While the 2nd Battle of Ypres was taking place, the French Commander-in-Chief, Joseph Joffre, decided to try and break through German lines on the Western Front at Artois. After a five-day preliminary bombardment of German positions, Henri-Philippe Petain and 9th Army launched an attack on 9th May, 1915. Petain initially made good progress but was unable to take the main objective, Vimy Ridge. General Sir Douglas Haig, who led an attack at Neuve Chapelle at the same time, also failed to make a serious break through.

On 25th September Anglo-French forces launched another offensive at Artois. General Auguste Dubail and the French Tenth Army made some progress and one division managed to reach the crest of Vimy Ridge on 29th September. However, Count Prince Rupprecht and the German Sixth Army made sure that the French made no long-term gains.

General Sir Douglas Haig, and the British First Army, attacked at Loos. By the end of the first day the British troops were on the outskirts of Lens. Strong counter-attacks by the Germans forced the British back. When a second British attack suffered heavy losses on 13th October, Sir John French, decided to being an end to the Artois-Loos offensive. The campaign cost the British Expeditionary Force 50,000 casualties. The French lost 48,000 and the Germans about 24,000.

The results of our attacks on Sunday last in the districts of Fromelles and Richebourg were disappointing. We found the enemy much more strongly posted than we expected. We had not sufficient high explosive to level his parapets to the ground. When our infantry gallantly stormed the trenches, as they did in both attacks, they found a garrison undismayed, many entanglements still intact, and Maxims on all sides ready to pour in streams of bullets. The attacks were well planned and valiantly conducted. The infantry did splendidly, but the conditions were too hard. The want of an unlimited supply of high explosives was a fatal bar to our success.

Blanche of Artois

Philip IV with sons Charles and Philip and daughter Isabella on his right and his heir, Louis and brother, Charles of Valois, on his left

In the early years of the 14th Century, scandal rocked the French monarchy to its core and inadvertently contributed to the end of the Capetian dynasty.

1314 was a tumultuous year for France the final act in the destruction of the Knights Templars was played out when Grand Master, Jacques de Molay and the Preceptor of Normandy, Geoffrey de Charney, were burned to death on the Ile de la Cite.

De Molay is said to have cursed Philip IV, King of France, and his descendants from the flames. Philip IV would be dead within a year and his dynasty’s rule over France would end with the death of his youngest son, Charles IV, in 1328.

Philip’s eldest son and heir, Louis, was married to Marguerite de Burgundy. Louis seems to have been a hard person to live with – his nickname was Louis the Quarreler – and the marriage was said to be very unhappy. A daughter, Jeanne, would survive childhood to eventually become Queen of Navarre.

The second son, Philip, was married to Marguerite’s cousin, Jeanne d’Artois and Charles, the youngest, was married to Jeanne’s sister, Blanche d’Artois.

The royal scandal of 1314 was supposedly uncovered due to 2 rather innocuous items silk purses.

On an earlier visit to France Isabella of France, wife of Edward II of England, had given silk purses to her sisters-in-law, as souvenirs of the knighting of her 3 brothers, Louis, Philip and Charles, the sons of Philip IV.

When she visited again in 1314, Isabella saw these same silk purses on the belts of 2 knights of the French court brothers Gautier and Philippe d’Aunay. When Isabella brought this to her father’s attention, the matter was investigated and the brothers were put under surveillance.

The 2 knights, it seems, were meeting with the princesses in secret. The whole scandal became known as the Tour de Nesle Affair, as the clandestine meetings were supposed to have taken place in this small palace on the outskirts of Paris (although some sources suggest that events happened at Philip IV’s country retreat of Maubuisson Abbey).

Whatever the location, the affair was discovered all 3 princesses were arrested and questioned. When confronted in a secret court, Marguerite and Blanche confessed to adultery with the d’Aunay brothers. Their heads were shaved and they were sent to life imprisonment in Chateau Gaillard.

Blanche’s sister, Jeanne, fared better she was also arrested, and placed under guard at the Chateau Dourdan. Her marriage with Philip was a very happy one, and it seems she was only guilty of knowing of the affairs. Philip defended his wife before the Paris Parlement and, with Philip’s support, Jeanne pleaded her innocence to the king, and was allowed to return to her husband and the court.

The 2 knights were arrested and, after being questioned and tortured, they confessed to the adultery and were condemned to death for the crime of ‘lese majeste’. The unfortunate brothers were castrated and ‘broken on the wheel’ – they were strapped to large wheels, which were spun while their limbs were shattered with iron bars. And finally, they were decapitated.

Of the princesses, Marguerite’s imprisonment was the most severe. She was badly treated and some sources suggest she was held in a cell at the top of the donjon, open to the elements.

On his accession to the throne in November 1314, Louis X applied to the Pope for an annulment of the marriage. However, Pope Clement V died before he could grant the divorce and no new Pope would be elected until 1316. Shortly after Clement’s death, however, Marguerite conveniently died – probably strangled on the orders of Louis.

Louis married Clemence of Hungary, but died in June 1316, whilst Clemence was pregnant with their son. Jean I the Posthumous, was born and died in November of the same year and the crown passed to Louis’ brother, Philip V – with Jeanne d’Artois (by then Countess of Burgundy) at his side.

Philip died in 1322, leaving only daughters and the crown passed to his brother. On his accession, Charles divorced Blanche – still in an underground cell in Chateau Gaillard – and transferred her to a monastery at Gavray, in Normandy, where she became a nun, dying there the following year.

Charles IV died in February 1328, leaving his 3rd wife, Jeanne d’Evreux, pregnant. In April 1328, she gave birth to a daughter, Blanche. The birth of a daughter led to the succession crisis, with arguments arising that a woman could not inherit the French throne. Although Salic Law had only previously been relevant to landed inheritance, and never before applied to the crown, it was now used to invoke to remove the surviving daughters of the 3 Valois kings from the succession. The crown now passed to Charles’ closest relative through the male line his cousin, Philip of Valois, grandson of Philip III.

Edward III of England, however, as the only grandson of Philip IV, through his mother, pursued his own claim to the French throne and used it as a motive to launch the Hundred Years’ War.

Salic Law, however, was not in force in Navarre, a kingdom which had come to the French crown when Jeanne I of Navarre had married Philip IV. Louis’ daughter, Jeanne, therefore inherited Navarre as Jeanne II, despite the questions that the scandal raised over her parentage.

It has been suggested that the Tour de Nesle Affair was all an elaborate plot to destabilise the French monarchy, but most historians believe the adultery took place. The harsh punishments reflected the need for queens and princesses to be above reproach, and the parentage of their children to be beyond question. The scandal cast a long shadow on the last years of the Capetian dynasty, with neither of the 3 brothers producing a son to carry on their line.

Sources: Pierre Goubert The Course of French History Paul Doherty Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II J Huizinga The Waning of the Middle Ages H.G. Koenigsberger Medieval Europe 400-1500

Pictures taken from Wikipedia.

