Chronology of the Arras Front 1914-1918

1914

6 September. German cavalry enter Arras.

9 September. French light cavalry force German troops out.

30 September. French re-enter the city.

5 October. Bavarian troops force French XX1 Corps from Souchez, Givenchy and Vimy Ridge to the north of Arras but French counter-attacks stabilize the line north and south of the city.

6 October. Arras heavily bombarded. French positions hold against heavy attacks.

10 October. Battle of La Bassée.

21 October. Shelling destroys Arras town hall’s 16th century belfry tower.

1 November. French positions near Vimy attacked, using grenades for the first time.

7 November. Heavy fighting at Arras.

28 November. Attacks made on French positions around Arras.

12 December. Proposed offensive by French Tenth Army in the Arras and Vimy area is delayed until 17 December.

17 December. French attacks on a 11/4 mile front near Arras fail due to fog and inadequate artillery preparations. German defence results in nearly 8000 French casualties for minimal gain.

18 December. First German trench mortar units formed, with six light mortars per pioneer company.

26 December. Deep mud delays any possible French advance; French Tenth Army attack postponed as a result.

27 December. Ten battalions of French Chasseurs Alpins capture 800 yards of trenches at La Targette, from Bavarian troops after a two hour artillery preparation.

28 December. Non-stop rain halts all but small local operations.

Beaurains, a suburb of Arras, from the surrounding heights.

Safe behind the lines, wounded soldiers rest in the hospital garden in Croisilles.

Troops attending the burial of their company commander in the church cemetery at Douchy les Ayette.

Each village had a sentry to check papers and direct traffic; this soldier was guarding Hendecourt.

Watchtower built into a tree at Ficheux; on level terrain such positions were invaluable for the view they gave of French positions.

High ranking officers occupied the best accommodation in the area – the interior of the château at St. Léger after its requisition.

Like mail from home, religion played an important part in the soldiers life – a padre preaches to his congregation in a cave, safe from enemy shelling.

Prince Leopold of Bavaria, with the commander of 3 Bavarian Armeekorps visits the troops at the front.

A squadron of Bavarian cavalry set out on patrol.

Keeping the front provisioned required thousands of horses, wagons and men: a provisions column moving to the front.

1915

3 January. Limited French gains near Arras.

15 January. Some trenches taken a month earlier by the French, on Notre Dame de Lorette ridge and at Carency, are re-taken.

16 January. Seesaw battle for St Laurent-Blangy, northeast of Arras; positions finally recaptured by the French.

28 January. French positions at Bellacourt, southwest of Arras, attacked, but with no major result.

4 February. French attack on positions at Ecurie, north of Arras, is successful, and front line is taken.

17 February. Minor French advance near Arras.

20 March. French trenches near Notre Dame de Lorette taken.

21 March. Newly taken positions near Notre Dame de Lorette lost to French counter-attack.

25 March. Control of Notre Dame Ridge lost to French, who repulse counter-attack.

16 April. French repulse attacks on Notre Dame de Lorette.

3 May. Preliminary French bombardment of positions around Arras commences with an offensive expected.

4 May. French bombardment around Arras intensifies, using 1073 guns and 92 mortars firing 690,000 shells.

7 May. French artillery concentrates on specific targets to the north of Arras but, without highground observation, are unsure of effect on German positions.

8 May. During the night, the French blow five mines as a prelude to the attack but lose their objective to successful counter-attack.

9 May. French launch the second battle of Artois after a final four hour bombardment from 1000 guns. French troops storm through up to 31/2 miles on a four mile front, at Vimy ridge, in just 90 minutes. Successful counter-attack regains Souchez before the French can reinforce the position. French cut off Carency and storm La Targette. In just ten minutes’ fighting to the northeast of Arras, the French X Corps sustains 3000 casualties.

11 May. Fort and chapel of Notre Dame de Lorette lost to French XXI Corps attack, but Lorette ridge heights held against French XXXIII Corps attacks. After considerable losses, Petain stops further French frontal attacks.

