Talk:Battle of Arras (1917)

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Subsidiary battles/actions[edit]

1914-1918.net divides the Battle of Arras as follows:

  • The Battle of Vimy, April 9-12, 1917
  • The First Battle of the Scarpe - 9th - 14th April 1917
  • The Battle(s) of Bullecourt - 11th April - 16th June 1917
  • The Second Battle of the Scarpe - 23rd - 24th April 1917
  • The Battle of Arleux - 28th - 29th April 1917
  • The Third Battle of the Scarpe - 3rd - 4th May 1917
  • The Flanking Operations Towards Lens - 3rd June - 26th August 1917

Subsidiary actions are listed under each of these (http://www.1914-1918.net/bat18.htm ). I think that might be a useful structure for us to start with(?) Grant | Talk 04:11, 14 April 2007 (UTC)

That's kind of what I've been working with, although the last section (Flanking operations towards Lens) technically falls outside the dates of this particular campaign, which is generally considered to have ended after the Third battle of the Scarpe in early May. Carom 17:42, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Added section[edit]

i have added on to the section on the Second Battle of Bullecourt to include the fact that this Village WAS taken, which to me looked unfinished or not properly explained.Bullseye30 (talk) 20:44, 12 February 2014 (UTC)

British Victory[edit]

Was the Battle of Arras an actual British Victory. Many sources and authors, including Ted Barris and Pierre Burton and another British author whom I can't remember the name of right now, have labeled the Battle of Arras as a tactical and strategic stalemate, with the only real brightspot being Vimy Ridge [4 Canadian Divisions and 1 British Brigade]. Could someone double check this. I'd always thought that the whole campaign ended as another stalemate.

Climie.ca 16:11, 19 April 2007 (UTC) Cam

Well, it should be remembered that the actual purpose of the assault was not really to achieve a breakthrough. Although Haig and other British commanders desperately hoped for such a result, the real intent was to draw German troops away from the sectors of the front directly opposing Nivelle's planned offensive. In this respect, Arras was wildly successful, as the Germans nearly doubled the number of troops in the sector (see Hew Strachan's book The First World War, page 245 or so - I don't have it in front of me right now).
In addition to the capture of Vimy Ridge by the Candians, British troops also made some fairly significant gains (included some important strategic gains) south of Vimy - Vimy Ridge was important, but it was hardly the only bright spot.
Recent scholarship (Strachan, Keegan and others) indicate that the overall result is a British victory, mainly based on the gains of the first two days (which Keegan refers to as a "British triumph"). Given that 1) the offensive succeeded in its primary goal, 2) the British and Canadian troops were able to make some important strategic gains and 3) recent historical opinion seems to indicate a prevailing opinion that the battle was a victory for the British (and Candians, etc.), I don't see any problem classifying this as a victory. It may not have been overwhelming or decisive, but I think its fair to say that the British, etc. won (insofar as anybody "won" anything on the Western Front between 1914 and the spring of 1918). Carom 16:36, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

Than maybe we should put it in a way like the Somme was, where it was a tactical stalemate, but a strategic allied/british victory, since that's basically what every major battle of WWI was anyways...Just a thought... Climie.ca 03:26, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Heh, it's a fair point. I'll change the infobox to be more reflective of the situation. Carom 13:20, 27 April 2007 (UTC)
I've changed it to tactical stalemate and strategic british victory, since although the British managed to achieve their objectives, it did not give them 1)The breakthrough that Haig hoped for, 2)The British were in no position to further exploit their victory. —The preceding Climie.ca (talk)
Not to be argumentative, but what Climie just described would be the other way around - a tactical victory, but a strategic stalemate. Esseh 00:16, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

GA Nominee[edit]

I've looked this article over, and I believe that this article is good enough to be classified as GA. I've placed it on the nominee page. this is an extremely well written article, and many people have obviously put a great deal of work into it. Climie.ca 23:22, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