Census records can tell you a lot of little known facts about your D Artois ancestors, such as occupation. Occupation can tell you about your ancestor's social and economic status.

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There are 3,000 census records available for the last name D Artois. Like a window into their day-to-day life, D Artois census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 642 immigration records available for the last name D Artois. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 1,000 military records available for the last name D Artois. For the veterans among your D Artois ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

The story of Stella Artois

When you drive into Leuven, your senses are immediately heightened. One of the things you see is the Stella Artois brewery (which also makes Jupiler and Leffe). But what hits you most is the amazing aroma of the beer being brewed. It’s a smell of yeast which reminds me of my childhood back in Malta. Living only a few kilometres away from one of the only breweries in Malta, we would get a whiff of the beer being brewed everytime the wind blew in our direction.

The history of Stella Artois dates back to 1366. It was in this year that the original Den Hoorn brewery was founded. This brewery laid the foundation for the taste and standard of this Belgian beer and the symbol of the Den Hoorn Brewery is still displayed on the beer’s label.

At a visit to the Stella Artois brewery recently we not only got a glimpse of the factory but also a look at its history.

When the University of Leuven was founded in 1425 it not only brought knowledge to the city but it added to the know how of brewing beer which had been discovered earlier by accident.

Sebastian Artois decided to buy the brewery in 1717 after being admitted to the Leuven Brewer’s Guild as Brew Master in 1708.

The company at the time needed to have access to ingredients and for this reason a canal leading to the brewery was built. It is still called the ‘brewer’s canal’

Stella Artois was brewered for the first time in 1926 and it was a ‘pils’ beer which was a copy of the Czech version. The war had a major impact on the brewery because the canal could no longer be used so the brewery could not get its hands on the right ingredients.

But business picked up after the second world war and in the 1950, the De Hoorn brewery (which is now a bar) could no longer keep up with the demand so the new factory was build.

What is interesting is the fact that the company has now started making use of the canal again in a bid to reduce emissions.

Buy a Lady a Drink Campaign

Mathieu Snoeks of Stella Artois told Food and Wine Gazette that the company is also working to help people get access to clean water worldwide. They have teamed up with in a project to help women in particular. “With our Buy a Lady a Drink campaign, we are selling specially made beer glasses with the proceeds going to facilitate investments in systems that provide clean water.”

Currently there are 750 million people in the world who have no access to clean water. This crisis affects women disproportionately who walk a combined 200 million hours a day to get clean water for their families. “One glass we sell enables a family to get access to clean water for five years thanks to investments in clean water systems. “There are three glasses which we sell for six euros each and all the revenues go into this project.” Mr Snoeks said.

He said the company is also investing heavily in converting heat generated into energy that is then used to cool down. “Because of hygiene, we tend to use a lot of water. But we are continuously investing to decrease the usage of water.”

The water used to make Stella Artois comes from around 40 wells. The water is treated to ensure that it has the same taste. The yeast they used is stored in two locations in Leuven to ensure that if something happens, they will still have access to the yeast which gives the beer its unique flavour.


Artois was a 38-gun, 18-pounder, fifth-rate Artois-class frigate designed by Sir John Henslow. [1] She and her class were ordered soon after the start of the French Revolutionary War to provide an influx of modern warships for the Royal Navy. [2] Artois was the name-ship of her class and the first to be laid down of the nine ships of the class seven, including Artois, were built of oak while the final two were built of fir. [2] Artois was an improvement on the 18-pounder frigates of the American Revolutionary War which were found to be too small and that their battery placement made them unstable at sea. [1] To counter this, Artois and her contemporaries built in the 1790s were lengthened forwards to make them faster and more stable. [1] The extra space provided by this expansion made the ships faster but did not stop the issue of violent pitching, which would not be fixed until HMS Active was launched as an improvement to the Artois-class in 1799. [3] Despite this, the class would go on to gain a reputation as 'crack frigates'. [4] They were perfect for their assigned role as frigates on blockade duties, being large enough to fight any French frigate sent to attack them while on station but also fast enough and weatherly enough to be able to stay at their posts no matter the weather type. [5]

1794 Edit

Artois was commissioned under Captain Lord Charles Fitzgerald in December 1793 to serve on the Cork Station. [1] After this Captain Edmund Nagle took command of Artois, but was absent at the beginning of her service, with two temporary captains standing in for him. [4] In April 1794 Artois served at the siege of Bastia under the command of Captain Thomas Byam Martin, where the ships of Admiral Lord Hood's Mediterranean Fleet starved the French garrison out of Bastia. [8] Artois then moved to the English Channel where she was to serve in the Brest blockade squadron of Commodore John Borlase Warren for a brief period of time she was then commanded by Commander George Byng before Nagle returned to take command of Artois. [Note 1] [1] [10] [11] She would spend the majority of her career stationed with the squadron in and around Audierne Bay. [12]

Le Volontaire Edit

Ballad relating to the destruction of Le Volontaire. [13]

On 23 August Artois took part in the destruction of the 36-gun frigate Le Volontaire on the Penmarks. [1] [14] The frigate was discovered early in the morning by Warren's squadron comprising Artois and the frigates HMS Arethusa, HMS Diamond, HMS Flora, HMS Diana, and HMS Santa Margarita. [Note 2] [16] The British ships had left Falmouth on 7 August with the intent of hunting a squadron of French frigates known to be around the Isles of Scilly, but found Le Volontaire off Brittany instead. [17] Le Volontaire was forced by the squadron to anchor off the coast to avoid wrecking, and the British ships attacked her to such a degree that she was forced to cut her cables in an attempt to change her positioning. [16] In doing so La Volontaire was driven ashore and after her pumps failed to remove the incoming water her crew abandoned her. [16] The frigate was unrecoverable and stayed there in its disabled state. [17] The same British ships then discovered the 12-gun brig L'Alerte and 18-gun corvette Espion in the nearby Audierne Bay. [1] [16] The two French ships ran themselves aground under the cover of three batteries of guns. [17] They were then boarded by boats from the squadron and fifty-two prisoners were brought off them the ships also had a large number of men with injuries that made them unmovable, which meant that the British were not able to destroy the ships, instead leaving them and the wounded where they had grounded. [18] The following night the French succeeded in rescuing Espion, but L'Alerte was lost. [19] On 26 August the ships Queen and Donna Maria were recaptured by the squadron in the same area. [20] The squadron continued its patrols, taking the cutter La Quartidi on 7 September and recapturing the Swedish brig Haesingeland on 16 September. [21]