12 May. 1000 POWs lost when French take Carency.

20 May. ‘White Road’ near Souchez lost to French attack.

27 May. French capture positions at Les Quatre Bouquetaux and Ablains - St. Nazaire.

28 May. After savage hand-to-hand fighting, French take positions in ‘The Labyrinth’ north of Arras.

30 May. Some positions lost to French attacks near Souchez.

31 May. Souchez sugar refinery stormed by French troops.

1 June. After French attacks some positions around Souchez lost.

5 June. French attacks north of Arras and east of Lorette ridge successfully counter-attacked.

8 June. French troops make further progress in ‘The Labyrinth’. All of Neuville-St. Vaast lost to French attack.

11 June. French advance 1100 yards on a 11/4 mile front.

13 June. French attack at Souchez held.

Officers inspecting a trench somewhere on the Arras Front in March 1915.

An exercise march out of the line of fire to keep the troops fit.

16 June. Major twenty division French assault, but only a Moroccan Division reaches Vimy Ridge crest.

18 June. Although French call off Second Battle of Artois, heavy fighting continues. Twenty-five square miles lost to French attacks.

19 June. Troops pull back after French attack at Souchez.

20 June. Unsuccessful counter-attack against French positions north of Arras.

7 July. Troops recover trenches lost to French attack at Souchez, and French troops fall back south of Souchez.

12 July. French positions in ‘The Labyrinth’ counter-attacked.

14 July. Positions south of Souchez lost to French attack and held against counter-attacks.

1 August. French repulse attacks and then occupy trenches in sunken road between Ablain and Angres.

4 September. Considerable artillery fire around Arras.

29 September. Vimy crest briefly lost to French attack.

1 October. French attack on La Folie Heights on Vimy Ridge pushes troops back.

6 October. Minor skirmishes with French troops.

10 October. Minor French gains in Souchez Valley, Givenchy-en-Gohelle Wood and the La Folie area.

14 November. Unsuccessful attack on French positions in ‘The Labyrinth’.

21 November. Artillery duels with French.

24 November. Fifty shells fired at Arras railway station.

27 November. Unsuccessful trench raid on French positions north of ‘The Labyrinth’ while the French capture a crater to the north of it.

3 December. Fighting with aerial torpedoes northwest of Hill 140 and artillery duels along the front.

5 December. A few incendiary shells fired at Arras.

9 December. Artillery duel in the Givenchy sector.

Officers parading outside the officers mess at Ayette for a visiting civilian dignitary.

Alarm bell in the village square at Boyelles.

The only civilians left in the war zone were old men, women and children; here a delivery wagon is watched by a small boy as it passes through Cagnicourt, southeast of Arras.

The French children soon got used to the occupiers; here they pose for the photographer in a field outside Croisilles.

Looking south down a street in Douchy les Ayette with directions painted on the buildings – Ayette to the east and Adinfer to the north.

Leutnant Immelmann posing in front of his Fokker aircraft on 26 October 1915, at Ecoust St. Martin airfield, after scoring his fifth victory.

Underground accommodation built into a quarry at Ficheux.

Hamélincourt - another church bell that was requisitioned to act as an alarm against air attack.

Soldiers were often buried where they fell, in the 1914 advance through the area - two lonely soldiers’ graves near Henin-Cojeul.

Russian prisoners being guarded during a break in their work at St. Léger.

The back areas had to be kept safe – a police patrol leaving St. Léger.

Letters from home helped keep the soldier happy – the Field Post Office at St. Léger.

For those with the time and the resources, painting was a good way to pass the time. Here, an official War Artist poses for the camera before setting off to paint the battle.

To aid transport movement, walls were painted with directions; Ayette and Hamélincourt are signposted in the same direction, despite being in different directions to this north facing wall.

Rollencourt Château in December 1915 showing little damage.

The war was not always deadly. Here German and French soldiers are holding a conversation across the wire in what was termed the ‘peaceful position war’ during December 1915.

