while the Navy was led by the Seekriegsleitung or SKL ....

 were sound. But the whole art of leadership lies in applying them correctly". (A later court of inquiry would establish that Falkenhausen had indeed misunderstood the principles of the Elastic Defence.) Ludendorff immediately ordered reinforcements. Then, on 11 April, he sacked General von Falkenhausen's chief of staff and replaced him with his defensive line expert, Colonel Fritz von Lossberg
Fritz von Lossberg
Friedrich Karl "Fritz" von Lossberg was a German colonel, and later general, of World War I. He was a strategic planner, especially of defence, who was Chief of Staff for the Second, Third and Fourth Armies. He was present at the battles of the Somme, Arras, and VerdunLossberg was born in Bad...

. Von Lossberg went armed with a vollmacht (a power of attorney enabling him to issue orders in Ludendorff's name), effectively replacing Falkenhausen. Within hours of arriving, von Lossberg was restructuring the German defences.

During the Second Phase, the Allies continued to press the attack east of Arras. Their aims were to consolidate the gains made in the first days of the offensive; to keep the initiative, and to break through in concert with the French at Aisne. However, from 16 April onwards, it was apparent that the Nivelle Offensive was failing and Haig came under pressure to keep the Germans occupied in the Arras sector in order to minimise French losses.

Battle of Lagnicourt (15 April 1917)


Observing that the Australian 1st Division
1st Division (Australia)
The 1st Division is the main formation of the Australian Army and contains the majority of the army's regular forces. Its headquarters is in Enoggera, a suburb of Brisbane...

 was holding a frontage of 13,000 yards (12,000 m), the local German Corps commander (General Otto Von Moser, commanding the German XIV Reserve Corps) planned a spoiling attack to drive back the advanced posts, destroy supplies and guns and then retire to the Hindenburg defences. Passing his plans to higher command, they assigned an extra division to his corps to further strengthen the attack.

Attacking with 23 battalions (from four divisions), the German forces managed to penetrate the Australian front line at the junction on the Australian 1st Division
1st Division (Australia)
The 1st Division is the main formation of the Australian Army and contains the majority of the army's regular forces. Its headquarters is in Enoggera, a suburb of Brisbane...

 and Australian 2nd Division and occupy the village of Lagnicourt
Lagnicourt-Marcel
Lagnicourt-Marcel is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:A farming village situated southeast of Arras, at the junction of the D18, D14 and the D5 roads.-Population:-Places of interest:...

 (damaging some Australian artillery pieces).

Counter-attacks from the Australian 9th and 20th Battalions restored the front line, and the action ended with the Australians suffering 1,010 casualties, against 2,313 German casualties.

Second Battle of the Scarpe (23–24 April 1917)



On 23 April, the British launched an assault east from Wancourt towards Vis-en-Artois
Vis-en-Artois
Vis-en-Artois is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Vis-en-Artois is situated southeast of Arras, at the junction of the D939 and the D9 roads.-History:...

. Elements of the 30th and the 50th Divisions made initial gains, and were in fact able to secure the village of Guémappe
Guémappe
Guémappe is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:A small farming village situated southeast of Arras, at the junction of the D34 and the D38 roads.-History:...

, but could advance no further east and suffered heavy losses. Farther north, German forces counterattacked in an attempt to recapture Monchy-le-Preux
Monchy-le-Preux
Monchy-le-Preux is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Monchy-le-Preux is situated southeast of Arras, at the junction of the D33 and the D339 roads...

, but troops from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were able to hold the village until reinforcements from the 29th Division arrived. British commanders determined not to push forward in the face of stiff German resistance, and the attack was called off the following day on 24 April.

Battle of Arleux (28–29 April 1917)


Although the Canadian Corps had successfully taken Vimy Ridge, difficulties in securing the south-eastern flank had left the position vulnerable. To rectify this, British and Canadian troops launched an attack towards Arleux-en-Gohelle
Arleux-en-Gohelle
Arleux-en-Gohelle is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France.-Geography:A village located 7 miles north-east of Arras at the junction of the N919 and D50 roads.-History:The commune name first appears in 1119 as ‘Haluth’...

  on 28 April. Arleux was captured by Canadian troops with relative ease, but the British troops advancing on Gavrelle
Gavrelle
Gavrelle is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:A farming village situated northeast of Arras, at the junction of the N50 and the D33 roads...

 met stiffer resistance from the Germans. The village was secured by early evening, but when a German counterattack forced a brief retreat, elements of the 63rd Division were brought up as reinforcements and the village was held. Subsequent attacks on 29 April however, failed to net any further advances. Despite achieving the limited objective of securing the Canadian position on Vimy Ridge, casualties were high, and the ultimate result was disappointing.


