History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►North Africa
►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Cambrai, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Dec 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Scarpe

Scarpe was a Battle Honour granted to Canadian units participating in battles in the Arras sector in May 1917, during the battles on the Western Front during the First World War.

While the Canadians had been very successful in their capture of Vimy Ridge, British formations were still floundering as the Battle of Arras raged on. One position that proved troublesome to the British was the Arleux Loop at the village of Arleux-en-Gohelle, which lay at the end of a low spur reaching into the Hindenburg Line at Quéant (twelve miles south-east of Arras).

Allied Offensives 1917

Arras, 1917 – Vimy, 1917Arleux – Scarpe, 1917 – Hill 70 – Ypres, 1917 – Pilckem – Langemarck, 1917 – Menin Road – Polygon Wood – Broodseinde – Poelcappelle – Passchendaele – Cambrai, 1917

 

The First Battle of the Scarpe
see also main article on Vimy Ridge

The First Battle of the Scarpe began on 9 April 1917. The 1st and 3rd Armies each made gains during the battle. The Canadian Corps, fighting under the 1st Army, captured Vimy Ridge. Gains for both armies on Easter Monday, 9 April 1917, averaged 2,000 to 6,000 yards, and General Allenby, commanding the 3rd Army, was able to report 5,600 prisoners and 36 guns had been captured.

The enemy had been even more taken by surprise than at Vimy Ridge-as late as 7 April von Falkenhausen had expressed the opinion that any British attack in the German Sixth Army's sector would not take place before the big French offensive in Champagne, which French prisoners revealed was set for about 16 April. The day's tidings spoiled Ludendorff's 52nd birthday. "I had looked forward to the expected offensive with confidence", he wrote, "and was now deeply depressed."

The British attack began to run out of steam on 10 April when enemy reserves came up, and the attackers began to outpace their own artillery support. That day the 5th Army (General Gough) attempted to fight through the Hindenburg Line on the right flank of the 3rd Army. The 4th Australian Division suffered heavily at Bullecourt, fighting with tanks rather than a barrage. Despite breaching the belts of barbed wire that had been left ungapped and gaining a portion of the Hindenburg trenches, the Australians were compelled to withdraw and one brigade was nearly wiped out.

 


Scarpe Battles April-May 1917

The 3rd Army captured Monchy-le-Preux on 11 April but a planned cavalry exploitation could not materialize. The offensive made little progress until 15 April when Field-Marshal Haig halted operations. The 3rd Army had suffered over 8,000 casualties, while the Canadian Corps lost about 9,000 in the same period. German losses to the 3rd Army were 7,000 prisoners and 112 guns. The German 6th Army, with a new chief of staff, organized a new position six miles east of Arras, south of the Scarpe. A series of rotating reliefs were intended to keep the line strongly manned.

Vimy Ridge had been the highlight of the First Battle of the Scarpe, and the commander of the 1st Army attributed the success to "soundness of plan, thoroughness of preparation, dash and determination in execution, and devotion to duty on the part of all concerned". Operations at Vimy yielded more ground, more prisoners and more captured guns than any previous British offensive.

The effective use of artillery in unprecedented strength with adequate supplies of ammunition, coupled with the gaining of tactical surprise, had paid good dividends....

The Vimy operation was and remains a classic example of the deliberate attack against strong prepared positions. It was further notable in that the assaulting forces were successful in holding what they had gained, repelling counter attacks which the enemy had to make in areas dominated by the Canadian guns. In previous operations objectives had been taken at great cost, only to be lost again through failure to consolidate efficiently against the enemy's counter blows. Vimy set a new standard. At last an Allied formation had proved its ability to pass "readily from swift and sustained assault to aggressive and concerted defence".