In December 1915, a soldier waits in an individual foxhole – in the background is Lorettohöhe.

Panorama of Givenchy-en-Gohelle showing the destruction of 1915.

Captured French trench mortar shells.

Street urchins selling goods in the street.

The town hall in Oppy became the battalion headquarters.

Oppy Château in quieter times when it was well behind the lines – November 1915.

Oppy Wood was the site of a large cemetery in late 1915. By May 1917 when the war returned to it, there was no château and no cemetery.

Cooling the horses down in the Scarpe; horse transport was the main method of moving supplies and thousands of horses were used on the Arras front.

Column of French soldiers captured during the fighting between La Bassée and Arras in the autumn of 1915.

Allied prisoners taken during the autumn of 1915 – a mixture of English, French and Scottish troops.

Loading transport wagons on flat cars to speed the movement of supplies to the western front.

1916

22 January. Attack on French positions near Neuville-St. Vaast.

25 January. Attacks at Neuville renewed with mine explosions under French positions.

26 January. Further attacks on French positions at Neuville.

27 January. Attacks on French positions at Neuville continued.

8 February. 700 yards of French trenches taken west of La Folie.

10 February. Some of the newly taken trenches lost to a French counter-attack.

14 March. British troops complete take-over of Arras sector.

15 May. British mine and storm 250 yards of trenches on Vimy Ridge, but lose mine crater to counter-attack.

21 May. To counter British tunnelling at Vimy Ridge, after a fourteen hour barrage by 320 guns,

18 Reserve Infantry Division captures 1500 yards of trench from 47 British Division; front line pushed 300 yards west into British positions.

23 May. A British two brigade counter-attack at Vimy is ruined by counter barrage that kills or wounds 2500 men.

31 August. British gas attacks on Arras front.

26 November. OHL issues instruction on role of forthcoming Siegfried Stellung: ‘Just as in times of peace, we build fortresses, so we are now building rearward defences. Just as we have kept clear of our fortresses, so we shall keep at a distance from these rearward defences’.

18 December. General Marwitz takes over command of the Second Army from General Gallwitz.

After two years of occupation, much of the damage sustained in the opening months of the war had been repaired. Here troops cross a railway line on a replacement bridge.

With a shortage of male civilians, troops had to help the women gather in the harvest.

Memorial to the fallen soldiers of 164 Infantry Regiment, from Hannover, in the churchyard at Boiry -Rictrude.

Russian prisoners of war in a work camp at Boiry-St. Martin.

Overseeing the making of a haystack at Croisilles.

Douai, at the northern end of the Arras front and well behind the lines, was an administrative and transportation centre. Troops not sent home for a period of leave were often sent here for a rest. This shows the town and the Scarpe canal.

Unloading lumber in a Pioneer park for conversion into timber for dugout construction.

Douchy-le`s-Ayette was far enough behind the lines to be used to rest troops. It had to have its own cinema and football ground.

Garrison headquarters in Ecoust St. Martin, complete with sentry box (empty) and messenger on bicycle.

A carousel in Ficheux for soldiers to while away their time when resting between spells in the front line.

The interior of the officers’ mess at Hamélincourt.

As often as was possible the dead were buried in official soldiers’ cemeteries – this one is at Henin.

With food supplies always short, each division tried to supplement its food – a divisional pig pen at Inchyen-Artois.

Life and death continued for the civilian population, even though the area was occupied – a funeral procession in St. Leger.

As the war progressed, telephone communication became more and more important. Here telephone engineers check the lines near St. Léger.

Communication trench at Monchy-au-Bois, southwest of Arras.

To counteract boredom, each area had a book depot where soldiers could borrow books – this one is at St. Léger.

Winter in the frontline trenches near Monchy-au-Bois.

Observation balloons provided valuable information about what was happening on the other side of the wire – a divisional barrage balloon being launched at Moyenville.

A road block between Ransart and Berles au Bois in British territory.