La Révolutionnaire Edit

By October Artois was serving in the squadron of Edward Pellew. [9] [22] On 21 October the squadron, comprising Artois, Arethusa, Diamond, and the frigate HMS Galatea, encountered the French 44-gun frigate La Révolutionnaire sailing off Ushant. [Note 3] [1] [9] [23] The squadron chased La Révolutionnaire which looked to avoid the force, but the superior sailing qualities of Artois allowed her to sail ahead of the rest of the squadron and come up with La Révolutionnaire before she could escape. [9] [24] The squadron then cut La Révolutionnaire off from the coast which she might have sailed towards for assistance, forcing the French frigate to engage Artois. [25] The two frigates fought an engagement of forty minutes in which eight Frenchmen and three Britons were killed, including the lieutenant of marines. [9] Diamond approached the action next and came up behind La Révolutionnaire, threatening to fire into her stern. [19] [25] La Révolutionnaire surrendered to Artois upon the approach of the rest of Pellew's squadron, as the frigate had been launched only a few weeks previously the raw crew refused to continue fighting and forced the captain to surrender. [Note 4] [9] [19] [26] [27] Pellew reported that the intervention of the rest of the squadron had been unnecessary, and that Artois would have succeeded even if she had been completely unsupported. [25] The French frigate was bought into the navy as HMS Révolutionnaire Captain Nagle was knighted for his conduct against her and his first lieutenant, Robert Dudley Oliver, was promoted to commander. [9] [28] [22] [29]

1795 Edit

After this Artois returned to the command of Commodore Warren and his squadron. [9] On 18 February 1795 the squadron of Artois, Galatea, Arethusa, and Warren's frigate HMS Pomone encountered a French convoy of twenty ships protected by the frigate Néréide off Oléron. [30] The squadron pursued the convoy up the Pertuis d'Antioche towards Île-d'Aix while the tide forced the British to halt the attack before they reached Aix, they captured one ship, three brigs, two luggers, one sloop, and an 8-gun schooner. [30] As well as this ten brigs and a lugger were destroyed the convoy had been carrying food and clothing for the French military. [30] [31] The squadron was very busy in February and March, and including those taken on 18 February the squadron took the ships Le Pierre, Le Petit Jean, Le Deux Freres, La Liberte, Le Adelaide, L'Aimable, La Coureause, L'Aimable Madelaine, La Pacquebot de Cayenne, and La Biche between 13 February and 2 March. [21] [32] A strange sail was sighted on 15 April by the squadron, and the signal to give chase given Artois caught her first, proving it to be the 26-gun corvette Le Jean Bart. [33] On 16 April Artois and Galatea similarly took the 16-gun sloop Expedition, which had previously been a British packet ship, and the ship Maria Francis Fidilla off Rochefort, and Artois on her own captured two sloops with cargoes of fish. [10] [33] [34]

Between June and October she participated in the failed French émigré invasion of France at Quiberon. [1] [9] As such Artois was present in the fleet at the Battle of Groix on 23 June, where she shared in the capture of the three French ships-of-the-line Alexander, Formidable, and Tigre, despite not participating directly in the action that occurred when the British and French fleets came upon one another while on separate missions. [35] The British fleet under Lord Bridport had been convoying the invasion force to France, and Artois was part of a force of three ships-of-the-line and six frigates under Warren guarding the fifty-ship convoy conveying the Comte de Puisaye's émigré force of 2,500 men. [36] [37] The troops were successfully landed on 27 June and Warren's squadron went on to occupy Île d'Yeu, but after a series of reversals against French revolutionary soldiers the entire force was evacuated to England, with Artois and the other ships providing covering fire to the escaping Royalists. [38] [39]

1796 Edit

After the failure of this enterprise, Artois returned to her usual duties of blockade and patrols on 6 March 1796 the ship Sultana was captured, and a day later Nancy also. [40] On 20 March she was sailing with the frigates HMS Anson, Pomone, and Galatea off Pointe du Raz when they discovered a French convoy of seventy ships. [41] [42] The convoy was guarded by the frigates Prosperine, Unite, Coquille, and Tamise, and the corvette Cigogne. [41] Artois and Pomone quickly took four of the convoy ships one ship and three brigs. [43] These were Illier, Don de Dieu, Paul Edward, and Felicite. [40] The convoy turned away from the squadron, and as the British ships drew closer the French brought their warships together and passed the British in line as they went in the other direction, exchanging fire and heavily damaging Galatea. [43] The British then began a concerted effort to follow the convoy and break through its ranks in a line of battle as it fled towards Brest but failed to bring it to action again, only taking the 28-gun armed store ship Etoile which had been at the rear of the convoy. [Note 5] [41] [1] [43] The four French frigates and the corvette all escaped under the cover of night, while the majority of the convoy took shelter under the protection of some coastal gun batteries. [44] Commodore Warren in Pomone was criticised for not doing more to press his advantage against the convoy, in all taking only six of the ships. [41] The squadron took the ships La Marie, L'Union, La Bonne, and a brig between 7 and 13 April. [40] Finding continued success, Artois took Pacific on 14 May, Lodoiska on 22 May, and Fantasie on 25 May, and the chasse-marées Charlotte and Veronique on 16 August. [45]

Andromaque Edit

On 22 August Artois was in company with the same squadron of ships and the brig-sloop HMS Sylph off the mouth of the river Gironde, when the French frigate Andromaque came into sight attempting to enter the river. [46] Andromaque had been cruising in a squadron with two other frigates and a corvette, but had left their company after springing a leak. [47] Galatea was closest to the enemy and began a chase of it, followed by Pomone and Anson, while Artois and Sylph were sent to investigate the appearance of two other strange sails. [48] The chase continued through the night, and by 4 a.m. on 23 August Galatea and Andromaque were only one mile offshore. [48] At day break Artois and Sylph came into sight, having ascertained that the strange sails were neutral American merchants, and at 5:30 a.m. Andromaque attempted to make her escape from the squadron, but at 6 a.m. she ran herself aground close to Arcachon, losing all her masts. [48] Artois, Galatea, and Sylph sent their boats in to take control of the unresisting frigate before they reached it many of the ship's crew jumped into the rough seas rather than be captured, while the rest were able to walk from the stranded frigate to the coast once the tide had gone out. [49] In the evening of 23 August boats from Sylph set fire to Andromaque which then exploded. [49]

On 2 November Artois and Warren's squadron were in company with the fleet of Lord Bridport when she took the 12-gun privateer Le Franklin off Ushant after a chase alongside the frigate HMS Thalia. [1] [50] [51] In December Artois began a string of successes, taking a brig and the chasse-marées Le Providence and La Maria Theresa on 11 December, a Spanish brig on 14 December, and another Spanish brig Divina Pastora on 17 December. [45]

1797 Edit

The activity of Artois's squadron continued into 1797, taking Le Jean Amie on 15 February, Nordzee on 16 March, and recapturing the whaler Mary on 25 April. [45] On 16 July a French convoy of fourteen ships guarded by the frigate La Calliope and two corvettes was discovered and chased by Warren's squadron, comprised of the same ships as last noted and the cutter Dolly. [52] [53] The corvettes succeeded in escaping into Audierne Bay, but La Calliope was unable to run from the squadron and was made to engage it. [52] In order to escape destruction La Calliope cut away her masts and ran herself aground on the Penmarks early in the morning of 17 July. [53] To stop the French from removing the stores from La Calliope, Anson and Sylph bombarded the stranded ship while Artois and Pomone watched from further out to sea. [52] [53] La Calliope broke up on the rocks on 18 July. [52]

On 31 July 1797 Artois was wrecked on a sandbank near the Ballieu rocks on the north-west coast of Île de Ré. [54] She had been attempting to reconnoitre the harbour of La Rochelle the entire crew was saved by Sylph. [Note 6] [1] [10] [9] The pilot and master of Artois were condemned for their negligence in causing the wreck. [56]

Census records can tell you a lot of little known facts about your Artois, D' ancestors, such as occupation. Occupation can tell you about your ancestor's social and economic status.

