Sunday, April 9, 2017

Battle of Arras -- April 9, 2017

Philadelphia Ledger, 10-April-1917
100 years ago today, on 09-April-1917, British troops launched an offensive against the German line of trenches near Arras in France.  The Battle of Arras lasted until 16-May-1917.  Despite good initial British gains, based on lessons learned in the Battle of the Somme, the situation soon developed into a stalemate.  April, 1917 became known as Bloody April.  The map is from the 10-April-1917 Philadelphia Ledger.  The article is from the 09-April-1917 Butte Daily Post.  

British Smash German Lines on New Front 
Teuton Positions Penetrated on Ten-Mile Stretch, From Arras to Lens.
Military Operations of Still Greater Importance Are Expected.

London, April 9.—The British early this morning attacked the German wide front from a point south of Arras to the south of Lena, thus opening what is believed here to be a general spring offensive. The move has been looked forward to eagerly for some days. The offensive of the British flying corps in the latter part of the last week, the attack on Zeebrugge Saturday night and the activity of the French in Belgium, as shown in yesterday's official statement from Paris, were considered a prelude to important military operations.

The British commander, General Haig, whose reports are always moderate, says the German line has been broken everywhere and that progress was made in the direction of Cambrai. The extension of the attack northward to Lena doubtless was intended to give the British more elbow room for their operations from Arras to the point of juncture with the French around St. Quentin.

Referring to the attack on the front between Arras and Lens, the statement says:

The Statement.

"We are making satisfactory progress at all points."

The statement, which is timed 11:25 a. m., is as follows:

"We attacked at 5:30 o'clock this morning on a wide front from south of Arras to south of Lens. Our troops have everywhere penetrated the enemy's lines and are making satisfactory progress at all points.

"In the direction of Cambrai we stormed the villages of Hermies and Boursies and have penetrated into Havrincourt wood.

"In the direction of St, Quentin we captured Fresnoy Le Petit and advanced our lines southeast of De

"No estimate of the prisoners taken can yet be given but considerable numbers are reported captured.


The fighting from Lens to Arras is approximately 10 miles in length and lies directly north of the field of the retreat which the Germans have been conducting for the past several weeks. 

The fact that the line has been penetrated by the British all along this wide front indicates that the movement there is a general offensive.  That it is proving a successful drive is indicated by the statement that "satisfactory progress" is being made "at all points." 

An entire new phase of operations on the western front is opened up in this new battle of the Lens-Arras line.  The field of attack represents the greatest danger point for the Germans, as in the recent fighting at a sharp salient was driving into the German line southeast of Arras. 

In the Lens region into which the British are driving is a rich coal field which the Germans have been exploiting since their occupation of this territory early in the war. 

Aerial Activity.

The opening of the new offensive had been foreshadowed in the intense aerial activity of the past two or three days in which hundreds of airplanes have been engaged on both sides.  This work, as the British statements have indicated, has given General Haig's staff photographic reproductions of the German positions for long distances behind the fighting line. 

Further south, the British have continued their progress in the field of the German retreat, the advance report at Hermies and Boursies being particularly important.  Boursies is directly on the road from Bapaume to Cambrai, about eight miles from the latter place.  Hermies lies just to the south of Boursies. 

In their drive toward St. Quentin the capture of Fresnoy Le Petit puts the British with two and a half miles of St. Quentin's outskirts.

17 Entente Airplanes Shot Down By Teutons

Berlin, April 9 (via London) -- Seventeen entente airplanes were brought down yesterday on the western front, the war office announces.

The statement says that the battle of Arras, begun this morning after several hours of strong fire, continues.

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