Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Article excerpt


MOST of us probably won't miss 2016. The 'celebrity' obituaries were on a Great War scale and the Brexit vote probably won't go down as our finest hour anytime soon.

Good news is while 2107 may not necessarily be better, there are plenty anniversaries to feed our apparent obsession. In 2016 we remembered the Somme, one campaign we can never forget and also the 60th anniversary of Suez, one we'd much rather.

In April, we'll commemorate 100 years since the opening of the Battle of Arras.

Allenby's brigades scored a major first day success after brilliant exploitation of the old chalk mines which honeycombed that part of Artois.

It didn't last, the battle soon mired into the routine of costly attrition. The French offensive it was intended to support ended in disaster, the end for General Robert Nivelle and an incendiary for the mutinies which spread throughout the French armies.

The Canadians, for the first time fighting as a unified corps, performed prodigies at Vimy and seized the ridge which had defied several unimaginably bloody assaults from the French.

In June, General Plumer and the 2nd Army in Flanders attacked at Messines, seeking to recover ground lost in 1914 and a curtain raiser for Haig's vaunted summer offensive.

Plumer, arguably the best of our Great War generals and nobody's donkey, planned meticulously, trained relentlessly and struck like the wrath of God. The whole of the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge was recovered, German losses were very heavy while British casualties, by First World war standards, remarkably light.

Had Haig attacked then, an attempt to break out of the Ypres Salient and hook round to the Channel ports where amphibious landings were proposed, he might have succeeded.

But weather plus an inexplicable inertia meant he waited six weeks - far too long. Colonel von Lossberg, the Vauban of the trenches, was given time to recover from the shock of Messines where the old linear system of trenches had failed, to rethink.

He was a quick thinker and the Germans shifted to a grid based system with a fluid front line, lightly held around strongpoints, principally manned by machine gunners, the cream of the Kaiser's legions. …

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