...Yet without taking from the victors rightful credit for their success, one must charge the enemy's loss of Vimy Ridge and so much important ground to the south in large measure to his own inefficiency. Great efforts were made by the German High Command to determine the causes of the defeat. The Sixth Army Commander and his staff were blamed for having misjudged the strength and the frontage of the expected attack, and having failed to take proper measures to meet it. It was found that the opposition offered by the German artillery had been slow and inadequate during the preparatory stages, and heavy batteries available in Douai had not been brought into action against the guns supporting the attack. The resulting breakdown in communications and supply had caused local shortages of shells and machine-gun ammunition. Above all the Sixth Army, ignoring the requirement of Ludendorff's new doctrine to assemble its counterattack divisions close behind the Second Line, had held them fifteen or more miles from the battlefield to avoid their being shelled. In an appreciation shortly before the battle von Falkenhausen had expressed confidence that his front divisions would not be overrun, planning if necessary to bring forward his counter-attack formations in relief "on the evening of the second day of the battle". Both Ludendorff and Crown Prince Rupprecht (who were under no delusions as to the Allied intentions) had urged that these reserves be moved close to the battlefield,but neither had seen fit to give the Army Commander a firm order. Even after the battle opened, von Falkenhausen, as we have noted, was in no hurry to commit these divisions, two of which, held near Douai, might have reached Vimy Ridge by rail in the first four hours. He thus failed to take advantage of the opportunity presented him by the inflexible time-table which prescribed that the Canadians should take six hours to gain their final objectives.


The Second Battle of the Scarpe
See also main article on Arleux

Attacks on the Scarpe recommenced on 23 April 1917. Field-Marshal Haig's goal was to capture elements of the Hindenburg Line and push the Germans back to the Drocourt-Queant Line (new positions running south through Drocourt, five miles south-east of Lens, meeting the Hindenburg Line at Queant, 12 miles south-east of Arras.) The Nivelle offensive on the Aisne, begun a week earlier, would be aided by British pressure on the enemy.

The attack on the Scarpe by the 3rd Army was made by six divisions south of the Scarpe, and two more to the north, with an additional division of the 1 st Army. The Canadian Corps was not included in these assaults on the Oppy-Mericourt Line, as bad weather prevented artillery preparation. The 3rd Army, however, saw some of the toughest fighting it faced to date in the war. Successful advances of up to one-and-a-half miles were made. Less successful were the operations of the 1st Corps on the Souchez River. Attempting to capture the Vimy-Lens line line between the Vimy-Lens railway and Hill 65, uncut wire forced the 5th and 46th Divisions back to their starting positions. The 3rd Army repulsed a series of counter-attacks with artillery fire and close-quarters fighting. Total casualties were 10,000 British dead, wounded and missing, and 2,500 German prisoners secured.

The Germans received a five-day reprieve, during which they strengthened their positions. Two dangerous bulges in the line still existed:

In addition to the salient at the Avion Switch, the enemy front line bulged westward at the Arleux Loop to cover the village of Arleux-en-Gohelle, which lay at the end of a low spur reaching into the plain from Vimy Ridge. Farther east, extending south across the Scarpe, was the new Fresnes-Boiry switch, a little more than two miles in front of the Drocourt-Queant Line. This switch line became the next major British objective, and on the morning of 28 April Haig launched a preliminary offensive aimed at eliminating the Arleux Loop and linking together the two salients which had been formed on the 23rd by the advances north and south of the Scarpe. Three divisions of the Third Army attacked astride the river; the British 2nd Division (First Army) assaulted opposite Oppy; and on its left the 1st Canadian Division stormed the Arleux Loop. The six miles of front were being held by four German divisions, the 111th Infantry Division facing the Canadians.

The 3rd Army's attacks were mostly repulsed, due to poor British tactics. Assault plans failed to take into account the enemy's use of terrain, such as reverse slopes. The bombardment hit the Germans' forward trenches, but the German had learned to lightly hold their forward trenches. Second trenches, usually behind the crest of a rise, were manned by the bulk of the enemy garrisons, under cover of dug-outs. Two battalions of the British 12th Division ran into a reverse slope at Roeux where they no longer had the support of artillery observers, and lost 350 taken prisoner to a German counter-attack. The "only tangible success of the whole operation," in the words of the British Official History, was the Canadian attack on the Arleux Loop. Two brigades of the 1st Canadian Division attacked the German 73rd Fusilier Regiment with fire support from the 1st Division and the Corps Heavy Artillery.

