If the Battle of Arras didn't kill soldiers physically, it took an ax to their spirit.
In just over a month, the Battle of Arras claimed nearly 300,000 lives. In April 1917, British, Canadian, South African, New Zealand, Newfoundland and Australian troops head to the French city of Arras, where they attacked German defenses. Following initial gains on behalf of the British, the battle quickly collapsed into a stalemate – a defining feature of War War One – where it remained until the middle of May.
If the battle didn’t physically kill soldiers, it affected them on a deep, emotional level. In “The General,” poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon included Arras in his searing indictment of war mongers, writing:
‘Good-morning; good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.