Second Battle of Bullecourt (3–17 May 1917)



After the initial assault around Bullecourt failed to penetrate the German lines, British commanders made preparations for a second attempt. British artillery began an intense bombardment of the village, which by 20 April had been virtually destroyed. Although the infantry assault was planned for 20 April, it was pushed back a number of times and finally set for the early morning of 3 May. At 03:45, elements of the 2nd Division attacked east of Bullecourt village, intending to pierce the Hindenburg Line
Hindenburg Line
The Hindenburg Line was a vast system of defences in northeastern France during World War I. It was constructed by the Germans during the winter of 1916–17. The line stretched from Lens to beyond Verdun...

 and capture Hendecourt-lès-Cagnicourt
Hendecourt-lès-Cagnicourt
Hendecourt-lès-Cagnicourt is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Hendecourt-lès-Cagnicourt is situated southeast of Arras, at the junction of the D38 and the D956 roads.-Population:...

, while British troops from the 62nd Division
62nd (2nd West Riding) Division
- History :During the First World War the division fought on the Western Front at Bullecourt in the Battle of Arras and Havrincourt in the Battle of Cambrai. In the First Battle of the Somme , they were in the line near Arras and in the Second Battle of the Marne, in the Ardre Valley...

 attacked Bullecourt. German resistance was fierce and when the offensive was called off on 17 May, few of the initial objectives had been met. The Australians were in possession of much of the German trench system between Bullecourt and Riencourt-lès-Cagnicourt
Riencourt-lès-Cagnicourt
Riencourt-lès-Cagnicourt is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Riencourt-lès-Cagnicourt lies southeast of Arras, at the junction of the D13 and D83 roads.-Population:-Places of interest:...

 but had been unable to capture Hendecourt. To the west, British troops were ultimately able to push the Germans out of Bullecourt but incurred considerable losses, failing also to advance north-east to Hendecourt.

Third Battle of the Scarpe (3–4 May 1917)


After securing the area around Arleux at the end of April, the British determined to launch another attack east from Monchy to try to break through the Boiry Riegel and reach the Wotanstellung, a major German defensive fortification. This was scheduled to coincide with the Australian attack at Bullecourt in order to present the Germans with a two–pronged assault. British commanders hoped that success in this venture would force the Germans to retreat further to the east. With this objective in mind, the British launched another attack near the Scarpe
Battle of the Scarpe
The Battle of the Scarpe refers to a number of battles fought on the Western Front during World War I in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France:...

 on 3 May. However, neither prong was able to make any significant advances and the attack was called off the following day after incurring heavy casualties. Although this battle was a failure, the British learned important lessons about the need for close liaison between tanks, infantry, and artillery, which they would later apply in the Battle of Cambrai (1917).

Aftermath



By the standards of the Western front, the gains of the first two days were nothing short of spectacular. A great deal of ground was gained for relatively few casualties and a number of strategically significant points were captured, notably Vimy Ridge. Additionally, the offensive succeeded in drawing German troops away from the French offensive in the Aisne sector. In many respects, the battle might be deemed a victory for the British and their allies, but these gains were offset by high casualties and the ultimate failure of the French offensive at the Aisne. By the end of the offensive, the British had suffered more than 150,000 casualties and gained little ground since the first day. Despite significant early gains, they were unable to effect a breakthrough, and the situation reverted to stalemate. Although historians generally consider the battle a British victory, in the wider context of the front, it had very little impact on the strategic or tactical situation. Ludendorff later commented: "no doubt exceedingly important strategic objects lay behind the British attack, but I have never been able to discover what they were".

