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New-York tribune. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, April 22, 1917, Image 19

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Sl'NOAY. APRIL '2'2, 1?H7
Vlost Significant Campaign Since Water?
loo Is ^n?New British Armies Win
Greatest Success in Western Trench
Warfare?Will Germans Halt or
Retire Out of France?
Author of "The Great War," "They ShaJl Not Pass"
?TW? _a5t tert days have .?con the begin
. tt m^neX must be the most momentous
BtM*nmiF* ft t-ie Prcsent conflict and the
^ (jjjnificant in Kuropean history since
^-jlion started for Waterloo. After a
yjWinter of preparation, the British ar
ajaj struck their first blow on Monday,
1-2 9, before Arras, and a week later
?ka Flinch began between Soissons ?and
trama*, to -?*? ontcome of the battle now
iafml depends the question of peace by
lttafja?on or by victory.
In til* present article I intend to discuss
tit? British offensive, which is now passing '
?At? s new phase, leaving for another week '
ut fjetailed di*$cussion of the French op
m*afist\ which is just beginning as I write,
?Toeidsy, April 17.
TV* Succei?ful Cerman Retreat
The new campai-gn may be said to have
ifjfBB on February 6, when the Germans
?re ont of Grandcourt along the Ancre.
Doriu-f the month of February there was
i rradual retirement before the Somme
?Mitions of the British, and on the IRth
?f March this retirement suddenly broad- ?
?yd into the great retreat out of the coun?
try between Soissons and Arras. By this
rarest the Germans accomplished three
flap. They escaped from positions which |
*m? become difficult to hold, owing to the !
accewful advance of the French anr* the i
kituh during the Battle of the Somme, j
_ty itraightened *heir line and short- j
ted it, saving a certain number of thou
tmes of troops. And they also tempora?
lly frustrated all the plans of the British
sod of the French to attack between Sois
reaisnd Arrss by putting a belt of twenty
sik? of devastated country between the
c_ poiitions of the Allies and the new
German line.
This new German front, which has been
christened the Hir.donhurg line, extended
tlaoet in a straight line from Arras be?
f?te Csmbrai and Le Catelet and east of
ft. Quentin to the Oise River,'and thence
te La Fera through the Forest of St.
_**in to the suburbs of Soissons. On this
a* it seemed, and still seems, that the !
German? had chosen to meet the attack
?? the Allies. Their retreat along this
tat was one of the most successful op
?ition? in military history and will re
???? s model of military efficiency. The
*-*?**ttt* of prisoners and material by the
???were infinitesimal, and the Germans
?*__?. the positions they had intended to
--_- co in exactly the manner they had
?PKtsd. By Easter the retreat was prac
*-*-**7 completed, and the Germans could
-*~*a with pride to the success of their
Pieot? Now Attacked
?fctttime Allied strategy had conformed
? ?W aew situation. All along Haig and
**??? had planned to strike at the ap
r*^a*i moment. Where they had intend
?? ?? itrike we do not know, but it was
**? U eoon as the German retreat began
w* H would no longer l*e possible for
?*? months to attack between Arras
""-Wen?, snd that any immediate of
?*?**' would have to 1* made either north
**-?? of the extremities of the so-called
**--*ttf line. This situation the Allied
^??-Wri a-??epted, and chose as their
**?< attack the two pivota of the re?
cuentan movement, which were the
?***Mr, north of Arras, and th?
*?*? Plateau, east of Soissons. A very
* ?ftire may serve to illustrate the
**? The German retreat may be
*J* ?? the closing of the old-fashioned
?W- door, swinging inward on it?
?? ?Before the retreat began the Ger
-**0***?. ?ormewhat resembled the angle
** ?ha halves partially open. When
?%_*""* **8 completed tha German po
atablad the door closed. The
' ?**^k was directed at the hinge?
1^ ??*?. which swung on th? Vimy
"* -*--*? Craonne Plateau.
1|*?*tuh attack was one of the most
? -M?tianl* of the whole war, and
^?J-Uin the meaaure of the achieve
Ij? ?"Britiah in making a new army.
' ?????w?tb?-irnt which reached it?
culminating fury on Easter, British ar
Canadian troops left their trenches ear
on Monday morning on a twelve-mile froi
from the old battlefield at the north end i
the Vimy Ridge, along the Deule River,
Hcnin, on the Cojeul, twelve miles sout!
east of Arras.
The chief obstacle immediately befo:
the British waa the famous Vimy Ridg
a little less than five hundred feet hig
rising gently on the west side facing tl
British and falling abruptly into the grei
Plain of Northern France on the east, V
this hill the troops of Foch had struggle
in the great battle of Artois in 1915, on!
to be driven back. A hundred thousan
French casualties paid for the unsuccesi
ful effort in this region in May and Jun?