Troops on the bridge over the river Souchez, down-stream from the local watermill. Note the single grave marker in the field behind the stream.

After six months of long range shelling, Rollencourt Château is reduced to a shell.

Leivin, May 1916, showing a regimental headquarters carefully hidden between two buildings.

The comfortable interior of the well-hidden regimental headquarters.

Hidden entrance to deep underground battalion headquarters in Leivin.

Weather conditions were very poor over the winter of 1915. This had been the front line trench in the old positions on the Giessler Heights in February 1916.

A battle trench on Giessler Heights in January 1916 showing a wooden drain to remove the water.

Kronprinzenlager storage area in Givenchy-en-Gohelle in April 1916.

The battalion defensive headquarters was also situated on Kronprinzlager.

A communication trench in the rear areas of Givenchyen-Gohelle during February.

Communication trench in May 1916 on Vimy Ridge.

Both sides dug tunnels and laid mines under Vimy Ridge. Entrances were small to hide them from aircraft. When this photo was taken the tunnel was 20m deep under the enemy positions.

Soldiers were often buried near where they fell if conditions did not allow the removal of their body to a rear area cemetery. Here is a soldier’s grave in a mine crater near the front line on Vimy Ridge.

A soldier sits in the debris of a captured British trench in May 1916.

Hanseatenlager on Vimy Ridge, near Givenchy-en-Gohelle in May 1916. Areas like these provided shelter and storage.

This mine crater on Vimy Ridge, 50m wide and 20m deep, was caused by 180 hundredweight of explosive. Once it had been fought over and new trench lines consolidated, it provided ideal cover for a series of new mine tunnels.

The conditions on Vimy Ridge made it difficult to get the wounded away. Here soldiers make their way across the shell damaged hill with a wounded companion in a sling.

The front line on Vimy Ridge in February 1916.

Vimy Ridge seen from the ‘White House’ near Givenchy-en-Gohelle in June 1916.

Forward fighting trench on Vimy Ridge in March 1916. On the left is a trench periscope and a gasflag.

Taken in February 1916, a false gun battery. These were used to provide false information for reconnaissance aircraft and draw artillery fire away from real gun positions.

An open air concert in Sallaumines, outside the Regimental Commanders office, in May 1916.

Each village had a village commander (Ortskommandatur). These are the officers of the Ortskommandatur for Sallaumines in March 1916. They were known as the ‘big star’ and were situated on the road to Avion.

Sallaumines airfield with a crowd gathered to applaud the last combat victory of Oberleutnant Immelmann.

Before prisoners were taken to camps many of them were kept near the front to act as labourers. Here a group of prisoners mend the roads on the Arras front.

A heavy calibre British shell destroying the remains of a house on the Arras front.

Doaui town hall was turned into a regional headquarters, seen here complete with guard and sentry box.

House boats on the canal brought valuable supplies to the front.

Distributing food supplies to the local town’s population.

A British aircraft that crashed at Cantaing. The pilot survived and is standing on the right in the long coat.

Small trench mortar in a concrete bunker.

Tunnellers digging 60 metres under the front line to lay explosives.

King Ludwig of Bavaria presenting medals to his soldiers during a visit to the Arras Front.

1917

1 January. Successful raid captures Hope Post from British.

16 January. British daylight trench raid west of Lens.

17 January. Daylight raid by the British on trenches west of Lens.

28 January. Crown Prince Rupprecht demands a voluntary retirement to the Siegfried Stellung as a result of the British pressure on the Ancre. Retirement vetoed by German OHL.

4 February. Operation Alberich authorised by the Kaiser: retirement to the Siegfried Stellung between Soissons in the south and Arras in the north; 65 miles long with average depth of 19 miles; whole area given the scorched earth treatment. Objective: release thirteen divisions into the reserve and shorten the front by twenty-five miles.

9 February. Operation Alberich begins on the Somme: demolitions and programmed removal of material and remaining civilian population.

