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Third Battle of Artois - History

Third Battle of Artois - History

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The Third Battle of Artois is also known at he Loos-Artois offensive was fought between September 25th and November 4th 1915. It was the major effort by the British together with the French to achieve a breakthrough on the Western Front. The offensive was preluded by a massive artillery bombardment where the French fired over 1.5 million shells at the Germans. The initial French assault near Souchez village was successful breaching the first line of the German defenses but it failed to break the second line of German defenses. The British who were attacking to North, had similar experiences and could not achieve a breakthrough. The cost was very high attacking troops suffered over 40% casualties during their assaults.

Overall the offensive succeeded in advancing the front 3 miles in a small 9 mile area at a cost of 48,000 French casualties and 61,000 British casualties with the Germans who were mostly defending losing 26,000 men.

Third Battle of Artois

The Third Battle of Artois was on the Western Front of World War I, is also known as the Loos–Artois Offensive, including the major British offensive, known as the Battle of Loos.

The offensive, meant to complement the Champagne offensive, was the last attempt by French commander-in-chief Joseph Joffre to exploit Allied numerical advantage over Germany. Joffre’s plan was for simultaneous attacks in Champagne-Ardenne and Artois, with the goal being to capture German railborne supply centres at Attigny and Douai thus forcing a German withdrawal.

Joffre’s plan was a series of attacks along the Western Front, with the Italians attacking across the Isonzo River and the British Expeditionary Force launching an attack near Loos. At first, Field Marshal John French and General Sir Douglas Haig were against such an operation, citing a lack of heavy artillery, ammunition and troop reserves. However, pressure from the British minister of war, Lord Horatio Kitchener, prompted French and Haig to agree to the military operation.

Following a four-day artillery bombardment starting on 21 September, the French Tenth Army initiated their advance. By 26 September the XXXIII and XXI Corps had taken the village of Souchez but the III and XII Corps had made little progress south-east of Neuville-St Vaast. The French failed to breach the German second line of defence and a breakthrough could not be achieved. In an attempt to rejuvenate the stalled offensive, Joffre sent the French IX Corps to assist the British in an attack on Loos but this action also yielded little of strategic value. The German Official Historians of the Reichsarchiv recorded German casualties to the end of October as 51,100 men. Sheldon used figures taken from the French Official History to record 48,230 casualties, which was fewer than half of the casualties of the spring offensive from April–June. J. E. Edmonds, the British Official Historian recorded 61,713 British and c. 26,000 German casualties at the Battle of Loos.

25 Friday Sep 2015

Great Allied Advance in France, after a 25 days’ bombardment British attack south of La Bassée Canal to the east of Grenay and Vermelles and penetrate the German lines to a distance of 4,000 yards, capturing the western outskirts of Hulluch, the village of Loos, and Hill 70, while their attack near Hooge gains 600 yards of trenches the French gain the cemetery at Souchez and the remainder of the Labyrinth, and in Champagne break the German lines to a depth of 2½ miles along a front of 15½ miles.


Following a four-day artillery bombardment starting on 21 September, infantry of the French Tenth Army attacked. By 26 September, the XXXIII and XXI corps had taken the village of Souchez but the III and XII corps had made little progress south-east of Neuville-St Vaast. The French failed to breach the German second line of defence and a breakthrough could not be achieved. Joffre sent the French IX Corps to assist the British attacks at Loos but this action also yielded little of strategic value. [2] The German Official Historians of the Reichsarchiv



The two French 1915 offensives in Artois had advanced the front line by 5𔃄 km (3.1𔃁.7 mi) on a 9 km (5.6 mi) front the offensive in September captured the western slopes of Vimy Ridge. Fayolle reported that the Third Battle of Artois had been a failure, because of uncut wire and the firepower of German machine-guns and artillery. The success of infantry attacks was dependent on the ability of the artillery to cut the wire, destroy German field fortifications and prevent the German artillery bombarding French infantry by using counter-battery fire the simultaneous Second Battle of Champagne continued into October. [2]