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There are 3,000 census records available for the last name Artois, D'. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Artois, D' census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 642 immigration records available for the last name Artois, D'. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 1,000 military records available for the last name Artois, D'. For the veterans among your Artois, D' ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

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Artois, 1915

In October 1914, as the series of flank­ ing movements known collectively as the “Race to the Sea” exhausted them­ selves near the town of Arras in the Artois, German and French troops faced off across a narrow no-man’s-land that ran roughly along the Arras-Bethune road. Rifle pits were dug, which were then joined to become trenches, and the line hardened into one of the most violently contended stretches of the Western Front.

Travelers along that road today are left in no doubt that these few miles of sleepy French route nationale were once the scene of immense slaughter: Walled cemeteries rise like bleached islands out of rain-swept fields of wheat, and deserted country roads wander past craters whose depth and dimensions defy any plow to reclaim them.

About five miles out of Arras, the road dips and winds through the village of Souchez, before it climbs the lower slopes of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, a long, narrow promontory that rises some 500 feet out of the rolling coun­tryside like the prow of some immense ship. Even before the Great War, this butte with its commanding view and its then-modest church were a place of local pilgrimage. Today, the fact that Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and the villages nestled in its shadow were once a vast charnel house is obvious–the flat sum­mit, crowned by an outsize and rather hideous church and a freestanding observation tower, is awash in a regi­mented sea of crosses. Some 20,000 of them occupy 26 acres, and the remains of another 22,000 men are jumbled in ossuaries.

With little effort of imagination, one conjures up the time when this peaceful countryside was the scene of such unbelievable slaughter. The historical literature, limited to a few sparse mem­oirs or the bleak prose of battlefield nar­rative that records the movement of battalions, regiments, or divisions, offers little help. The Battle of the Marne in 1914 and Verdun in 1916, both of which produced a profusion of accounts, seem to fit the stereotypes of glorious victory or heroic sacrifice bet­ter than what amounted to the point­less butchery of the Artois. Those who survived tended to keep silent about their experiences. It was a battle that, in military terms, achieved nothing–and yet produced unintended consequences. If nothing else, it must be counted as the prototypical trench slaughter of the Great War.

The real objectives of the attack­ Vimy Ridge, rising just across a valley, and the immense northern European plain that beckoned beyond–were not reached until the end of the war. Nor did the generic name of the Second Battle of the Artois with which the high command officially baptized the offen­sive capture the public imagination. Only the ruins of the church that presided over the fields of sacrifice offered a sufficiently dramatic focus. As for Vimy Ridge, it would become a shrine not of the French who died on its slopes but of the Canadians who eventually conquered it in 1917.

In the late spring of 1915, General Joseph Joffre designated the unremark­able villages of Sauchez, Ablain-Saint­ Nazaire, and Carency nestled at the foot of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, and those empty fields that rise gently past the straggling crossroads of Neuville- Saint­ Vaast toward the summit of Vimy Ridge, as the stepping-stones to his planned breakthrough on the Western Front. Why Joffre believed that this offensive would prove to be the magic one is unclear. A limited but powerful attack in the same sector in December 1914 had been repulsed, as had a spring assault on the Saint-Mihiel salient and attacks that pounded German positions in Champagne throughout February and March. In his memoirs, Joffre claims that in March 1915, when Gen­eral Ferdinand Foch, commander of the northern army group, proposed a sec­ond offensive in the Artois, he thought it “premature.”

Nevertheless, by mid-April plans were well advanced for an attack set to jump off on May 1 Joffre had become con­vinced that the arrival of British re­inforcements together with the creation of several new French divisions would free the manpower necessary for the operation. Following the battle, he jus­tified his persistence in keeping up the pressure for six more bloody weeks by the need to come to the aid of the Russians their front was punctured at Gorlice in southern Poland on May 2 and their armies hurled into a massive retreat. A second objective of the offen­sive was to prevent disruption of Italian mobilization following the decision of that country on April 26, 1915, as the French suggested unkindly, “to rush to the aid of the victors.”

The offensive was assigned to General Victor Louis Lucien d’Urbal, the com­mander of the Tenth Army. Tall, with a large head, thick handlebar mustache, and gray hair cropped into a flattop, the 57-year-old d’Urbal looked every inch the soldier when he assumed his command in early April 1915. D’Urbal’s steady leadership during the Race to the Sea won him the command of the Tenth Army. His service record includes a note by Foch, who praised his imme­diate subordinate in the Artois as “hav­ing always shown great character, straight and uncomplicated, sound judgement, a very great authority, a firmness and spirit of decision above reproach, an open-minded and method­ical attitude, the spirit of a great leader organized to achieve success. A first class army commander.”

Not everyone shared Foch’s high opinion of d’Urbal. Joffre, whose imper­turbability was legendary, considered him excitable. General Philippe Pétain, who commanded the 33rd Corps charged with attacking Vimy Ridge, worried that his orders to create a “breakthrough …pushed from begin­ning to end with the most extreme vigor and finished off by a pursuit undertaken without delay and pressed without let up” were unrealistic given the shortage of artillery and, even more, of munitions. Colonel Marcel Givierge, serving with the codes and ciphers sec­tion in Paris, complained of the “singu­lar mentality” of d’Urbal’s intelligence chief, who refused to forward intelli­gence gathered from German radio intercepts to General Headquarters.

All of this, however, is to bring to bear the selective judgment of hind­sight. On paper, at least, French hopes appeared bright even though logistical problems caused them to postpone the offensive to May 7. (Last minute bad weather added another 48 hours to the wait, so that the attack ultimately jumped off on May 9.) Both the terrain and manpower appeared to favor the attackers. The German posi­tions clung precariously to a series of ridges that formed the last natural bar­rier between the French army and the open plains of northern France. French troops were already entrenched on the butte of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. A suc­cessful attack there to dislodge the Ger­mans from their last hold on the east­ernmost tip and the slopes of that hill would allow them to support the main thrust toward Vimy Ridge, which angled off toward the south from the foot of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.

Strength also appeared to be in the French favor. In late April the Russians had reported the presence in the east of eight to 10 German divisions lifted from the Western Front. Their places in France had been taken by second-class territorial divisions. The attention of the German high command was obvi­ously directed to the east. Joffre had concentrated 20 divisions in Artois opposite only six enemy divisions, which gave him a numerical edge of around 200,000 men to 60,000 Ger­mans. But when the Germans began to detect the French buildup in April, they shifted another six divisions from Bel­gium toward the threatened sector.

