The Second Battle of Artois (9 May to 18 June 1915)

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Preparations for the French offensive on Vimy Ridge and Lorette Spur began on 3 May with the methodical shelling of the German lines over the following six days and nights.

At 10 a.m. on 9 May the 33rd Army Corps under the command of General Pétain attacked a six kilometre section of the German front. In just a few hours the attackers succeeded in overwhelming the German trenches and advancing three kilometres towards Vimy Ridge; however the reserves were too far back from the front to be able to reach the front lines quickly enough to capitalize on the spectacular breakthrough, and the French artillery was unable to provide cover for its foremost troops. The Germans soon reorganized and launched a counter-attack.

Fighting continued for a week with savage encounters on the heights of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. In the end the success of the French offensive was limited: the villages of Carency and Ablain-Saint-Nazaire were taken but Vimy Ridge, and thus the control of the coal basin, remained in German hands.

The human cost of this great offensive, which resulted in no major strategic gain, was enormous for the French Army: it suffered 102,000 casualties, double the losses suffered by the Germans during all the French and British attacks between Arras and Festubert.

Yves Le Maner
Director of La Coupole
History and Remembrance Centre of Northern France

Archive pictures

Plan de bataille des forces françaises pour l'offensive du 9 mai 1915

Guide Michelin des champs de bataille : Artois-Arras-Lens-Douai (jpg - 0.06 MB)

Plan de bataille des forces françaises pour l'offensive du 9 mai 1915

Photographie prise depuis les positions allemandes sur le plateau de Notre-Dame de Lorette en mai 1915

[Bild 183-S29824] Bundesarchiv / Wikimedia Commons (jpg - 0.08 MB)

Photographie prise depuis les positions allemandes sur le plateau de Notre-Dame de Lorette en mai 1915