The German official historians of the Reichsarchiv recorded German casualties to the end of October as 51,100 men. [7] In 2008, Sheldon used figures taken from the French Official History to record 48,230 casualties, which was fewer than half of the casualties of the spring offensive from April to June. [8] J. E. Edmonds, the British official historian, recorded 61,713 British and c. 󈎞,000 German casualties at the Battle of Loos. [9] [a] Elizabeth Greenhalgh wrote that of the 48,230 casualties, 18,657 had been killed or listed as missing, against the capture of 2,000 prisoners, 35 machine-guns and many trench mortars and items of equipment. [2]

25/9/1915 Champagne and Loos: the Allies’ autumn offensive on the Western Front

Failures in Gallipoli are turning Allied attentions back to the Western Front. The British and French launch another offensive against the Germans, whose numbers have been reduced by Falkenhayn’s despatch of the reserves to the Eastern Front.

The British are attacking the Germans near Loos in the Artois sector. The attack is being commanded by General Douglas Haig, but General John French, the senior British commander on the Western Front, has retained personal control of the British reserves.
Back in April the Germans first used poison gas in their attacks in Ypres. The Allies were outraged by this barbaric new weapon but by now they have overcome their scruples. The British release their own clouds of chlorine on the Germans at Loos, in the hope of killing enough of them to effect a breakthrough. Unfortunately the wind blows the gas back to the British lines, where it causes much confusion but relatively few casualties.

The British are experimenting with a new tactic, deliberately keeping back some members of attacking units so that in the event of heavy casualties there remains a core of troops around which a shattered unit can be reconstituted. This is just as well as the British suffer ruinous losses attacking Loos from the Germans’ machine guns and field artillery. But they makes some progress nevertheless, overrunning enemy positions and capturing the village of Loos itself.

Haig wants the reserves released so that the successes can be exploited. French eventually agrees to send the reserves forward but they have been stationed so far behind the line that they do not arrive by the end of the day’s fighting.

The French are also attacking in Artois but they are making little progress. The main French effort is further to the south. Indeed, both French and British efforts in Artois are essentially diversions for the French offensive in the Champagne sector (also the scene of fighting earlier this year). Joffre has assembled considerable forces here and hopes to smash through the outnumbered Germans.

The French have some initial successes, overrunning forward German positions and capturing some 14,000 German prisoners, albeit at great cost. However, the Germans manage to hold their reserve trench line, denying Joffre the breakthrough that he craves.

Third Battle of Artois

In concurrence with the French advance in Champagne and the British thrust at Loos on September 25, 1915, General Foch launched an offensive in Artois. This offensive also had been preceded by an earth-rocking bombardment lasting five days, which practically obliterated the first two lines of German trenches. Before the bombardment ceased, thousands of German deserters came into the French line, glad to escape from the inferno of shell fire. The French storm troops found the ruined German trenches deserted, and the army in retreat through a woods.

The main objective of the French was Lens, an important coal town. But first they must gain Vimy Ridge, commanding the town, which was held by the Germans. In two days, without much resistance, the French crept up the western slope of Vimy Ridge, but the Germans on the eastern slope prevented their gaining the top.

The Germans, by using a liquid fire composed of petrol and tar, sought to smoke the French off the slope. A bayonet charge followed. Amidst suffocating fumes, which so clouded the atmosphere that friend could scarcely be distinguished from foe, like denizens of the infernal region, a half million soldiers fought for possession of the ridge. Day after day the struggle continued, the advantage passing now to one side then to the other. The French lines had been weakened by the withdrawal of two divisions which had been sent to the relief of the British at Loos. Were it not for this, there can be no doubt that the Germans would have been expelled from Vimy Ridge.

The battle finally resulted in a stalemate, after each side had lost 100,000 men. The French, however, took 25,000 prisoners and large stores of munitions. They are justified, therefore, in claiming a victory. It is estimated that 400,000 men fell in this titanic campaign fought in the Champagne and Artois.