In addition, diversionary attacks were planned by the British, who had brought their strength in France to eight army corps. And while Pétain complained that the artillery provisions were inadequate, they were the most massive yet seen in the Great War–1,200 guns, with more in reserve. By May 8, the day the French opened their preliminary bombardment, morale was high. They discounted the failure of an early–evening raid to secure a web of trenches known as the “Ouvrages Blancs” (White Works) that the Ger­mans had spun through the chalk soil between Neuville and Carency.

At six o’clock on the morning of May 9, the French guns opened a barrage that was, by the standards of the time, of incredible ferocity. The high com­mand calculated that their artillery could place 18 high-explosive shells on each yard of front, and the barrage appeared to realize that density of fire. At ten o’clock, troops on a 12-mile front running from Chante­cler, a suburb of Arras, north to Aubers Ridge in the British sector rose out of their trenches and moved forward under a brilliant spring sunshine.

The results were almost everywhere disappointing. The British attack, which followed a minimal preparatory barrage of only 46 minutes, was the first to falter. Within an hour the British command had recognized the futility of sending waves of men against German machine-gun nests left undis­turbed by the shrapnel shells that com­posed 92 percent of their munitions inventory. But by the time they sus­pended their attack, they had suffered 9,500 casualties.

That same day, the French 21st Corps attacking Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and Ablain-Saint-Nazaire had advanced barely 200 yards in the teeth of murder­ous German artillery counterbarrages and machine guns whose fire plunged down upon the attackers from the slopes above. At one place on Notre­ Dame-de-Lorette, French and Germans occupied the same trench, separated by sandbags hastily piled up. They dueled with grenades for shell holes or bits of ground known only by map designa­tions such as sap V or point Q. To the west of Vimy, the 77th Infantry Division burrowed into the ground as German artillery fire brought down the trees that lined the Bethune road and left the wounded screaming for help. But the barrage was of such intensity that it prevented both retreat and reinforce­ments, forcing the troops to burrow into the earth as best they could.

At 9:35, Colonel H. Colin of the 26th Infantry Regiment observed through his trench periscope that the two mines meant to explode beneath the network of German trenches known as the Labyrinth, which sheltered Neuville, had not been pushed forward far enough, and detonated harmlessly in no-man’s­ land. He also began to doubt the effectiveness of the barrage when he peered over the parapet to observe its effects at the moment of maximum intensity and immediately drew the fire of German snipers whose bullets only moments before had shattered his periscope.

At 10 o’clock, when he ordered the four companies in his first wave forward, his fears were realized. No sooner had the troops left their lines than he heard the German machine guns clank to life over the noise of the regimental band, brought into the forward trench to blow the charge and then a stirring rendition of ” Les Gars du 26e” (“The Boys of the 26th”). He watched help­lessly as two of his companies were entangled in the undestroyed enemy wire and annihilated. He sent the sec­ond wave forward to support the rem­nants of the other two companies, which had managed to reach the Ger­man lines. But concentrated machine­ gun fire shot down this attack before the men had jogged more than a few yards. In 10 minutes he had lost 700 soldiers. He ordered his third wave to remain where they were. One of his company commanders spent the remainder of the morning firing at German snipers who were methodically finishing off French wounded twitching in no-man’s-land. The Tenth Army’s battle diary reported laconically on May 10, “The enemy shot our wounded.”

May 9, however, was not just a day of unrelieved disaster for the French. Other elements of the 20th Corps, of which Colin’s 26th Infantry Regiment was part, managed to infiltrate Neuville–but, as the official report put it, in an “indescribable disorder,” unable to dislodge Germans who fought from the cellars and ruins along the heavily bombarded streets of the rural village.

The center of the French attack between Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and Neuville had been assigned to the 33rd Corps, commanded by General Pétain. Before 1914, he had been considered one of the French army’s maverick officers, because he preached the virtues of firepower against offensive á outrance (offensive to the limit) school of officers like Foch. The outbreak of war had demonstrated in striking terms Pétain’s professional competence. The colonel who in July 1914 had been preparing a quiet retirement had been a corps commander within a year. In 1917, he was to be named french army commander in the wake of the mutinies of that spring.

In many respects, Pétain’s assign­ment was the least difficult, but he pre­pared it intelligently and methodically. While the 70th Division on the left of his line had to deal with Carency, he cleverly screened off that village from the south and southeast rather than attack it head-on. This allowed the 77th Division in the center of his line to surge forward through German trench­es badly disorganized by French artillery fire to reach the Chateau de Carleul and the cemetery of Souchez, at the foot of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. Some elements of the 77th even got as far as Givenchy, a village that flanked the Vimy Ridge here the French were close to a breakthrough.

However, the laurels of the day fell to the French Foreign Legion, which spearheaded the attack of the Moroccan Division on Pétain’s right. Though the 2nd Regiment de marche depended administratively on the 1st Regiment of the Foreign Legion at Sidi-bel-Abbes in Algeria, it was not made up of grizzled veterans of North Africa. Rather, its ranks were filled by idealistic and often middle-class foreigners who had volun­teered to fight for France and democra­cy in the euphoria of mobilization in 1914. Breaking with the iron tradition of the legion, these recruits had been arranged into nationally homogeneous battalions or companies of Russians, Poles, or Greeks who carried their national flags into battle.

The legion rapidly overran the Ouvrages Blancs, which had defied the French surprise attack the previous evening. Though these trenches were expected to be difficult to take, they were thinly garrisoned and had been badly disorganized by the French artillery barrage. Having seized their initial objective, the legionnaires forged ahead, impulsively, even enthusiastical­ly, toward a shoulder of Vimy Ridge that the French maps designated as Hill 140. It was here that their real problems began. To their right, the 156th Infantry Regiment had been stopped cold before the crossroads of La Targette. The 156th was later criticized for not maneuvering to seal off La Targette and Neuville. Because they did not, the legionnaires attacking toward Vimy Ridge were subjected to a murderous flanking fire. German artillery began to find their range. Incredibly, however , the legion reached Hill 140 within the space of two hours, companies and battalions mixed together and largely leaderless.

The Swiss poet Blaise Cendrars, who had joined the legion in Paris when war was declared, gazed out over the Flem­ish plain that beckoned to the north. The scene to the rear was less reassur­ing. The attack had left a wake of deso­lation- stragglers, deserters, liaison officers throwing away their cumber­ some signaling gear, and piles of dead and groaning wounded who were strewn over the churned earth. More sinister were the groups of Germans who had escaped attention in the haste of the French advance, and who now began to reemerge from their bunkers to pot the legionnaires from the rear. Cendrars’s squad crawled back through the blasted bunkers and collapsed trenches to knife and shoot those who resisted. He discovered to his relief that many preferred to surrender rather than fight against the Foreign Legion, which prewar German propaganda had denounced as a collection of cutthroats and gangsters: ” ‘Die Fremdenlegion!’ “ Cendrars wrote. “We put the fear of God into them. And, in truth, we were not a pretty sight.”