1915. But this time the attack was ii
stantly successful, and in a few hours th
Canadians had reached the crest of th
Vimy Ridge at every point 6ave Hill N?
140, at the extreme northern end. Mear
time the British centre?the Canadian
were the left?moved out along both banl?
of the Scarpe River from the suburb? c
Arras, rapidly penetrated four systems o
German intrenchments and made an ac
vanee of upward of six miles in the nex
four hours, forcing their way through a
the old German lines and making a greate
total advance than had yet been made i
Western trench warfare? Between th
Scarpe and the Cojeul the British righ
wing made corresponding advance? am
by Tuesday had cleared the west bank o
the Cojeul River.
General Retreat Compelled
This was the first phase of the Battle o
Arras. In it the British took 6ome on
hundred and fifty guns, many of then
heavy pieces, a vast amount of materia
and at least ten thousand prisoners. Th
single failure up to this moment had beei
in the effort to get control of the northen
end of the Vimy Ridge; but to balance thi:
the British had reached the village o;
Monchy, six mile? east of Arras and domi
nating the whole plain toward Douai.
After forty-eight hours the Germans be
gan to react. The next two days saw t
desperate effort to regain the Vimy Ridg?
on the north and to break the right flanl*
of the British lines southward betweer
Cojeul and the Sens?e. Bear in mind thai
at this point the British had crossed th?
Uind?_nburg line at its point of junctior
with the old trench line and had, in fact
to use the figure of the door, cut the hinges
of the northernmost door.
By Thursday the Germans recognized
that their defeat was absolute, that Vimy
Ridge could not be retaken?they had al
leady lost Hill No. 140?and a general re?
treat was ordered. Meantime, while the
army of General Allenby had been winning
the Battle of Arras, the army of General
Home, to the north, extending from the
suburbs of Lens to La Bass?e, suddenly
became active and began to move east and
south in an enveloping movement around
the city of Lens. This operation accent?
uated itself on Friday, and very promptly
the Germans began to draw out of Lens
itself, and the evacuation of all the lines
between Lens and Croisilles was foreshad?
owed. By this time the extent of the Brit?
ish victory was better known, and two
hundred pieces of artillery and fifteen
thousand prisoners were the proofs of the
Can Brituh Flood Be Stopped?
The question that was now raised re?
main? unsolved as these lines are being
written. The British victory had airead**?
passed any victory in Western trench war
far??. There had been a complete piercing
of all the first system of German works,
and the sole problem was whether between
La Basse? and Cambrai the Germans had
constructed a rearward line which would
aerve to withhold the British flood now
pouring through the broken dike. This re?
mains still a problem. That such a line
doea exist, extending from behind Lens to
the outakirt* of Cambrai and known as the
Drocourt-Qu?ant Una, British report* had
The Battle of Arra*
The solid line _________?__? shows the front before the German retreat. The dot and dash line ?_???_? show? the Hindenburg line at the point of
junction with the old line. The broken line aa m am aa ?how? the British gain? in the Fattle of Arras to February 18.
told us. As to its capacity for resisting
we do not know.
The three phases of trench attack are
illustrated by three great trench battles,
In Champagne, in 1915, the French pene?
trated the first line of the German de?
fences and were checked at the second. As
a piercing operation it was a failure and
came to an abrupt end. The second phase
is illustrated by the battle of Brusiloff, in
I Galicia, last year, when, having penetrated
? the Eastern trench lines on a wide front,
he was, after a number of weeks, held by
? German attacks before he had effected
such a breach in the Eastern front of the
( cutral Allies that tho whole front had to
Ik? withdrawn. The third phase is illus?
trated by Mackensen's attack in Galicia
in 1915, when at Gorlice he broke the whole
Russian trench system and, penetrating
behind the Russian line, dislocated the
whole Russian front from the Baltic to
Rumania and compelled the ultimate evac?
uation of Galicia and the loss of Poland.
At present the problem in the Battle of
Arras is whether it will terminate in the
j second^hase, which it has now entered, as
did Brusiloff's attack, or if it will be suc
icessful as was Mackensen's and compel the
German retirement out of France. Theit
two possibilities are to be borne in mind.
The Western Front
for the next few days and weeks. We may
see the British stopped permanently on a
new German line between La Bass?e and
Cambrai, or we may see the British ad?
vance -ro pounding forward through Douai,
and thus compel a -reneral German retire?
ment to the line of the Meuse and thence
westward to the city of Lille. J
It is too early to ?ay that we are seeing
the end of trench warfare, but the sudden
success of the British in sweeping through
four or five miles of German trenches on
a front of twelve miles must at least sug?
gest that heavy artillery has found an an?
swer to the trench warfare and that we
*are seeing the approach o? opea fighting j
again. It is clear, too, that the British
have already accomplished at Arras what
the Germans wholly failed to accomplish
at Verdun, and have won the greatest suc?
cess in Western trench warfare.