The Third Battle of Artois was a battle on the Western Front of World War I, is also known as the Loos-Artois Offensive, including the major British Battle of Loos.

The offensive was meant to complement the major French Second Battle of Champagne.

Posts Tagged ‘Third Battle of Artois’

First timer? In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above. To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2266 A Landing A Day blog post number 696.

Dan: Although this is my third California landing since I changed my random lat/long methodology 50 landings ago, CA is big enough that it was US (under subscribed), so my Score went down (from 829 to 807, a new record low). Clueless about my crazy first sentence? Check out the tab “About Landing (Revisited).”

Here’s my regional landing map:

My streams only map shows that I landed in the watershed of Logan Creek, on to the Calusa Drain, and then eventually to the Sacramento River (23 rd hit). Of course, the Sacramento empties into San Francisco Bay (34 th hit):

It’s time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight on in to Northern California. Click HERE, enjoy the trip, then hit your back button.

Here’s an oblique GE shot looking west past my landing:

I landed in a desolate patch of real estate – the closest GE SV is about five miles away:

Here’s what the orange dude sees:

As for my drainage, I traced it on GE, and found the nearest SV shot from a bridge over a “stream”:

Here’s what the orange dude sees (which I’ll call a tributary of Logan Creek):

I had three towns to check out – Willows, Elk Creek & Artois. No surprise – based on the title of this post – Artois (pop 295) was the winner of the “what town do I feature?” contest.

In French, Artois would be pronounced something like are-TWAH. But I suspect that the locals pronounce it differently. I did some checking, and sure ‘nuf – they don’t use the French pronunciation. I found a chat-room style internet conversation on Ancestry.com where they concluded that Artois is pronounced “Our Toys” by the locals. I think they’re being a little too cute I’ll bet it’s more like Are Toys.

So anyway, the town’s original name was Germantown, but was changed in 1918 to Artois. According to Wiki:

Local belief is that a World War I troop train stopped to water at Gemantown and a riot ensued when the troops took offense at the name. The town was then renamed after the battles of Artois.

Note that it’s not the battle of Artois rather it’s the battles of Artois. Here’s the story:

The first battle of Artois (December 17, 1914 – January 13, 1915) was one of the early battles between the French and Germans. It was an attempt by the French to break a trench / barbed wire warfare stalemate, and it was unsuccessful. Neither side “won.”

The second battle of Artois was a much bigger deal (May 9, 1915 – June 18, 1915). The French were joined by the British in an attempt to push back the Germans and capture a key rail supply line. Once again, the effort failed. Although no territory was gained by either side, the Germans won the war of attrition. Here’s what Wiki says about casualties (injuries + deaths):

French sources put casualties at 102,500 of whom 35,000 were killed. There were another 37,500 casualties incurred in secondary operations. According to German sources, there were also 32,000 British casualties and 73,072 German casualties.

Unbelievable. Here’s a picture of a French village caught in the crossfile (from WWIBattlefields.co.uk):

And then there’s the third battle of Artois (September 15 – October 25, 1915). This battle was similar to the second in terms of objective – i.e., capturing German railways. Same old, same old. Neither side “won,” and no significant territory was won or lost by either side. Here are the grim casualty figures (including a nearby, associated battle):

French: 48,230
German: 51,100
British: 61,700

It’s hard to fathom. There were hundreds of thousands of soldiers living in trenches, facing off across “no man’s land,” a sea of barbed wire. Some general makes a decision, the word comes down to local commanders, and thousands and thousands of young men were ordered to advance. And for what.

It turns out that the Artois region of France is famous for another reason, much closer to my interests than WWI. From Wiki:

The name “Artois” stems from the ancient province in France where the method of boring artesian wells was first adopted. [I assume that artesian could be loosely translated as “of Artois.”]