One of the squad, Ganero–an avid hunter who, despite the terror of the attack, had retained the presence of mind to shoot a rabbit scared up by the advancing troops and fix it to his belt­ was apparently killed by the blast of an artillery shell. The men threw some soil over his blood-soaked body and left him, the rabbit still attached. Ten years later, Cendrars was amazed to run into Ganero in Paris–very much alive and equipped with an “American leg,” which he put on every Sunday to go to the cinema. Ganero forgave his comrades for leaving him for dead, but refused to absolve the stretcher-bearers who had stolen and eaten his rabbit.

The chaos that Cendrars witnessed to his rear was not merely a normal by­ product of battle, but symptomatic of a deeper confusion produced by the unex­pected success of the advance. Desper­ate appeals for reinforcements could not be satisfied, because the high com­mand held their reserves between five and eight miles behind the original attack lines to protect them from Ger­man artillery fire. As almost all the offi­cers, including the regimental commander, had been killed in the attack, no one was able to organize the defense of Hill 140. The brigade commander, Colonel Theodore Pein, whose exploits as a camel corps commander had won him fame in North Africa before the war, came forward, only to be shot down by German snipers.

German shells began to slam into the ridge like runaway freight trains, spew­ ing out shrapnel and clouds of noxious smoke. Less comprehensible to the legionnaires was the fact that their own artillery also be gan to pummel their positions, and continued to do so, caus­ing great carnage, despite a desperate waving of flags and signaling panels. On the plain in front of them, the legion­naires could see German reinforce­ments disembarking from city buses requisitioned in occupied Lille, so close that they could read the advertisement boards. Without officers, reinforce­ments, or machine guns, the legion­naires gave ground in the face of the inevitable German counterstroke that broke over them that afternoon.

The day cost the 2nd Regiment de marche its commander, all but one of its battalion commanders, 41 other offi­cers, and 1,889 legionnaires, or 50 per­ cent of strength, but won for it the compensation of the croix de guerre. This was the first in a series of decora­tions that would leave the legion, whose units on the Western Front were amal­gamated in the autumn of 1915 into the celebrated RMLE (Regiment de marche de la Legion etrangere), the second­ most-decorated unit in the French army by the war’s end.

Although the advance by Pétain’s 33rd Corps of up to two and a half miles into the German lines, with the capture of 2,000 prisoners as well as a dozen guns and almost 50 machine guns, had left d’Urbal exultant, the success was illusory. By the afternoon of May 9, the German command had already begun to recover its composure­ French aircraft reported the arrival of German reinforcements, the first in a steady buildup that within a few days would swing the odds heavily in favor of the defense. And as d’Urbal prepared to reinforce success by urging the 33rd Corps to advance “with the greatest speed” before the enemy could bring up his reserves, Petain demurred. In the view of the future commander of the French armies, an advance toward Vimy and the open country beyond was out of the question so long as it had to be funneled between the enemy-held villages along his flanks.

Petain won the argument in the short run. As the French prepared sys­tematically to reduce Ablain, Carency, Souchez, and Neuville, the deficiencies of their army-and consequently, of Joffre’s strategy of breakthrough-were laid bare. Although the French had massed what appeared to be an impres­sive number of guns for the Artois offensive, most of them were 75s, light straight-trajectory fieldpieces created for mobile warfare, which lacked the ability to strike the enemy in fortifica­tions or behind hills. Nor had they the power to destroy his deep bunkers. Advances were limited to around 3,000 yards, because the 75s could not sup­port a deeper penetration.

The Artois offensive at the height of its intensity was backed by only 355 guns with a caliber greater than 75 mil­limeters, and many of these were of an antiquated slow-firing design. Shells were also at a premium, a situation complicated by the fact that poor-quali­ty munitions caused barrels to rupture with increasing frequency. So artillery commanders, their casualties mount­ ing, slowed their rate of fire, and saw the number of gun tubes actually diminish even though five artillery divi­sions were sent to reinforce the front during the course of the battle. Mean­ while, the Germans massed their artillery at a rate that quickly left the French desperately outgunned.

Nor in 1915 were French artillery tactics very sophisticated. While the Germans created false batteries, or fell silent when French spotter planes were above so not to reveal their positions, the French took little trouble to camouflage or protect their guns. The absence of enfilade fire, as well as what one French commander called “the moral barrier of sector limits,” which meant essentially that commanders refused to deviate from rigidly established fire plans, reduced artillery effectiveness still further. French barrage patterns were so predictable that the Tenth Army command complained on May 17 that the Germans merely waited until the French barrage lifted, a sure sign of attack, before opening up on exposed French infantry. The Tenth Army com­mand urged French gunners to “nuance” their barrages, appearing to stop to encourage the German guns to fire prematurely, and then resume their bombardment.

In close fighting, the French were at a disadvantage because of their inferior­ity in trench mortars and machine guns. Colin complained that his sol­diers were sent to attack the Labyrinth with antique grenades armed by pulling a string. By mid-May, Pétain’s troops were so short of grenades that he ordered his engineers to manufacture petards, improvised trench bombs, to make up the deficit. While Pétain has received high marks from military his­torians for refusing to advance until the villages along his path could be occu­pied, his lack of artillery would make his follow-up attacks costly.

On May 12, the 20th Corps on his left inched its way along the plateau of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and up its northern slopes to seize the church, or what was left of it. At the south foot of the butte, Ablain was declared a French possession, although the Germans still clung to a few shattered houses. Caren­cy fell to Pétain’s 33rd Corps, complete with 1,000 prisoners, and Pétain pre­pared to seize Souchez.

However, this would prove a perilous and mostly frustrated enterprise so long as the Germans clung to Notre-Dame­-de-Lorette. Attacks on May 14 and 17 designed to isolate the defenders on the slopes of the butte did little to dent enemy defenses in Souchez, and left d’Urbal seething with impatience at the cautious approach of his subordinate. The tone of his communications became increasingly strained as­ replacing the familiar “tu” with which he had addressed his successful corps commander after May 9 with the more formal “vous”–he urged Petain to seal off Souchez with a screen of troops and push on toward Vimy. While Pétain pre­tended to obey, he concentrated his artillery on pockets of German resis­tance that clung to fragments of Ablain and the slopes of Notre-Dame-de­-Lorette. But attacks on the cemeteries of Abla in and Souchez on May 22 and 25-26 yielded minuscule advances.

The reasons for the lack of progress were fairly obvious. By May 20, the Ger­mans had matched and surpassed the French in the weight and quality of artillery, a dominance that they main­tained for the remainder of the cam­paign. Pétain complained that German gunners, guided with unerring accuracy by observers aloft in numerous bal­loons and aircraft, obliged his troops to keep to their bunkers in the daytime and slowed his attack preparations. Fur­thermore, attacks inadequately supported by artillery exhausted his infantry, and he asked to postpone a second push until his infantry could recover.