12 February. Successful British trench raid south of Souchez.

13 February. Forty POWs lost to British trench raiders northeast of Arras.

22 February. Retirement to Siegfried Stellung accelerated due to British pressure, with a preliminary withdrawal of three miles on a fifteen mile frontage.

16 March. Synchronised retreat to Siegfried Stellung begun by thirty-five divisions.

20 March. British begin preparatory barrage for April offensive at Arras.

2 April. Further British pressure between Arras and St. Quentin results in the loss of nine villages, 700 killed and 240 POWs captured by the attacking troops.

4 April. British 2000 gun artillery barrage of gas and high explosive along twelve-mile front at Arras.

9 April. At 0530 hours, in bitter cold and sleet, the British attack on a twelve-mile front at Arras, breaching the third line defences, capturing 5600 POWs and thirty-six guns, in an advance varying from 2000 to 6000 yards. After a three minute barrage by 1203 guns and 150 Vickers machine guns, 30000 men of the Canadian Corps attack on a two mile front; five villages lost along with 4000 POWs and fifty-four guns, but the north end of Vimy Ridge is held against all Canadian attempts to capture it.

Machine gun position south of Arras.

With an officer overseeing the harvest work, soldiers and French women work together.

Every army has its pets – sometimes brought from home, and sometimes animals that attach themselves. For the garrison at Douchy-les-Ayette, Tell was a true companion.

Frontline trenches at Monchy-au-Bois; concrete is starting to replace the normal wood construction of the dugouts.

British tank knocked out during the Bullecourt battle.

10 April. Vimy Ridge lost when Hill 145 lost to Canadian attack after heavy fighting. The arrival of reserves starts to seal the gap in the Arras front.

11 April. Monchy-le-Preux and Wancourt lost to a British tank and infantry attack, but Allied infantry and tanks repulsed at Bullecourt, taking 1170 Allied POWs and capturing two tanks.

12 April. Pimple Hill stormed by Canadian infantry, but the Mericourt-Arleux line now held against an Allied breakthrough by two counter-attack divisions.

13 April. Villages of Vimy and Petit Vimy lost to Canadian attack. Heavy fighting at Wancourt Ridge, but line held against British attacks until 15 April.

14 April. Ten British soldiers hold Monchy-le-Preux against attacks from 3 Bavarian Division for five hours. Canadian attacks result in loss of over 4000 POWs, 124 machine guns, 104 mortars and 54 field guns.

15 April. Four-division attack on a seven-mile front at Lagnicourt is checked by the Anzac Corps and 62nd Division.

22 April. General Falkenhausen replaced by General Below as commander of Sixth Army.

23 April. Troops pushed back after a British nine division assault on a nine-mile front across the River Scarpe preceded by artillery fire from 2685 guns. Of the twenty tanks used in the attack, five are disabled. Guémappe lost, five counter-attacks fail to take Gavrelle and 2500 POWs lost to the British. Heavy casualties inflicted on the attacking British troops.

28 April. Village of Arleux taken by Canadian attack along with 450 POWs, but further south, at Oppy, three British divisions held, inflicting heavy casualties, including 475 British POWs.

29 April. Some trenches lost to British attacks between Oppy and Gavrelle.

1 May. Losses fighting the British at Arras since 9 April include over 18000 POWs, over 450 guns and mortars, 470 machine guns and a territorial loss on a twenty mile front of between two and five miles in depth, against British losses of just under 84000 casualties.

3 May. Fourteen British divisions attack east of Arras on a sixteen mile front backed by 2685 field guns and 16 tanks. Attacking troops gain very little ground, although Fresnoy captured by the Canadians. Further south, six Australian and British divisions, assisted by twelve tanks, break through the Siegfried Stellung at Quéant.

6 May. Counter-attack near River Souchez repulsed by British.

7 May. Troops pull back between Bullecourt and Quéant as a result of Australian attack.

8 May. On the second attack, 5 Bavarian Division, supported by 176 guns, recaptures Fresnoy near Arras.

11 May. Despite repeated counter-attacks by 80 (Reserve) Division, Canadian troops hold 300 yards of trenches west of Avion. Cavalry Farm, Chemical Works and Roeux captured by the British.

