Second Battle of Arras 1918

At 3 a.m. on August 26th 1918, in pouring rain, began one of the most decisive and little-known battles of the war. Today it is called the second Battle of Arras, or Battle of the Scarpe 1918. Confusingly, there are a proliferation of other names, explaining perhaps why it has been so unjustly neglected. Past the twin rises of Orange and Chapel Hills, past the hilltop village of Monchy-Le-Preux – the scene of hard fighting in 1917 – the Canadian Corps battled its way through a veritable maze of trench systems to ground not seen by Allied eyes since 1914. By the morning of August 30th the old British and German trench-lines had fallen, as had the Fresnes-Rouvroy Switch. Even the vaunted Hindenburg Line near Neuville-Vitasse was no longer in German hands. Receiving the first day’s news General Ludendorff was to order a withdrawal of 10 miles on a fifty-five mile front; the gains of the Spring Offensives evaporating. Of the battle itself, Field-Marshal Haig wrote: “it was the greatest victory a British army has ever achieved.” In 3 days of fighting, these 10 miles of wire, trenches and machine-gun nests along the Arras-Cambrai road had cost 5,800 casualties in the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions. And the reputedly impregnable Drocourt-Quéant Line was still to come…

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