So much for the British attack. Now,
one week later, after another intense bom?
bardment, the French are beginning to
attack between Rheims and Soissons. And
the position they are attacking answers
exactly to the description of the hinge of
the other door. The key of the position is
the Craonne Plateau, wholly comparable
with the Vimy Ridge to the north. The
gro'jnd over which the French are attack
in*? is the most easily defensible position
left to the Germans between Argonne and
the Oise. The dominating feature, th? Cra?
onne Plateau, is where Bluecher blocked
Napoleon in the Marne campaign of 1814.
If the French can penetrate through the
German lines on this plateau thej will
cut the whole German system of tre riche?
between the sea and the Meuse, ?ni the
British and French advance north and
south will take on the character of pincers
closing on the whole German centre be?
tween Lens and Rheims.
In September, 1915, after the Battle of
the Marne, the French and the British
were halted, along the front that ( the
German Offensive Is
Perhaps Dislocated
?End of Trench
Warfare May Be
at Hand
Co jyright 1317?The Tribune Associatioa
French are now attacking, in the bloody
battle of the Aisne, which marked the be?
ginning of the trench war. Eastward of
the Craonne Plateau is the one weak spot
in the German position, the point whew
the Aisne River comes through a wide
level plain between the Craonne Plateau
on the north and the hills cast of Rheima,
Through this gap a French division pene?
trated during the pursuit after the Battis
of the Marne. It actually succeeded in
separating the armies of Kluck and Buelow,
and, had it held it? ground, the German
retreat must have been to the frontier.
Unhappily, the troop? were green, the of?
ficer? inexperienced, and, finding them?
selves momentarily out of touch with their
supporting troop?, they withdrew. Could
the French now push up through this gap,
they would be in the rear of th? fort? of
Rheims, held by the Germans, the fort of
Brimont, from which the Germans ha*ra
bombarded Rheims during the last two
years, and a general German retreat be?
tween the Vesle and the Argonne would
be necessary.
The Precedent of 1915
We have, then, the problem of the new
offensive. Two great forces of Allies ara
striking at either end of the Hindenburg
line, to which the German? have retreated,
A break at either end would compel th?
Germans to retire to the French fron?
tier. A simultaneous break at both point?*
might mean the envelopment and capture
of large German for?es between Soissons
and Lens, for the troops penetrating
through these breaks would be moving in a
converging direction in the rear of thd
German armies on that front.
This situation entirely recalls that which
existed in September, 1915, when the Brit?
ish made their great attack at Loos, co?
incident with the French offensive in
Champagne; but at this time the Allies
lacked heavy artillery, the British army
was still untrained, and the operation was
made primarily to relieve the pressure
upon the defeated Russians and only with
the remote hope of a general victory in
France. It ia worth recalling also that at
the Battle of the Somme last year th?
Allies were compelled to make their at?
tack in advance of the completion of their
preparations because the situation at Ver?
dun had become critical and the city
seemed likely to fall if German attention
was not at once directed elsewhere.
We may say that in the new offensiv?
the Allies have had the privilege of choos?
ing their own time and their own places of
attack, save only as the German retreat
may have or may not have dislocated their
plans on the front between Soissons and
Arras. But it is well to bear in mind that
the Germans have also the men and the
material to make an offensive in the Weat
if they choose, and that we must watch for
a German counter demonstration ence both
Allied armies are committed to their great
Fire Million? of Fighting Men
On the other hand, it is equally possible
that the extent of the British .success ai
Arras las dislocated the whole German
plan and compelled the diversion to the im?
perilled front of the troops that were in?
tended to form a necessary part of Hin
denburg's new attack. If this proves to
be the case, then the British have by one
battle and at a single stroke wrested th?
offensive from the Germans for the rest of
the campaign, and this will be of inesti?
mable advantage because it leaves it to th?
Allies to fix the time and place_of battle.
We have all of us become dulled by fa?
miliarity to the magnitude of the cam?
paigns of this war. Yet it is worth recall?
ing that at the present moment not less
than five millions of fighting men are en?
gaged on the Western front in what must
prove the most tremendous and momentous
struggle of human history. Wc are seeing
three nations in arms putting forth their
ultimate strength, and the Battle of Arras,
considerable success as it has been for th?
British, must be accepted as only the pro?
lude to the great sumnKr campaign. It
remains possible that it will prove to hart
been so decisive a victory that German
i plan? will have been permanently dislo
! cated, but, having recognized that posai*
bility, we must equally recognize the po?.
! sibility either of a German counter attack
before Arras, such as the Germans madsj
in Galicia last year, or a successful opera?
tion such as the Germans attained in En?
n ar_a last year, s

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