12 May. Most of Bullecourt falls to British attack.

13 May. British push forward on Greenland Hill.

14 May. North of Gavrelle, troops pushed back by British attack.

15 May. Heavy fighting against the British around Bullecourt.

16 May. Counter-attacks against the British at Gavrelle fail. The Battle of Arras results in the loss of sixty-one square miles of territory, nearly 21000 POWs and over 250 guns in thirty-eight days of combat.

17 May. Bullecourt lost to British.

19 May. British attack positions to the northeast of Bullecourt.

20 May. First line of the Siegfried Stellung north of Bullecourt lost to British 33 Division.

21 May. Troops pull back against British attacks at Fontaine-les-Croisilles; British now hold advanced line of the Siegfried Stellung from Bullecourt to one mile east of Arras.

22 May. A day of infantry skirmishes and artillery duels.

Reserve troops waiting at a troop lager for the trucks to take them to the front to counter the British attacks during May.

Loading the trucks with men prior to going to the front.

26 May. First American troops disembark in France.

1 June. Ten divisions transferred from the Lens-Lille sector to Flanders.

3 June. After a 600-projector gas barrage, Canadian troops assault but cannot hold La Coulette south of the Souchez River; 100 POWs lost to attacking forces.

5 June. Some positions lost on Greenland Hill due to British attack.

8 June. A very strong raid by six Canadian battalions, west of Avion, takes more than 150 POWs and inflicts over 830 casualties after bombing over 150 dugouts.

14 June. Australian troops push defenders back on Infantry Hill.

15 June. Troops fail to hold Australian attack near Bullecourt.

18 June. Australians pushed back at Infantry Hill.

20 June. Attacks on the River Souchez and Infantry Hill repulsed by British and Australian troops respectively.

24 June. British night attack results in retreat from River Souchez positions.

26 June. British occupy La Coulotte, and Canadian Corps begins capture of Avion.

28 June. Heavy fighting results in the loss of Hill 65, a two mile stretch south of the River Souchez, most of Avion and an edge of Oppy Wood.

1 July. British attack on Liévin held.

14 July. Shelling of British positions southwest of Arras makes Lt. Genella the first American casualty (wounded by shell splinter).

16 July. Canadian troops relieve British opposite Lens and Hill 70.

23 July. 36 (Reserve) Division loses 53 POWs during Canadian trench raid west of Lens.

2 August. Some British trenches stormed and held on Infantry Hill near Monchy-le-Preux.

3 August. Gains on Infantry Hill from 2 August lost. Allied attacks on the Scarpe successfully held.

Bavarian troops loaded up and ready to depart for the front in May 1917.

Reserves came from many different sources and distances. Here a troop convoy makes its way through dusty back roads heading for the Arras Front.

Aerial photo of Vimy Ridge; German positions on the right, Allied on the left of the mine craters. Note the saps pushed out from both trench lines to the rim of each mine crater.

15 August. Hill 70 north of Lens, and five nearby villages, lost to Canadian attack, supported by over 300 guns and 160 machine guns, even after over twenty counter-attacks (five divisions badly mauled by Canadian defenders); heavy casualties on both sides with nearly 1200 POWs taken by the attackers.

21 August. Near Lens, small amount of territory lost to a Canadian attack.

30 August. Light raid on British trenches southeast of Lens repulsed.

3 September. Four unsuccessful raids against British positions near Arleux.

29 September. First tank unit formed with 5 A7Vs and 113 men.

8 November. British troops succeed in raiding trenches near Fresnoy.

8 December. Over two hundred trench raids against British positions between this day and 21 March 1918, resulting in sixty-two enemy units being identified.

