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View of the South African Memorial in Delville Wood, Longueval, France.

View of the South African Memorial in Delville Wood, Longueval, France. © 2013 John M. Shea

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Thursday, April 12, 1917

"From where I was sitting in a half-dug German Reserve trench, the noise of the German machine guns was completely inaudible and, as I watched, the ranks of the Highlanders were thinned out and torn apart by an inaudible death that seem[ed] to strike them from nowhere. It was peculiarly horrible to watch: the bright day, the little scudding clouds and these frightened men dying in clumps in a noiseless battle."

Quotation Context

Artillery subaltern Richard Talbot-Kelly writing of the April 12, 1917 advance of the 4th South African Scottish Battalion on the Chemical Works of Roeux, held by a strong German force with 30 machine guns. The Seaforth Highlanders and 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers had tried to capture it the day before. The Highlanders lost all 12 officers and 363 of 420 other ranks. On the 12th, the South Africans, rather than taking the road that had proven so deadly the day before, advanced 1,800 yards down a 'slope in full view of the enemy.' The British were unprepared for their success on April 9, the first day of the Battle of Arras, a day that included the capture of Vimy Ridge and an advance of up to three and a half miles. Some commanders seem to have tried to compensate for their inaction on April 10 with commands in the following days that were little short of criminal.


Cheerful Sacrifice: The Battle of Arras, 1917 by Jonathan Nicholls, page 163, copyright © Jonathan Nicholls [1990 repeatedly renewed through] 2011, publisher: Pen and Sword, publication date: 2010


1917-04-12, 1917, April, Battle of Arras, Arras, Chemical Works of Roeux, Chemical Works, Roeux, South African Scottish, South African, South African Memorial