Witley, May 4, 1917

 Friday         All that could be desired was the weather today  I did a little dismantling & cleaning I’m beginning to get sunburnt[.] paper claims a big battle on a wide front.  I’m feeling great

A big battle was indeed taking place on a wide front.

arras17 Long Long TrailGeneral Haig’s Arras offensive, of which the Battle of Vimy Ridge had been one part, continued as troops struggled eastward from the Ridge over the plain of Douai. An attack on Arleux-en-Gohelle was ordered for April 28th, and the Canadians succeeded in taking the village. The official British historian called it “only a local success… but… a fine feat of arms.”(1)  Haig was determined to keep pounding the Germans along their heavily defended Hindenburg Line, keeping the pressure off the French armies, and preventing the Germans from turning their attention to the Russians or Italians, or noticing that Haig was planning a major operation in Flanders. (2) The late April attacks were to be followed on May 3 by a Canadian assault on Fresnoy; the British and Australians were to attack Bullecourt, twelve miles farther south along the Drocourt Quéant Line.(2)

The Globe, like the paper Percy saw, reported it as a “titanic battle” on a wide front, with “all the bitter fury of two giants trying to club each other to the earth.” (3) May 5 1 – as the Germans tried to retake the village. Canadian casualties were over 1250; the German casualties comparable. (4)

(1) Cyril Falls, qtd in Cook, Tim. Shock Troops. Canadians Fighting the Great War Vol. 2 1917-1918. 2008.159
(2) Cook, 159.
(3) The Globe (1844-1936). May 5, 1917:1. Archive available from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
(4) Cook, 165.

The map comes from “The Long Long Trail article on the Arras Offensive, April 9 to June 16, 1917. The shaded area shows the territory taken from the Germans in this period.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”
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