16 December. Troops retire under pressure from British forces east of Avion.

17 December. Fighting near the Ypres-Comines Canal.

After the Allied attack it was necessary for rear areas to be more prepared and ready for any future attack. Here a Cheval de Frise is by the roadside, between Lens and Henin Liétard, ready to be placed in the road to slow down troops and horses.

By May 1917 the headquarters of the Ortskommandatur for Sallaumines was a ruin.

Transferring supplies, well behind the front, directly from where they have been dropped off, for use in construction of fortified position in an embankment.

A street barricade at Izel, a few kilometres behind Gavrelle and Oppy which were attacked in April and May 1917.

Most transport was drawn by horses. Here at a cross-roads near Quiérryla-Motte, troops drop off timber for use in trench construction during May 1917.

Field artillery using a damaged house as cover during the British attacks in May 1917.

An artillery unit forming up somewhere behind the Arras front in May 1917.

Field gun moving up to its position on the Arras front.

The rest barracks lay empty in May 1917 as all possible reserves had been committed to the front.

On the flatter parts of the front any height advantage was seized upon to give information about enemy movements. Here a tree has been turned into a watchtower.

The street from Monchyle-Preux to Guémappe in April 1917 before the British attacked.

Town Hall on the right and entrance to the château at Monchy-le-Preux.

The regimental headquarters were in an ordinary house on the road to Roeux in April 1917.

The town square at Monchy-le-Preux in April 1917.

Any slight hill offered some protection. Here the face of a quarry near Roeux is being used as a protected area.

Plouvain in April 1917 – using the railway embankment as temporary housing.

The market square at Hamblain-les Prés in April 1917.

British aircraft losses were high during ‘Bloody April’. The last flight of A2879 ended in Bois du Sart as the 15th victory of air ace Frankls.

Carrying hot meals to the front line from the rear areas was an arduous and sometimes dangerous job. Here ration carriers stop for a rest before crossing the Scarpe near Biache St. Vaast in May 1917.

Dressing station on the banks of the River Scarpe in May 1917.

Corbehem. On the junction of the Scarpe and Sensée canals this was an important town on the river transport system in June 1917.

Only a few kilometres behind the lines, little had changed. But this quiet street corner in Noyelle-sous-Bellone in May 1917 clearly shows directions to speed troop movements.

English POWs being escorted to the rear on their journey to a prison camp.

A garden in the centre of Doaui reserved for soldiers on leave, in June 1917.

Although leave was often cancelled when conditions dictated, here troops line up at a railway halt to wait for the train to take them to ‘der heimat’ in April 1917.

When no other accommodation was available, troops relied upon their waterproof capes to make a communal tent – zeltlager in May 1917.

Before the offensive, Bullecourt was a quiet village on the Arras front – the main street through the village.

The return train to the Hindenburg line in March 1917.

Trench positions ran deep on most of the front. Here, in the comparative quiet of a reserve trench in May 1917, soldiers take a rest.

Advanced dressing post in Cagnicourt during May 1917.

Ambulances arriving to take the wounded from the advanced dressing post at Cagnicourt.

A pioneer park in the rear echelons of the Arras front in May 1917. Essential supplies were stored there, ready for rapid transport using a small gauge railway.

Rest barracks in a stone quarry near Dury in May 1917.

Wagons parked in the main street of Arleux during June 1917, just behind the front areas near Oppy.

Erecting a hanger on an airfield.

A captured British plane painted with the Balkan Cross for use against its former owners in May 1917.

British aircraft N6186 at Cantaing in May 1917.

In the back areas life continued as per normal – a military concert in the Château park at Noyelles during May 1917.

Canadian soldiers in the trenches near Arras.

1918

3 January. Troops south of Lens pull back under pressure from British attacks.

9 January. Canadians raid positions south of Lens.

12 January. Four trench raids on British positions south of Lens and east of Monchy fail.

14 January. British raid positions north of Lens.

21 January. Spring offensive decision taken.

1 February. Seventeenth Army formed in Artois region. Captain Bomschlegel restores thirty captured British tanks ready for combat use.

