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Battle of Arras

Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge, detail.

The Mourning Father on the back steps of the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge, detail. © 2013, John Shea

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The Battle of Arras was the British component of General Nivelle's Spring Offensive of 1917. Along with the British attack, Nivelle's plan called for a second by the Canadians at Vimy Ridge. Nivelle hoped these two attacks would draw German forces away from other sectors of the front, particularly at Chemin des Dames, where his primary attack would take place a week later by French forces. Despite Operation Alberich, the German strategic retreat, he made few modifications to his plans.

At Arras, the British conducted a five day preparatory bombardment that included new ammunition designed to better cut barbed wire. Under General Allenby, the British attacked with one army April 9, at Arras. They fielded a force as large as that at the Somme a year before, but with significantly greater artillery support.

The British met with some success on the first day, advancing up to four miles. They advanced, but did not break through. Their progress slowed and losses mounted. On April 10, the British army on Allenby's right attacked, but made no headway. As German reinforcements moved in and their defenses strengthened, the British continued to try to break through in the same sector, and their losses mounted. The weather turned bad and stayed so through April 15, when Nivelle was beginning his offensive along Chemin des Dames. The last major British was on May 4, although the official end of the battle was May 17.

The British suffered 150,000 casualties in Arras; the Germans, 100,000.

Attacking the same day the British launched their offensive, the Canadians succeeded in capturing Vimy Ridge. Beginning their attack on April 16, the French failed to reach their objective in the Second Battle of the Aisne.



Battle of Arras is part of The Nivelle Offensive.

Statistics for Battle of Arras (3)

Type Statistic
Casualties, German 100,000 German casualties
Casualties, British 150,000 Casualties
Casualties 250,000 Casualties

Events within Battle of Arras (1)

Click to View Start Date End Date
Battle of Vimy Ridge 1917-04-09 1917-04-10

Some books about Battle of Arras (7)