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The new offensive in France

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BerichtGeplaatst: 17 Sep 2006 10:54    Onderwerp: The new offensive in France Reageer met quote

The new offensive in France

A student of war
Monday July 3, 1916
Guardian Unlimited

Eight miles east of Amiens the Somme, a slow flowing river which spreads out on both banks in wide marshes, is joined by the Ancre, which comes down from Albert, and like the Somme, flows through a great deal of marshland. The angle formed by the Ancre and the Somme is a duplicate of that formed further to the south by the Oise and the Aisne. A week after the Battle of the Marne the British were attacking the German positions on the north bank of the Aisne with the French on their left flank. Now it is the French who are attacking from the south side of the angle, and we who are pressing in from the flank. Had we forced the German positions north of the Aisne, Rheims would never have been bombarded and the German lines in Champagne would have been thrown very much further back.

The present attacks are an attempt to accomplish the same results half-way between the Aisne and La Bassee. Here, as everywhere in Western France, the Germans occupy the first low ranges of hills which overlook the plains. On the section on which the fighting is now taking place, the centres of the German position are Bapaume and Peronne. If these could be captured the Germans would have to abandon the salient near Noyon between the Oise and the Aisne. Decisive success towards Bapaume and Peronne would also have a serious effect on the enemy's positions further north.

These are distant prospects. Let us turn to what has actually been accomplished. The battle front extended to a width of fifty miles. Our left was north of the Ancre as far north as Gommecourt. Here we were unable to retain the positions that we captured in the first few hours of the attack, and Gommecourt, which was the extreme left of our advance, had apparently to be abandoned.

The chief object of this left-wing attack would be to protect our centre from attacks coming from the north. There is some rising ground on the north bank of the Ancre, and if this could have been seized and held it would have greatly assisted the enterprise of our centre. Early messages stated that we were attacking Beaumont-Hamel, which is on this high ground, and at one time Serre, north-east of Beaumont, was in our possession. But no message has stated that we captured Beaumont, and it is possible that our attacks here were involved in the check received at Gommecourt.

It is early yet to forecast the probable outcome of the operations. The French at present seem to be in the more favourable position owing to the British successes at Fricourt and Montauban and their own occupation of Curlu, for they have no anxiety for their flank, but the situation is still undeveloped, and on neither side has the battle developed its full strength. But there is every reason for satisfaction on the progress so far achieved.

It must be borne in mind that our object is less to occupy enemy positions than to inflict loss upon him. Our previous attacks have been brilliant but short-winded; this time we seem to have begun at a slower pace, one that can be maintained much longer.,,99298,00.html
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