12 February. Trenches near Hagnicourt-Lens raided by Canadian forces.

28 February. Western Front strength now 180 divisions due to arrival of troops from Russia.

1 March. Final preparations begin with advance parties moving up.

4 March. West of Lens, a raid on Aloof Trench, held by Canadian troops, fails.

5 March. New highly secure five-letter cipher introduced prior to offensive.

9 March. British front line, from Ypres to St. Quentin, bombarded with 1000 tons of Mustard and Phosgene gas.

10 March. Operation Michael ordered by Hindenburg.

20 March. 190 divisions now available on the Western Front.

March. Operation Michael commences. In the Artois region, British fire fifty-seven tons of Phosgene shells on positions near Lens.

26 March. Operation Mars launched with nine divisions against four divisions of British.

2 April. Ayette lost to British troops.

7 April. Attacks on British positions at Bucquoy repulsed.

21 May. Trenches near Arras raided.

8 June. Raid on Canadian trenches near Neuville-Vitasse repelled by Lewis gunner.

14 June. Trenches along La Bassée Canal raided by British troops.

22 June. Enemy tanks and infantry raid trenches at Bucquoy.

31 July. 1919 class of recruits almost used up as reinforcements.

1 August. Six British Infantry and two cavalry divisions leave the Arras area.

11 August. Ludendorff offers his resignation to the Kaiser who refuses it, and tells him that Germany has nearly reached the peak of its ability to resist and that ‘the war must be ended’.

26 August. Canadian attack south of Arras, using tanks, captures Monchy-le-Preux and advances four miles.

27 August. Greenland Hill lost to British attack.

28 August. In the Artois region, troops have been pushed back up to five miles along the Arras-Cambrai road with the loss of 3300 POWs, fifty-three guns and 519 machine guns, but 2 Bavarian Corps hold on to the Fresnes-Rouvroy line.

29 August. Two villages lost to Canadian attacks along the Sensee river.

30 August. Hendecourt, behind the Fresnes-Rouvroy line, is lost to a British attack.

2 September. Drocourt-Quéant switch line, in the Wotan sector of the Siegfried Stellung, broken by enemy attack aided by tanks with the loss of 10000 POWs; Ludendorff issues order for a second phased retirement to the main defences behind and along the Canal du Nord.

3 September. Rapid retirement around Lens and enemy re-enter the town; 6000 POWs lost to advancing Canadians.

4 September. Unsuccessful raids on British positions in Arleux.

16 September. Successful raid on British positions near Oppy.

26 September. British attack on Oppy Wood held.

27 September. British offensive south of Arras.

29 September. Kaiser approves Hindenburg’s and Ludendorff ’s request for an armistice.

1 October. Lens and Armentières evacuated during the night. Ludendorff sends a cable to Berlin government to transmit a peace offer without further delay.

5 October. Doaui is burned to make it useless to the enemy.

7 October. Gavrelle defences fail to hold British advance and, by the end of the day, Oppy falls.

8 October. Enemy attack on a twenty-mile front between St. Quentin and Cambrai takes the Fresnoy-Rouvroy line northeast of Arras.

11 October. Canadian troops capture Iwuy, northeast of Cambrai.

12 October. Deliberate flooding on 5 October halts British advance into Douai. Hindenburg warns the troops that continued resistance is necessary to obtain favourable armistice terms.

16 October. Sixth and Seventeenth Armies ordered to retreat into the Hermann Line.

19 October. Troops are pushed back nearly seven miles in a day and Denain is lost to advancing Canadians.

POST WAR

At the end of the war the only German soldiers still on the Arras front were in cemeteries like Maison Blanche where there were 39000 burials.

During the Great War French railways carried men in wagons designed for either 15 horses or 40 men. In 1940 they were again used for 40 men – nationality unspecified.

Most of the cemetery memorials were destroyed after the war. This one at Fresnes survived and is now part of a farmer’s yard.

In 1940 the guards again arrived to protect each village just as in the First World War.

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