On the Allied side, twenty-five Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

es were subsequently awarded. On the German side, on 24 April 1917, Kaiser Wilhelm
William II, German Emperor
Wilhelm II was the last German Emperor and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918. He was a grandson of the British Queen Victoria and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe...

 awarded Von Lossberg the Oakleaves (similar to a bar
Medal bar
A medal bar or medal clasp is a thin metal bar attached to the ribbon of a military decoration, civil decoration, or other medal. It is most commonly used to indicate the campaign or operation the recipient received the award for, and multiple bars on the same medal are used to indicate that the...

 for a repeat award) for the Pour le Mérite
Pour le Mérite
The Pour le Mérite, known informally as the Blue Max , was the Kingdom of Prussia's highest military order for German soldiers until the end of World War I....

 he had received at the Battle of the Somme the previous September.

Casualties


The most quoted Allied casualty figures are those in the returns made by Lt-Gen Sir George Fowke, Haig's adjutant-general. His figures collate the daily casualty tallies kept by each unit under Haig's command. Third Army casualties were 87,226; First Army 46,826 (including 11,004 Canadians at Vimy Ridge); and Fifth Army 24,608; totalling 158,660.
German losses by contrast are more difficult to determine. Gruppe Vimy and Gruppe Souchez suffered 79,418 casualties but the figures for Gruppe Arras are incomplete. Additionally, German records excluded those "lightly wounded". Captain Cyril Falls (the British official battle historian) estimated that 30% needed to be added to German returns for comparison with the British. Falls makes "a general estimate" that German casualties were "probably fairly equal". Nicholls puts them at 120,000; and Keegan at 130,000. A notable casualty of the battle was C.S. Lewis (1898–1963), then still only 18 years old, who was wounded in the battle on 15 April 1917. He would go on to achieve fame as the author of books including The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels for children by C. S. Lewis. It is considered a classic of children's literature and is the author's best-known work, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages...

.

Commanders


Although Haig paid tribute to Allenby for the plan's "great initial success," Allenby's subordinates "objected to the way he handled the ... attritional stage." (He was sent to command the Egyptian Expeditionary Force
Egyptian Expeditionary Force
The Egyptian Expeditionary Force was formed in March 1916 to command the British and British Empire military forces in Egypt during World War I. Originally known as the 'Force in Egypt' it had been commanded by General Maxwell who was recalled to England...

 in Palestine
Sinai and Palestine Campaign
The Sinai and Palestine Campaigns took place in the Middle Eastern Theatre of World War I. A series of battles were fought between British Empire, German Empire and Ottoman Empire forces from 26 January 1915 to 31 October 1918, when the Armistice of Mudros was signed between the Ottoman Empire and...

. He regarded the transfer as a "badge of failure" but he "more than redeemed his reputation by defeating" the Ottomans in 1917–18.) Haig stayed in his post until the end of the war.

When it became apparent that a major factor in the British success was command failures within his own army, Ludendorff removed several staff officers, including General von Falkenhausen. Falkenhausen was removed from the Sixth Army and never held a field command again. He spent the rest of war as Governor-General of Belgium. In early 1918, The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

carried an article – entitled "Falkenhausen's Reign of Terror" – describing 170 military executions of Belgian civilians that had taken place since he had been appointed governor.

Ludendorff and Von Lossberg
Fritz von Lossberg
Friedrich Karl "Fritz" von Lossberg was a German colonel, and later general, of World War I. He was a strategic planner, especially of defence, who was Chief of Staff for the Second, Third and Fourth Armies. He was present at the battles of the Somme, Arras, and VerdunLossberg was born in Bad...

 learned a major lesson from the battle. They discovered that although the Allies were capable of breaking through the front they could probably not capitalise on their success if they were confronted by a mobile, clever enemy. Ludendorff immediately ordered training in "war of movement" tactics and manoeuvre for his counterattack divisions. Von Lossberg was soon promoted to general and directed the German defence in Haig's Flanders offensives of the summer and late autumn. (Von Lossberg was later to become "legendary as the fireman of the Western Front; always sent by OHL to the area of crisis".)

War Poetry


Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon CBE MC was an English poet, author and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's...

 makes reference to the battle in his famous anti-war poem The General in which is derided the incompetence of the British military staff.
The Anglo-Welsh lyric poet, Edward Thomas
Edward Thomas (poet)
Philip Edward Thomas was an Anglo-Welsh writer of prose and poetry. He is commonly considered a war poet, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences. Already an accomplished writer, Thomas turned to poetry only in 1914...

 was killed by a shell on April 9, 1917, during the first day of the Easter Offensive. Thomas's war diary gives a vivid and poignant picture of life on the Western front in the months leading up to the battle.

External links