I reviewed the article, some notes:
  • Well written and very informative
  • Sufficient images
  • Referenced
  • Relatively stable, though small edits are made almost daily.
  • NPOV, but emphasis on the British seems a bit too strong overall. Germans appear impersonal, faceless and passive. Especially the last "Victoria Crosses awarded" chapter seems out of place and should be reformulated.
IMO, passing GA is fine if the last note is taken into consideration. --Drieakko 20:17, 22 May 2007 (UTC)
I have no problem removing the list of VC recipients, a link to the main VC listing for WWI should suffice. Carom 20:25, 22 May 2007 (UTC)
How then does one identity the 25 recipients from this battle? The WWI section doesn't x-ref by battle: all 630-odd WWI VCs are lumped together into one category. A Battle of Arras (1917) Victoria Cross recipients article might be the way forward. Roger 06:03, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
I've created VCs of the First World War - Arras & Vimy Ridge (1917) and stuck the data there. I'll add a ref in the article. Roger 06:44, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
Neat solution, the ultimate result should probably to expand this categorization to cover all the VC's awarded, organized by battle/campaign. Carom 12:18, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
If possible, I'd have a section for the aftermath of the battle in respective countries and how the public reaction was to it. VC listing would be fine in that context, with British clearly seeing it as a victory of sort. --Drieakko 20:30, 22 May 2007 (UTC)
And yet and yet, the issuing of VCs was (and still is) generally a propaganda act. It gave HMG feel-good stuff to feed the press. The context is that Arras was the only battle that remotely ressembled a victory after a long series of costly defeats (or, at best, stalemates). VCs were inevitable. Roger 06:03, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
I've removed the section, I'll look into ways to reformulate the content. Carom 20:32, 22 May 2007 (UTC)
Removing it on POV (!?) grounds is, in my opinion, an exceedingly dangerous and rather strange path to go down. Simply because we have no balancing information readily available does not mean that the hard facts we do have should be suppressed. For instance, mentioning Allied casualties (because the Allied original records are intact} and being vague about the Central Powers ones (because the original records are incomplete) is not a POV statement. It merely reflects available information. Roger 06:03, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
Well, the information isn't really neccessary here (not that it's not useful elsewhere). POV is perhaps the wrong term - although NPOV concerns have been raised in two places now. I suspect that this would be a problem going forward (lists of awards are, I believe, extremely uncommon in battle/campaign articles), and I don't know if it's a battle worth fighting, considering there are likely to be many others on the way to FA-Class. As I said above, neat solution. Carom 12:18, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

GA review[edit]

I finalized the GA review for the article. I had earlier put the GA nomination on hold for some NPOV issues. Overall findings:

1. Well written?: Very balanced writing with no apparent struggles with grammar or syntax.
2. Factually accurate?: Seems correct, no glitches that would draw my attention. Referenced throughout.
3. Broad in coverage?: Preface, background, developments during the battle and aftermath all well balanced.
4. Neutral point of view?: This is still an issue, though not as much as when I last had an eye on this. All references are British or American, apparently no German sources have been applied. This is still partly reflected in the text, that rather clearly has a British POV, however in a quite neutral way. If FA status were interesting, broadening the reference base with German POV is something to consider.
5. Article stability? Plenty of small edits, mainly polishing. No major disputes in the air.
6. Images?: Good images and well positioned.

Passing GA. Added the article to Wikipedia:Good_articles#Conflicts.2C_battles_and_military_exercises. --Drieakko 17:25, 29 May 2007 (UTC)

"This" and copy edit[edit]

I am currently doing a copy edit of this page. I have noticed one particular problem pop up repeatedly: "this" is used without a reference or an unclear referent. Perhaps one of the editors might go through the page and fix this problem. It is hard to fix as a copy editor unless the referent is explicitly clear. Awadewit | talk 04:18, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

I've fixed, I believe, all the internal question issues. Just to be on the safe side, I've removed all the thisses. ROGER TALK 08:52, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the comment - I will look at this tomorrow evening. Carom 05:20, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, I was already well advanced when I read this. ROGER TALK 08:52, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
No worries - this is a collaborative effort, after all! Carom 15:04, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