I searched for a geologic cross-section that shows exactly what an artesian well is and how it happens. The state of Minnesota has an excellent one. Here ‘tis:

A couple of important points:

  1. A “confining layer” consists of an impermeable soil or rock like clay or shale (water can’t flow through it).
  2. An aquifer consists of a permeable soil or rock like sand, limestone or sandstone (water can flow through this rock relatively easily).
  3. The recharge zone is where infiltrating rainfall and snowmelt can flow down through permeable soil into an aquifer.
  4. Although not labeled as such, the dashed line under the recharge area is also a water table.

Take a deep breath, and you’ll be able to figure out the differences between a water table well, an artesian well and a flowing artesian well – and how each of these three comes to be. Don’t care? Stick with shallow breaths . . .

Wiki says this about artesian wells:

Artesian wells were named after the former province of Artois in France, where many artesian wells were drilled by Carthusian monks from 1126.

What a very specific date! I wonder how Wiki can be so sure that the first artesian well was drilled in 1126?

Time for some GE Panoramio shots. First this by A Dunn Photography (taken about 5 miles NE of my landing):

And this one by Hank Hansen, appropriately entitled “Solitary Tree” (taken about 7 miles north):

Second battle of Artois, 9 May-18 June 1915

The second battle of Artois, 9 May-18 June 1915, was the most important part of the Allied spring offensive of 1915. It was hoped to capture Vimy Ridge, break through the German lines, and advance into the Douai plain. This would cut key German railway lines and perhaps force them to retreat from their great salient bulging out into France.

The Allied offensive was pre-empted by the German gas attack at Ypres (second battle of Ypres, 22 April-25 May 1915). By the time the Artois offensive began, the real crisis at Ypres had passed, but it did prevent the BEF from playing a bigger part in the planned offensives. Even so, the British First Army, under General Haig, was allocated to the offensive, and was to attack Aubers Ridge, over the same ground attacked during the battle of Neuve Chapelle (10-13 March 1915).

The French offensive would be launched by the Tenth Army, under General d&rsquoUrbal. It was supported by 1,200 guns with 200,000 shells, a huge amount for ammunition for 1915 (later bombardments would use millions of shells). The artillery bombardment began six days before the attack was due to go in.

The British attack at Aubers Ridge was a total failure. It cost the BEF 10,000 casualties and achieved nothing. In contrast, the French attack on 9 May opened with a dramatic success. Pétain&rsquos XXXIII corps advanced 2.5 miles in the first hour and a half of the battle, and the 77th and Moroccan Divisions actually reached the crest of Vimy Ridge.

General d&rsquoUrbal had not expected such rapid successes, and his reserves were six miles behind the front line, preparing to move up over the next few days. The German reserves were much better placed, and by the end of the day the French had been pushed back off the top of the ridge.

Over the next five weeks the French and Germans engaged in a battle of attrition in the area immediately behind the old German front line. This was a maze of communications trenches and strong points, where progress was slow and costly. The Moroccan Division did manage to fight its way back onto Vimy Ridge on 16 June, but was once again pushed back. A second British attack, at Festubert, 15-27 May 1915, was less disastrous than the attack at Aubers, but also marked a change to a war of attrition.

The attack in Artois failed to achieve its original objectives. Vimy Ridge remained in German hands until it fell to the Canadians in 1917 (Battle of Vimy Ridge), while the battle of attrition favoured the Germans. The French suffered 100,000 casualties, the Germans 75,000, and as the French were well aware there were more Germans than Frenchmen.

The fighting in Artois would be renewed in the autumn of 1915 (Third battle of Artois), this time as part of a wider offensive that including the second battle of Champagne and the British failure at Loos.

The Shell Scandal

In London, it was Haig’s assault on the first day that drew the most attention.

Herbert Asquith’s Liberal government had severely underestimated the supplies British troops needed to fight the war. His opponents arranged an article in The Times on May 14 blaming him for the British failure. The resulting Shell Scandal discredited Asquith as Prime Minister. He was forced to create a coalition government that included his Conservative opponents.

The Second Battle of Artois did little to change the Western Front but it transformed the British government.

Watch the video: Battle of Vimy Ridge 1917 World War I (May 2022).