There were no illusions about the difficulty of the task. Patrols sent forward on 27 April had reported the German wire only partially destroyed by our artillery, and it was known that the enemy had an "unusually large number of machine-guns" and was constructing a support line behind the Loop. Defending the Arleux Loop was the 73rd Fusilier Regiment of the 111th Division. Recent operations had demonstrated the German tactics of delivering counter-attacks in great strength within a short time of the assaulting troops' arrival on the objective. Artillery barrages were therefore arranged to meet such a counter-attack, and the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, which was in reserve, was ordered to reconnoitre covered approaches for moving up reinforcements. Special patrols of No. 16 Squadron R.F.C. were to watch for signs of a counter blow. At 4:25 a.m. on the 28th three Canadian battalions assaulted on a front of 2600 yards-the 8th on the right, the 10th in the centre, and the 5th on the left.

The 8th Battalion, attacking over a low rise into Arleux, was hit by considerable machine-gun fire from the village and the woods to the south. Although the centre company was held up by wire' and lost all its officers, those on the left and right reached their objectives on schedule, a line midway between Arleux and Fresnoy (a village one thousand yards to the east). After repeated efforts to advance, the company in the centre, reinforced by officers and men from the battalion reserve, succeeded in clearing the village. A strongpoint was established on the right flank in time to break up a threatened counter-attack against the left of the 2nd British Division. The 10th Battalion, advancing through the northern outskirts of Arleux astride the road towards Drocourt, though held up on the right by fire from the village, cleaned up the opposition and reached its objective in good time. On the brigade left three hard-fighting companies of the 5th Battalion overcame spirited resistance and linked up with the other battalions. Unfortunately the 2nd Canadian Division's 25th Battalion, advancing on the northern flank, had halted before a sunken road only 300 yards from the start line, mistaking it for a more distant objective; as a result the 5th Battalion's left company found itself badly enfiladed by machine-gun fire and was forced to form a defensive flank short of its goal.

Despite

Except for this check the 2nd Brigade had gained all its objectives by 6:00 a.m.

During the afternoon elements of supporting battalions came forward to reinforce against

possible counter-attack. The enemy's movements were in full view of our artillery

observers, and two attempts to dislodge the Canadians were broken up by shelling and

small-arms fire. Deciding that the exposed Arleux salient would have to be abandoned,

the commander of the German 111th Division cancelled further counter-attacks and

withdrew his troops to the Oppy-Mericourt line in front of Fresnoy.9 On the left the 25th

Battalion completed its advance. By taking full advantage of ground better suited to an

attack than that on the British front the Canadians had turned the Arleux Loop into a

small salient facing eastward some 400 yards from the enemy's next line of resistance.

Canadian casualties in the operation approached the thousand mark; some 450 Germans

had been captured.10


 

The Third Battle of the Scarpe, 3-4 May 1917

By the last week of April the British Commander-in-Chief had good reason to expect that the French offensive on the Aisne would soon be abandoned. If this happened, it would be pointless and even dangerous for him to continue his advance with an open right flank. Yet Haig had not yet attained a "good defensive line",11 and to suspend all activity on the Western Front would seriously affect the offensive plans of Russia and Italy. The hoped for rupture of the hostile front having failed to materialize, it was a case of returning to wearing-down tactics. Haig decided to maintain limited pressure at the Scarpe until about the middle of May. Whether he would subsequently resume the offensive here on a larger scale,* or open a new one in Flanders, would depend on the outcome of the French operations. In a letter to General Robertson on 1 May, however, Sir Douglas declared his intention of reducing his efforts for the next few weeks, preparatory to beginning preliminary operations in Flanders.13

* The Commanders of the Fourth and Fifth Armies were now directed to prepare plans for a major attack towards