"Counterattack" vs. "counter-attack"[edit]

Another small issue: sometimes "counterattack" is hyphenated and sometimes it is not. The editors should decide whether or not to use the hyphen and then apply the decision consistently. Awadewit | talk 04:23, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

Hyphens gone. ROGER TALK 13:05, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

"Attack"[edit]

There is some diction in this article that seems to repeat a lot (e.g. "attack," "planned," "assault"). These should be replaced with a greater variety of words. My military diction is not very wide, so I wasn't exactly sure what to use. Awadewit | talk 04:51, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

This is a tricky one. The entire focus of the article is a battle, its umpteen sub-battles, and the planning that went in them. Under these circumstances, repetition is inevitable. I'm not sure how many synonyms/euphemisms can be used without it becoming laboured or faintly risible. I'll see what be done with recasting on my next revise (I'll be adding more German-perspective stuff later today) but I'm not that hopeful. ROGER TALK 09:40, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

Comments[edit]

After doing the copy edit, I have a couple of comments on the article (which I thought was, in general, very good):

  • The article was focused on the Allied perspective. Although to some degree this is inevitable because they were on the offensive, I felt that the Germans were barely mentioned. The names of their divisions and commanders, for example, are given much less attention than those of the Allies. Also, did any Germans win awards for valor? I'm not quite sure why only the Allied awards are reported.
  • Many of the subsections of the article are quite small. While they seemed like logical breakdowns, a subsection that is only 2-3 sentences long also makes the page look scanty, even if it isn't. Appearances can be important.
  • While I appreciated all of the background information, I felt that it outweighed the actual information on the battle. I wonder if the editors should add more on the battle itself or reduce the amount of information presented on the historical background and the planning. (I would vote for adding information on the battle.)
  • To assist the reader in understanding the sweep of the battle, it would be helpful to begin each large section (such as First Phase and Second Phase) with a summary of what is to come.
  • Tiny thing: A few of the references need more information. Awadewit | talk 04:51, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

In paragraph order:

  1. I'm aware of this: it's a long-standing problem and is one of the reasons why the German daily newspapers were quoted. This is partly due to the paucity of quality information from the German side. Many Imperial German World War I records were destroyed during World War II; Ludendorff's memoirs contain scant comment (it was not one of his finest moments so he did not dwell on it); and Von Lossberg's have been out of print for 50 years and were only published in German. I could flesh it out considerably from my own research but WP:NOR prohibits that. I did however pick up a book up in Paris recently which casts more light on German activity. I'll use this for the citations I've flagged as missing in my last edit. Regarding medals, von Lossberg was subsequently promoted and no doubt thousands of Iron Crosses were handed out but broadly the Germans awarded the major medals for success to commanders rather than valour. (The major exception to this was the issue of Pour le Mérites to low-ranking flying aces.)
  • There is nothing written by historians? Awadewit | talk 08:35, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Nothing detailed, that I'm aware of. The definitive work is Cheerful Sacrifice and information on the sub-battles is rather patchy, though as I said gallantry award citations do go into details but provide a very partial picture. There will be extensive material in the individual regimental war diaries/returns; written up, usually in indelible pencil, every three hours as the battles unfold for despatch to division, corps. These are available at the National War Museum and Public Records office but the problem is that the selective application of primary sources is certainly original research. There are also published regimental and divisional histories but most of these have been out of print for decades and are, to all intents and purposes, unavailable. ROGER TALK 11:43, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Too bad. Accepted. Awadewit | talk 08:14, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
  1. Agreed, but there's only so much detail you can meaningfully give about battles without resorting to accounts from medal citations and mentions in despatches. As this is available for the Allies but not for the Germans, it would push the balance even more out of kilter.
  1. This is one of those battles were the background is perhaps more important that the battlefield activity. It had many genuinely innovative features which were important in achieving early success.
  • Fine. As long as there is a logic to it. Awadewit | talk 08:35, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
  1. Indeed. A greater understanding will also come from a custom-made map, which is being worked on.
  • That would be nice. Awadewit | talk 08:35, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Depends how lurid the colours are :)))))ROGER TALK 11:43, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
  1. Could you explain what you mean here please?
ROGER TALK 08:17, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
References with problems:
  • Lupfer, Timothy T. The Dynamics of Doctrine: The Change in German Tactical Doctrine during the First World War. 1981 Combat Studies Institute, Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. - No date of publication and no retrieval date.
  • New Zealand Defence Force website: Arras Tunnellers Memorial press release. - No author, no date, no retrieval date. I think press releases are usually cited somewhat differently than this. Something like: Author. "Arras Tunnellers Memorial Press Release." www.nzdf.mil.nz/news. Retrieved on [date]." With a link to the news release in the title itself. Something like that.
  • Sheffield, Gary. Forgotten Victory: The First World War - Myths and Realities. (Review, 2002). - Review of what? Published where? Awadewit | talk 08:35, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Comments:
  1. Lupfer. Published 1981. Perhaps Carom could do his retrieval dates?
  2. Press releases rarely attribute authors but thanks very much for the thought.
  3. Review is the name of publisher. Place of publication is optional WP:REF.
ROGER TALK 11:43, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Ah, I see. Well, to avoid such confusion (I thought it was an actual review of a book), perhaps you should include the location? It is a courtesy to the reader. Also, most interlibrary loan requests, for example, require the place of publication for an order to be placed. (For an obscure press, it is even more important, I think, to provide all the information one can.) Awadewit | talk 08:14, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
Point taken (after all your efforts it would be churlish to do otherwise). Anyhow, I've standardised the references a bit, clarifying publishers and locations where necessary, and, for the UK ones, added ISBNs. ROGER TALK 09:28, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