On Pétain’s right, the 39th Infantry Division, whose advance before Neuville had for three weeks been measured in inches rather than yards, much less miles, was relieved on May 26 by the 5th Infantry Division under General Charles Mangin. A veteran of numerous colonial expeditions including the epic march across Africa from the mouth of the Congo River to Fashoda on the upper Nile in 1898, an event that had brought France and Britain to the verge of war, Mangin was an aggressive com­mander who did not hesitate to risk his own skin in the front lines–he once dared one of his regimental comman­ders to join him in raising his head above the trench parapet during intense German sniping. His motto was “Faire la guerre, c’est attaquer.” (“To make war is to attack.”) However, at Verdun in 1916 his willingness to pitch his divi­sion into costly attacks would win him the nickname of “the Butcher.”

On June 1, after sitting for four days under constant German bombardment, the 5th Division jumped off before Neuville. For a week, the 5th did no bet­ter than their hapless predecessors in the 39th. The Germans had transformed the village houses into a web of defenses that had to be assaulted piecemeal. The deficiencies of French artillery prepara­tion were such that on the second day Mangin called off all attacks. When he renewed them on the following day, progress was held up by Germans con­gregated in a single house, which was attacked by the entire 36th Infantry Regiment for a week before it finally fell into French hands. On June 5, despite intense German fire, the 129th Infantry Regiment broke into the center of the village. When a group of Germans attempted to surrender, a corporal, a cigar dangling from his lips, shot sever­al of them out of hand, before handing the nine surviving POWs to his compa­ny commander with the recommenda­tion that he shoot the rest if they proved a nuisance. Two days lat er the 36th finally cracked the German defenses and captured another portion of the village.

Captain J. La Chaussee led his com­pany of the 39th Infantry Regiment through shallow trenches, over walls, and beneath collapsed roofs and strands of barbed wire to prepare the final assault to clear Neuville, his men curs­ing as their cumbersome packs snagged on the debris. Hardly had they arrived than General Mangin appeared, dressed in red trousers and a braided kepi. “What I want is a fuite en avant [flight forward],” he shouted at the battalion commander. La Chaussee watched as one of his sections rushed forward, only to be caught by a flanking fire from the German defenders. “One man who was out in front of his comrades was struck by a bullet at the very moment that he reached a wall, behind which he proba­bly hoped to shelter,” La Chaussee remembered. “Disarmed by the shot, as he struck the wall with his fist crying: ‘AH!’ a second bullet hit him. He squat­ted down his body trembling. He held out his arms and shouted: ‘Mother!’ A third shot finished him off.” The remainder of the section, which was within a whisker of annihilation, was saved by the arrival of a soldier from an engineering unit, who broke up the troublesome German defenses with a few well-placed grenades.

On June 9, after a concentrated artillery barrage, the last defenders were cleared from the northeast corner of the village. (La Chaussee noted that, con­trary to the French practice of packing the front lines, the German forward positions seemed to be occupied only by an elusive handful of grenadiers and snipers, the start of the defense-in-depth concepts that in later months were to frustrate every French offensive innova­tion.) The Frenchmen pulled together debris of the vill age to construct individual shelters as the German shells rained down around them–harmlessly, as it turned out, because most were shrapnel, which had little destructive power against well-dug-in troops.

The Germans had left behind three 77mm artillery pieces, 15 machine guns, many grenades, and over 1,000 corpses. But the French success had been a costly one–the cellars of the vil­lage were filled with dead and dying French soldiers whose evacuation had been impossible amid the chaos of destroyed houses. The 5th Infantry Divi­sion counted 3,500 casualties at Neuville. Once they were withdrawn to the rear, the survivors of La Chaussee’s 39th Infantry Regiment threw them­selves into a wild celebration, with sol­diers dressed up as clowns. One private entertained Mangin, who attended the festivities, with an original musical com­position played out on his machine gun. The assault upon Neuville allowed the 20th Corps to devote its full attentions to the Labyrinth, that maw of trenches, bunkers, and shell holes that had swallowed Colin’s 26th Infantry Regiment on the first day of the attack. By June 16, after bitter, close-quarter fighting with mines and grenades, most of the Labyrinth was in French hands.

When d’ Urbal resumed his offensive on June 16, he had 20 divisions with more in reserve, supported by 800 light and 355 heavy artillery pieces, each with 800 shells 12 German divisions faced him. This time, he prepared to exploit the expected breakthrough by keeping his reserves close to the front.

The breakthrough never materialized. For those soldiers preparing the approaches to the northwest of Notre­ Dame-de-Lorette for the corning offen­sive, the reason was obvious: They were locked in a siege war of such ferocity that no attack had a chance of advanc­ing more than a few yards. They spent the daylight hours with forty men crammed into shelters designed for a dozen. Anyone who sought to escape the flea-ridden suffocation of the bunkers for a little fresh air invited a hailstorm of German artillery. As darkness fell, they emerged exhausted from their pestilential holes to shore up positions that had been churned and mangled by daytime bombardments, a labor interrupted by flares that obliged everyone to freeze as the shadows gradually length­ened before blending once again into the blackness of the lunar landscape, or by shelling and the ceaseless chatter of machine guns. They incorporated corpses into trench walls. A shell erupt­ed only a few yards from the position of Corporal Louis Barthas and disinterred a body, upon which a swarm of black flies immediately coagulated. “What a stark contrast such a tempest makes in the midst of the calm serenity of a beau­tiful summer night,” he reflected.

On June 16, Pétain’s corps, spear­ headed by the Moroccan Division, did make some serious progress toward Hill 119, one of the lower slopes of Vimy Ridge across from Sauchez. They held their positions despite enfilading fire from Sauchez, which still defied the best efforts of the French to take it. The rela­tive success of the Moroccan Division was spoiled by mutinies in two battal­ions of the legion. A battalion of Greeks, complaining that they had enlisted to fight Turks, not Germans, had to be forced to attack by Algerian tirailleurs­ riflemen with fixed bayonets. A second battalion composed of “Russians”–they appear to have been mainly Jews of East­ern European descent living in Paris, who had been cast into the legion against their will–refused to fight and agitated to be transferred out of the legion nine of them, seven Jews and two Armenians, were executed. The muti­nous “Russians” protested that they had met much anti-Semitism in the legion and preferred more congenial, and per­haps less dangerous, service in a French line regiment.

During the night of June 22-23, the advanced trenches occupied by the Moroccan Division on the slopes of Hill 119 were abandoned after Pétain con­cluded that they had become too costly to defend. Elsewhere the Germans, firmly entrenched, threw back the French attacks by concentrating all their artillery on the French infantry, ignoring the largely ineffective French counter battery fire, and then launch­ing quick counterattacks. The French put down their failure to the lack of artillery and the inexperience of their junior leadership: “Our battalions often only attacked straight ahead, bravely, but without dreaming of maneuvering,” the official history concluded, and lamented the fact that ground won at the cost of so much blood was so often forfeited in counterattacks.

