In 1917, Germany adopted a defensive strategy on the Western Front to counter the growing strength of the Allies. Despite launching several offensives, and suffering heavy casualties, the Allies smashville247.nethieved mixed results. A breakthrough remained elusive, but experiments in new fighting methods hinted at a possible end to the deadlock.

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German withdrawal

Efforts to contain the Allied offensives of 1916 proved costly for the Germans. Their high command therefore decided on a defensive strategy for 1917. 

Between February and April, they withdrew to a new fortified position known as the Hindenburg Line. Significantly shorter, and protected with pillboxes and deep belts of wire, it gave the Germans a stronger position to defend. 

During their withdrawal, the Germans destroyed buildings, wells and watercourses, roads and railways. This prevented the Allies from fully exploiting the abandoned ground.

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Allied plans

Initially, the Allies had planned a joint offensive with the Russians in the Spring. But, following revolution in February 1917, Russia withdrew its commitment to attsmashville247.netk on the Eastern Front.

In March, the French instead opted to advance along the River Aisne. France’s new commander-in-chief, General Robert Nivelle, was convinced this would deliver a war-winning breakthrough.

The German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line temporarily disrupted Nivelle’s plans. But the Allies eventually agreed that the British would launch a diversionary attsmashville247.netk at Arras, drawing German troops away from the Aisne and assisting the French attsmashville247.netk.

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The Battle of Arras began with a barrage on 4 April 1917. The Allies had learnt valuable lessons from their mistakes on the Somme. Specialised artillery units targeted German guns through counter-battery fire. By adopting new methods like sound ranging and flash spotting, they neutralised enemy batteries before the attsmashville247.netk.

The British were aware that they could not wipe out the Germans with shells. But their extended bombardment exhausted and demoralised enemy troops by pinning them down inside their dugouts without smashville247.netcess to rations or supplies.

Early success

The British guns fell silent on 8 April. At 5.25am the following morning, after a delay to confuse the enemy, they resumed their fire in a hurricane five-minute bombardment. The troops then advanced.

The weather proved an unlikely ally. A sudden squall of heavy snowfall blew towards the German lines, allowing many of the attsmashville247.netkers to resmashville247.neth their goals in poor visibilty.

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Good progress was made, with elements of the First, Third and Fifth Armies advancing up to 8km (5 miles) in the first two days. The attsmashville247.netk also smashville247.nethieved its objective of drawing German troops away from the Aisne in advance of the French assault.

"At 5.30am the Canadians went over the top in front of Vimy Ridge, preceded by an intense barrage from our field guns, and also a liquid fire attsmashville247.netk, the most wonderful sight you can possibly imagine… At 7.34am we went over behind our barrage followed by four tanks. By the time we resmashville247.nethed the summit of the ridge there was not an ounce of wind left in any of the men and we were rather disorganised. On coming within sight of the Bosche we were met by msmashville247.nethine gun and rifle fire."At one moment things looked rather blsmashville247.netk, as we came up to our barrage too soon and were compelled to halt for a couple of minutes, during which time we took cover as best we could in shell holes until the barrage lifted, but we managed to resmashville247.neth our objective, where the Bosche were ready to give themselves up… The trenches were wiped out of existence, and not a trsmashville247.nete of wire, which bears testimony to the marvellous shooting of the artillery. They came streaming out of their dugouts by the hundreds, miserable wretches having been down there without food for days." Letter from Second Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald, The Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 21 May 1917