I don't want to be overly picky either, I assure you. I just had someone opposing an FAC I prepared almost single-handedly on dashes and dates. Awadewit | talk 10:37, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

Good grief! Perhaps WP:BURO is your friend here. ROGER TALK 13:05, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm not sure that applies to articles. It doesn't look like it. Too bad. I definitely need something like that. It's getting crazy at the FAC. Awadewit | talk 22:26, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
I've added access dates (as best I can) for the two web references, as requested - it appears everything else has been taken care of by Roger! Other than the addition of a shiny map (courtesy of Roger), is there anything else we should look at before testing the FAC waters? Carom 17:25, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm not a manual of style expert, so I can't say, but I would spend a day checking the article against the MOS. That way the editors can be sure that they can justify every last comma. Sad, but true. Awadewit | talk 21:16, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

Congrats[edit]

Congratulations on getting the article to Featured status. I look forward to seeing it on the Main Page :) GeeJo (t)(c) • 16:59, 27 July 2007 (UTC)

I concure. A lot of effot has gone into this page. Carom and Roger have done themselves proud.

Cam 18:50, 17 August 2007 (UTC)

I third the notion. Well done!—RJH (talk) 16:19, 11 November 2009 (UTC)

Page move[edit]

I have just seen the recent page move. This was no doubt done in good faith but it is normal practice to discuss moves of mature pages on their talk page prior to doing them. The literature–including the source you edited (see Nicholson, Chapter 8, p 250) and the Canadian Veterans' Affairs fact sheet–unanimously calls it the "Battle of Arras". I strongly object to the page rename. --ROGER DAVIES talk 17:58, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Moved back. Woody (talk) 19:27, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Nicholson P.244 speaks directly to the subject and says Battles of Arras. P.250 says Battle of Arras, but just in passing. Context matters.LeadSongDog (talk) 03:58, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

New museum[edit]

Should we mention the opening of the underground Carrière Wellington museum (on 15 Feb 2008) in this article? Here is a media release about it Jamie Mackay (talk) 09:44, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

No other memorial or museum is presently in the article. Reasonable choices would appear to be to add the largest one, all of them, or just all major ones (which then opens the discussion of which are sufficiently notable). I'd suggest its better if the museum has a dedicated article of its own that can demonstrate notability. See Vimy Memorial for an example.LeadSongDog (talk) 14:27, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Conclusion[edit]

