Arras – 1917

Between 9th April and 16th May 1917 the British attacked German army defences near Arras in France in a plan to engage them on open ground.

The plan was to capture the first 3 trench systems, ‘Black’, ‘Blue’, and ‘Brown’; after which the Oppy-Mericourt line was to be tackled. The final objective being the ‘Green Line’, 1,400 yards further east.

The attack commenced on 9th April, the Black Line was taken, and at 10am the advance to the Blue began. B Company 1st Hampshire suffered 20 casualties after a hit from a German shell, but Blue Line was reached ahead of schedule and no shelling hampered the advance to Brown. The wire of the Oppy-Mericourt line was reached despite shells and rifle-fire; some men cut the wire. The Hampshires made it through the wire; opposition was quickly overcome and 80 prisoners taken.

Despite this successful beginning, appalling weather conditions caused problems, especially with communications. On 11th April orders were given to secure the road running from Roeux to Gavrelle. However, the enemy’s original defenders had been replaced by reinforcements, and while 1st Hampshire gained 150 yards, they had little success the next day and remained on the front line for 3 more days before going into Divisional reserve on 16th April for 2 weeks.

Meanwhile on the 12th April, the 2nd Hampshire, part of the 29th Division, were ordered to take over Monchy le Preux. They dug an assembly trench just east of Monchy, and were relieved for 3 days’ rest in Arras.

The big attack of Arras was ordered for 23rd April, the 29th Division was to tackle Infantry Hill, and east of Monchy. The Hampshires was to support the Worcestershires, who attacked quickly and advanced nearly a mile before the suffered heavy losses. German shelling was heavy and the Hampshires eventually lost the copse. There was an unsuccessful night attack in order to recover the copse involving 40 Hampshires. By 23rd April, the final objective of the attack had not been reached.

The 1st Hampshire had been in rest, but by 3rd May they were in support of the 12th Brigade heading to Roeux. The first attack failed, and the 1st Hampshire went into reserve for 2 days, before going back on 10th May in preparation for an attack, defending the Corona Trench. ‘Zero’ was 7.30pm which caught the enemy by surprise and the Hampshire Regiment achieved its objective.