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Second Battle of Arras - 1917

April 9 – May 16, 1917

Arras, France

Allied Powers – British Empire
Central Powers – German Empire

The French officer, Robert Nivelle, took charge of the French Army as commander in chief in December 1916. Nivelle quickly planned and launched what came to be known as the Nivelle Offensive. While the French troops concentrated on the region around the Aisne, the British troops (including the Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand troops) would launch an offensive in and around Arras and attempt to take Vimy Ridge. Control of this high ridge would place the Allies at an advantage over the Germans.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, over 30,000 soldiers of the Canadian Corps who were fighting for the BEF crossed over the No Man's Land under the cover of gunfire and stormed the Zwolfer Graben trenches. The troops soon gained more ground and steadily advanced towards Vimy Ridge. Vimy Ridge was eventually captured on April 12, 1917.

The victory of the Schwaben Tunnel came at a heavy price for the Canadian troops. The Third and Fourth Division suffered a number of casualties. The British Third Army, under the command of General Edmund Allenby, launched an attack on both sides of Arras but the Germans held their ground. The British Fifth Army and the Australian troops simultaneously attacked the German base at Bullecourt. The losses here were high. By May 14, 1917, the Allied troops gained over a mile of German territory. The battle ended on May 16, 1917.

With the fall of Vimy Ridge, the Germans retreated. Since the Second Battle of Arras was meant to be a complementary attack to the Second Battle of the Aisne, the failure of the latter ended the offensive.

In the Second Battle of Arras, the BEF recorded about 84,000 casualties and the Canadian Corps lost over 11,000 soldiers. The German casualty count reached over 75,000. The battle was a clear win for the Allies. The grander scheme, however, failed as the Nivelle Offensive resulted in huge losses for the French and in a mutiny in the French camp.

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