Cambrai—the genesis of the offensive launched seven months later by the Third Army (below, p. 333)12 As we have seen, Nivelle's offensive on the Aisne continued until the second week of May. On 3 May the British resumed their attacks astride the Scarpe, not only to support the French, but also because their present position was not one that could be held securely or economically. The scope of the new operation—an attack by three armies on a front of fourteen miles-seems strangely out of keeping with the C.-in-C.'s declared intention of limiting his efforts. Army Commanders were told that their advance to the "good defensive line" which formed the objective should be deliberate-with consolidation to be completed by 15 May. Attainment of this goal would involve the capture of Lens and the towns and villages on which the Oppy-Mericourt and Fresnes-Boiry positions were based. For the opening attack the First Army's objectives were Fresnoy and Oppy; the line to be taken by the Third and Fifth Armies would require advances of up to a mile from their existing positions. The operations of the First and Third Armies, known as the Third Battle of the Scarpe, were over in 24 hours; those of the Fifth Army, in the Battle of Bullecourt, lasted two weeks. The results were disappointing and the losses heavy. As usual, surprise was impossible except for concealing the actual timing of the attack, and the enemy was constantly on the alert. Both the artillery preparation and the plan of attack followed conventional lines, ignoring the lessons of recent fighting and the fact that copies of Ludendorff's and von Lossberg's textbooks-prescribing defence of a deep zone rather than a trench line-had been in British hands for some time.14 In an unfortunate attempt to compromise between his army and corps commanders, some of whom wanted to attack on the night of 3-4 May, others at first light, Haig set zero hour at 3:45 a.m. on the 3rd too late to offer the advantages of a night operation, and too early for a proper daylight attack.15 An almost full moon had set only sixteen minutes earlier, silhouetting the assembling troops. Thus warned, the enemy reacted with heavy fire which caused serious loss and confusion before the attack started. As the infantry crossed no man's land they were met by counter-barrages which disorganized movement, inflicted considerable casualties, and cut off the assaulting units from those in support. Machine-gun and rifle fire from between the trench lines raked the leading troops, so that even those who reached their objectives in sufficient strength to wrest them from the enemy were frequently too weak, without reinforcement, to hold them against local counter-attacks.16

Except on the flanks of the attacking armies the offensive was a virtually complete failure. On the extreme right the 1st Anzac Corps (Fifth Army) made a small breach in the Hindenburg Line east of Bullecourt, in four days' fighting enlarging it to 550 yards deep and 4000 wide. The Australians routed a succession of determined counter-attacks, smashing the last and largest on the 15th. Failing to regain any of their lost ground, the Germans subsequently left Bullecourt itself in Allied hands. The Third Army's sole gain meanwhile was an advance on 3 May of 500 yards by one brigade on a 1000-yard front immediately south of the Scarpe. North of the river the 13th Corps (First Army) seized and held a narrow strip all along its front, and the Canadian Corps captured Fresnoy—"the relieving feature", writes the British Official Historian, "of a day which many who witnessed it considered the blackest of the War".17

The entire period March-April 1917 had been a bad one for the Royal Flying Corps, but May was to see a marked improvement in the air situation. Most writers seek to account for this change in terms of equipment-the arrival of new fighters comparable if not superior to the German Albatros. Yet only a few such machines reached the front before midsummer, and at first these impressed neither their own crews nor the enemy. Part of the reason for the improvement was that British pilots, having survived early encounters with the Albatros, learned how to handle their 1916-pattern machines to the best advantage and so developed confidence in them. Furthermore, at the end of April the enemy began to improvise massed formations of twenty or more fighters, and thus localized his efforts. The immediate answer to the "circuses", as these large brightly coloured formations were called, was to keep aloft increasing numbers of five-man flights. Successive groups of that size, it was found, could exert more influence on the "dogfight" than the same total number involved continuously from the outset; they were more manageable, and their striking power grew while that of the circuses tended to dwindle.18

 
Battle Honours

The Battle Honour "Scarpe" was awarded to units for participation in these actions.

Notes

  1. Nicholson, Official History

  2. Ibid

  3. Ibid


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