Hmmmm, so both sides sacked their commander. Falkenhausen for the defeat and Allenby for the success! Then Lossberg saved the day. I think this is contemporary propaganda. Could Falken' use 'elastic defence' on Vimy Ridge? Could elastic defence make a difference on the lower ground in the south? Did Falken' have his reserves too far back? If so did this preserve them from being caught in the bombardment? Had he held them closer could it be that he would have been blamed for losing them in the iniial British advance? Presumably defence of the Ridge was the German defensive 'schwerpunkt'. What resources did Falken' have left? Lossberg rolls up but so do lots of reinforcements which give him more means to hamper the British advance. Suspiciously good timing to put responsibility for a severe defeat on one man and responsibility for 'stabilising' the situation on another. Isn't this a common bureacratic dodge to contain accountability? This succeeds in stopping the British advance but only at the cost of expending German infantry and artillery at an unsustainable rate.

Falken' gets the sack for lack of hindsight, Allenby gets the sack to take the blame for high losses (which were inevitable, particularly once the attack continued for political reasons) and for the lack of a breakthrough which was never on (with the French army in turmoil and Nivelle getting Limoge perhaps Haig got his retaliation in first to forestall Mr George, like the sacking of Gough in 1918). So a long war goes on, consuming huge numbers of men and material and the leaders resort to strategems to evade the odium of the human cost of the policy of victory or bust. Allenby and Falken' become rhetorical casualties as the high command plays for time. Subsequent historians add to the misleading impression by using a 'breakthrough' or a 'manoeuvre' model anachronistically and marking generals accordingly. Surely the German high command reacted to the materialschlacht unleashed at Arras with horror and a sense that time was running out? Keith-264 (talk) 12:30, 27 October 2008 (UTC)

Can you substantiate any of these assertions? Carom (talk) 06:33, 23 November 2008 (UTC)

They are questions leading to a hypothesis. Can you shed light on it?Keith-264 (talk) 09:36, 23 November 2008 (UTC)

It's not clear to me what, precisely, you are hoping to accomplish. It is possible that your hypothesis is correct, but I do not believe that the evidence necessary to support such conclusions is readily available. Furthermore, several of your questions, while appearing in the guise of links in a logical chain, are rather assertions that are not necessarily supportable without a greater knowledge of the particular culture of, for example, the German High Command. There may be scholarly work on this topic - I confess my own interests have shifted somewhat later in the century, and I am not as well-informed about the most recent work on the war as I was two years ago. Ultimately, though, the questions you raise seem purely academic - interesting, and perhaps even fruitful, for debate and inquiry - of little current use in improving or expanding the article. Carom (talk) 06:27, 22 January 2009 (UTC)

Try harder [;-) or look at 'German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich Von Falkenhayn and the Development of Attrition, 1870-1916' by RT Foley for a view of the war that challenges the 'mud, blood and poetry' school by incorporating scholarly work of the last 25 years or so. D G Herrmann and D Stevenson are also useful on the reality behind the short-war illusion and the fantasy of low casualties in industrial wars. Incorporating their views would substantially alter the 'beauty contest' approach to Great War generalship which (in my view) rests on anachronistic criteria. Thanks for replyingKeith-264 (talk) 13:18, 22 January 2009 (UTC)

Prussia/Bavaria?[edit]

I see that in the box, "German Empire" is broken down in "Prussia" and "Bavaria", while in other places not. Is this right? Bavaria was not a separate entity at the time, like Canada and Australia were. 200.222.3.3 (talk) 16:27, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Siegfried Sassoon[edit]

I see no reference to Siegfried Sassoon's famous poem "The General" which makes a direct reference to the battle of Arras. Surely it is worth a mention here? Bjmullan (talk) 23:11, 11 November 2009 (UTC)

Prelude[edit]