Though they tried to put a good face on it, the results of the Artois offensive were disastrous for the French. Since German control of Vimy Ridge was never seriously threatened, the French objective of a strategic breakthrough was never close to being realized. Nor did their attack do anything to halt the precipitous Russian retreat. In his memoirs, Erich von Falkenhayn, the German commander, devotes hardly a paragraph to the Artois offensive in the course of a long chapter on the German breakthrough in the east. The series of attacks in May-June cost the Tenth Army 102,000 casualties. And while the French estimated German losses at around 80,000, Berlin admitted to less than 50,000: “Certainly, there were deplorable losses on the German side,” Falkenhayn confessed. “But they were small in proportion to the greater dam age inflicted on several occasions upon this more numerous enemy.”

D’Urbal’s failure in Artois sent his career into a slow decline. He remained commander of the Tenth Army long enough to lead it in the Third Battle of Artois, which took place between Sep­tember 25 and October 18, 1915, over much of the same ground . Sauchez was liberated, as were the last few yards of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette remaining in German hands, but at the cost of anoth­er 48,000 casualties. The hill that dominated the battlefield was a French pos­ session once again. But it was no more than a formless heap of shell craters, stinking, rat-infested bunkers, and decomposing corpses. The chapel that had once crowned its summit had been blasted into oblivion. The view from the summit–one of the few bits of high ground the Allies possessed on the Western Front–remained impressive, if more inaccessible than ever. It was one of the scant consolations d’ Urbal could take with him after he was relieved of command. For the rest of the war, his main duty was to inspect cavalry depots.

But the Second Battle of the Artois was an important turning point in the war, though one that was not immedi­ately recognized. For some contempo­raries like Pétain and a growing num­ber of French parliamentarians, Joffre and Foch had failed to draw the obvious conclusion that they lacked the strength to make the breakthrough, that strategically the effect of their attacks upon German operations else­ where was minimal, that they should wait until their British allies had built up their strength and their own heavy artillery had come on line.

Instead, Joffre and Foch allowed themselves to be convinced that they had come within an eyelash of victory on May 9, that their failure had been technical rather than systemic: If they had possessed just a little more artillery, if the reserves had been held within striking distance of the lines of attack, if offensive operations had been pursued with audacity, surprise, and method, then their armies would have punctured the front and spilled through the breech into the enemy’s rear. “The opportunity for success is fleeting and the opportunity is lost if the reserves do not intervene on the spot,” Joffre had concluded when the battle was barely a week old. This theory would be tested in September in Champagne, with equally disastrous results.

The Second Battle of the Artois had at least two important long-term effects on the French army. First, it accentuat­ed the trend in the French command to depend upon firepower and the “con­trolled battle.” This came as the Ger­mans began to emphasize flexible small-unit tactics, which ultimately cul­minated in the infiltration techniques perfected at Verdun, Riga, and Caporet­ to before being used with initially devastating success on the Western Front in 1918.

This does not mean, however, that the French command failed to draw the “correct” lesson from their experience. After all, the storm-trooper tactics used by the Germans failed ultimately to deliver victory. But more to the point, those techniques probably would not have worked well in the French army, which lacked a tradition of devolution of command responsibility to lower levels, was less well trained and armed for trench warfare, and less able to define and disseminate a doctrine, especially one based on the trench experience of lieutenants and captains. In the French context, it was far easier for the staff “mandarins” to perfect the organization, coordination, and control of attacks than to turn practice and tradition on its head by relinquishing the control of the fighting to lower-echelon commanders. So while the French recognized that their army lacked the flexibility to allow them to seize fleeting opportunities, the ability of their military culture to deal with them effectively was limited. But in its continued reliance on these murderous offensives, the French command nearly destroyed its own army.

Second, this battle also marked the beginning of a shift from a strategy of percee, or breakthrough, to one of grig­notage–the realization by the French high command that the breakthrough was not possible until German reserves had been “nibbled” away. The American military historian Leonard V. Smith has argued that this strategic shift reflected a deeper psychological change that came over the French army, as its sol­diers became increasingly reluctant to sacrifice themselves for what they saw as the unrealistic goals of their com­manders. This change was already apparent as early as the autumn of 1915, when attacks in the Artois and in Champagne were broken off by units on their own initiative, the first step in a series of confrontations between French soldiers and the high command over the conduct of operations, which climaxed in the mutinies of the spring of 1917. French soldiers remained com­mitted to victory, but refused to be sac­rificed in “useless violence” that brought that goal no nearer. The sacrificial elan of the first year was gone, not to return in this war–or in the next.

It was this psychological shift that was ultimately responsible for the suc­cess of Philippe Pétain as a commander. The Artois experience confirmed that in Pétain the French possessed a comman­der with vision, who concluded that his country was engaged in a war of attri­tion and that it must husband its resources, especially its manpower. But Pétain also recognized that the confidence of the french soldiers in the ability of their commanders to deliver victory had been shaken in the Artois, a confidence eroded further by the carnage of Verdun in 1916 and by the utter failure of Nievelle’s 1917 “bataille de rupture at the Chemin des Dames, which goaded many of them into mutiny. Pétain real­ized that French soldiers were not against the war, merely that they opposed the way it was being fought. But for France, that recognition almost came too late. MHQ

DOUGLAS PORCH currently serves as a Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, and is the former Chair of the Department of National Security Affairs for the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California

This article originally appeared in the Spring 1993 issue (Vol. 5, No. 3) of MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History with the headline: Artois, 1915

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Arras, town, capital of Pas-de-Calais département, Hauts-de-France région, former capital of Artois, northern France. It lies on the Scarpe River, southwest of Lille.

Of Gallo-Roman origin, it was the chief town (Nemetacum or Nemetocenna) of the Atrebates, one of the last Gallic peoples to surrender to Julius Caesar. The woollen industry dates from the 4th century. The Middle Ages was a period of great material and cultural wealth, when Arras became the English word for tapestry hangings. The fortunes of the town followed those of troubled Artois, and it passed through many hands before being joined for the last time to France in 1659 by the Treaty of the Pyrenees. A peace treaty (1435) was signed there by Philip III (the Good) of Burgundy and Charles VII of France. The Peace of Arras in 1482 fixed the northern frontiers of modern France. From 1479 to 1484 Louis XI, after razing the walls, ordered a mass deportation of citizens. Arras was the birthplace of Maximilien de Robespierre. The French Revolution and both World Wars destroyed many of its ancient buildings. The town centres on two arcaded and gabled squares, the Grande and Petite. The reconstructed 16th-century Gothic Hôtel de Ville is on the Petite Place.

Arras is an administrative and commercial centre and more recently a university town, housing a branch of the University of Artois. The town was never as heavily industrialized as the urban centres of the former coal basin lying to the north, although a diverse range of manufacturing has developed on industrial estates around Arras. Food-related industries are important other manufactures include textiles and machinery. Industrialization and the expansion of the road transport and logistics sector have been favoured by the town’s location close to major highways. Pop. (1999) 40,590 (2014 est.) 40,970.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Ray, Editor.

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