The Somme a 'costly failure'? A costly success surely? Which side was bled most grievously in 1916, the Entente or the Central Powers? The Austro-Hungarian army was nearly destroyed by Brusilov and the German strategy for victory in 1916 was left in tatters by the failure of the Verdun offensive to destroy France's offensive capacity and the unexpected success of Britain's new model army in forcing the Germans off the commanding ground north of the Somme while the Germans failed to do this to the French at Verdun. 'Win-lose' thinking seems to me to be unhelpful when the war was being fought on three fronts; 'cost-benefit' seems much more fruitful. All the contenders lost heavily in 1916 and Germany was least able to bear it.Keith-264 (talk) 12:55, 24 January 2010 (UTC)

Significant Inaccuracy[edit]

The sections Creeping barrage and Counter Battery contain assorted errors. The CB one can be sorted out fairly easily (the description of flash spotting is utter tosh). The creeping barrage description seems to contain considerable poetic licence and misundstanding of artillery tactics. It appears that the authors are confused into thinking that all artillery fire was a creeping barrage or that all barrage was creeping. Nfe (talk) 04:01, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

C.S. Lewis was not among the casualties of the spring 1917 Battle of Arras, nor even among those present. In his autobiographical "Surprised by Joy", Lewis says he arrived at the front on his 19th birthday in November 1917, "and was wounded at Mt. Bernenchon, near Lillers, in April, 1918." Bill Befort (talk) 20:17, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

British victory[edit]

I don't think the result should say 'indecisive', this battle was an unmitigated success of British imperial forces. They made significant advances across the front and achieved all of their objectives; as well as making some significant progress in tactical doctrine. The only thing that was a failure was the French offensiveBen200 (talk) 23:28, 19 September 2011 (UTC) True but this wasn't decisive, it was another battle which left the German army less able to withstand the next one.Keith-264 (talk) 13:46, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

In the south, British and Australian forces were frustrated by the elastic defence and made only minimal gains[edit]

Really? The front line at the end of the battle had been advanced most south of Arras. The Fifth Army mainly acted to hold German troops, while it was being depleted to reinforce the armies further north and the Second Army in Flanders. See sketch 23 OH 1917 I, p. 522.Keith-264 (talk) 01:07, 24 January 2013 (UTC)

Impact[edit]

"Although historians generally consider the battle a British victory, in the wider context of the front, it had very little impact on the strategic or tactical situation" shouldn't there be a reference to the Nivelle Offensive of which it was a part?Keith-264 (talk) 13:03, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

Oppy Wood[edit]

Added a "see also" for Capture of Oppy Wood to the paragraph on the 3rd Scarpe.Keith-264 (talk) 11:20, 25 September 2013 (UTC)

Nivelle[edit]

It took a while to find the pages associated with the Nivelle Offensive but I have in mind making this page the main one about the development of the Allied strategy for early 1917 and the aftermath and the other pages Battle of Arras (1917), Second Battle of the Aisne, Battle of the Hills for the details of the military operations. I did a campaign boxes to tie the pages together. Arras is pretty complete but the other two suffer from lack of English sources. I've gleaned enough to double the material on each page and added material from Tactical development on the Western Front in 1917 but there's very little about the German defence of the Aisne. If anyone has suggestions for English-language sources I'd be grateful.Keith-264 (talk) 18:11, 12 October 2013 (UTC)

German casualties[edit]

Found the details in the GOH but used sfn's as that's the only thing I know; change to parentheticals if desired.Keith-264 (talk) 16:34, 4 March 2014 (UTC)

p.272 the losses of the used divisions had been heavy and had excelled of the German side by far. Till the end of April they amounted to 78,000 men, till the end of May another 64,000 men came, so that the total losses of the fights rose with Arras on 142,000, that is for every division used to the attack) see 416.2) German losses p. 276 and the following.

  • 1-10 Apr = 28,000
  • 11-20 = 10,600
  • 21-30 = 19,800
  • 1-10 May = 18,300
  • 11-20 = 10,700

21-31 = 4,800.Keith-264 (talk) 16:52, 4 March 2014 (UTC)