French Effort to Break Through the German Line

  • The French made a maximum effort to break through the German line, deploying additional troops and coordinating counter-attacks.
  • Despite French pressure, the German defenders concentrated on holding the line from Souchez to Neuville and St. Laurent.
  • The German line suffered losses, with Carency being almost surrounded and the village of Souchez captured by the French.
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A captured order showed that the French were making a maximum effort to break through; a regiment of the 117th Division was made available to the 6th Army as a precaution and part of the 58th Division was moved closer to the 28th Division on the Lorette Spur. On 11 May, Rupprecht was ordered by Falkenhayn not to retire under any circumstances, with the discretion to achieve this by attack or defence and replied that a counter-attack was not feasible. Next day, two regiments of the 117th Division were added to I Bavarian Reserve Corps to protect Neuville and reinforcements arriving to re-establish the OHL reserve behind the 6th Army were taken over; part of the 15th Division was sent to Douai as a new OHL reserve and Falkenhayn suggested that a special headquarters be set up to co-ordinate counter-attacks. On 13 June, Rupprecht repeated his orders to XIV Corps to hold Carency and Haenisch sent pioneers to dig a reserve trench behind the left flank of the 28th Division. French pressure on the Lorette Spur had eased and a regiment of the 58th Division retook trenches on the northern slope. No counter-attack was possible at Carency and the I Bavarian Reserve Corps concentrated on holding the line from Souchez to Neuville and St. Laurent, which was attacked again during the afternoon. Gaps either side of Hill 123 were closed by counter-attacks but a gap between a depression known as Artilleriemulde, north of the Lorette Spur and Souchez could not be closed and Carency was almost surrounded. The defences to the west and south had been lost on 9 May and constant French attacks slowly overwhelmed the defenders. At 9:00 a.m. on 12 May, a French bombardment of 23,000 shells fell on the remaining German positions to the north of the village. The survivors were cut off and the village captured over the next two days. French attacks in the north began to diminish on 13 May, as rain storms turned the battlefield into a swamp but at 2:00 p.m. on 15 May a hurricane bombardment fell on Souchez until 6:00 p.m. but no infantry attack followed the bombardment. Late on 12 May Rupprecht created Armee–Gruppe Fasbender to control the units in the areas of the XIV and I Bavarian Reserve corps, to hold the existing positions and establish a defence line from Carency and Neuville. A counter-attack at the cemetery south of Souchez but failed without support from the Carency area, where a French attack at dusk had captured the village. The defeat threatened the rest of the German line, Haenish ordered an immediate bombardment of the village and the 28th Division to dig a new line, from the Lorette Spur to the Ablain church and Souchez. A battalion of the 117th Division was sent to the 28th Division and a 16th Division regiment was moved to Lens as a replacement. By 13 June, the right flank of the 28th Division still held the northern slope of the Lorette Spur, the line either side of the Lorette Chapel had been lost from the Schlammulde (Muddy Hollow) to the Ablain track.

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>A captured order showed ~ on the Lorette Spur. ⇒戦略的突破のために、フランス軍は最大限の取り組みをしていることが示された。第6方面軍にとって第117師団の1個連隊が予防措置として利用可能となり、第58師団の一部はロレット山脚の第28師団に近づいた。 ※この前後の段落、誤訳があるかも知れませんが、その節はどうぞ悪しからず。 >On 11 May, Rupprecht was ~ to co-ordinate counter-attacks. ⇒5月11日、ルプレヒトは、いかなる状況下でも退却しないようファルケンハインから命じられたが、慎重な攻撃や防御によってこれを達成する反撃は実行不可能であると回答した。翌日、第117師団の2個連隊がヌヴィーユを保護するために第Iババリア予備軍団に追加され、第6方面軍の背後にあるOHL(ドイツ軍最高司令部)予備軍の立て直しが、到着した援軍に引き継がれた。第15師団の一部が新しいOHL予備軍としてドゥエーに送られ、ファルケンハインは特別な本部(拠点)を設置して反撃の調整を提案した。 >On 13 June, Rupprecht repeated ~ again during the afternoon. ⇒6月13日、ルプレヒトはカレンシーを掌握するよう第XIV軍団に命じ、ヘニッシュは先遣隊(工兵)を派遣して第28師団の左側面の背後に予備塹壕を掘った。フランス軍のロレット山脚への圧力は緩和され、第58師団の1個連隊が北斜面の塹壕を奪回した。カレンシーでの反撃は不可能で、第Iババリア予備軍団はスーシェからヌヴィーユやサン・ローランまでの戦線を維持することに集中したが、午後にそこが再び攻撃された。 >Gaps either side of Hill 123 ~ attack followed the bombardment. ⇒123番丘の両側の間隙は反撃で閉じられたが、ロレット山脚の北、アーティエムルドと呼ばれる窪地とスーシェの間の間隙は閉じることができず、カレンシーはほとんど包囲されていた。西と南の防御隊は5月9日に失われ、(さらに)フランス軍の絶え間ない攻撃が防御隊を徐々に圧倒していった。5月12日の午前9時に、23,000発のフランス軍砲撃の砲弾が村の北にある残りのドイツ軍の陣地に落下した。生存者は遮断され、次の2日間で村が攻略された。北でのフランス軍の攻撃は5月13日に減少し始め、5月15日午後2時、嵐雨で戦場が沼地に変わったが、午後6時まで猛烈な砲撃弾がスーシェに落下した。ただし、砲撃に続く歩兵隊攻撃はなかった。 >Late on 12 May Rupprecht created ~ had captured the village. ⇒5月12日遅く、ルプレフトはファスベンダー方面軍-グループを創設し、第XIVおよび第Iババリア予備軍団の地域にある諸部隊を統括管理し、既存の陣地を保持してカレンシーとヌヴィーユからの防衛戦線を確立した。スーシェ南の墓地で反撃が行われたが、カレンシー地域からの支援がなく、失敗した。それというのも(実は)、夕暮れ時にフランス軍の攻撃でカレンシー村は占領されていたのである。 >The defeat threatened the rest ~ (Muddy Hollow) to the Ablain track. ⇒その敗北でドイツ軍戦線の残り部隊が脅かされたので、ヘニッシュは村の即時砲撃を命じ、第28師団にロレット山脚からアブラン教会とスーシェまで新しい戦線塹壕を掘るよう命令した。第117師団の1個大隊が第28師団に送られ、第16師団連隊が交代要員としてレンズに移された。6月13日までに、ロレット礼拝堂の両側はシュラムルデ(マディ・ホロー)からアブレン・トラックまで失われたが、第28師団の右側面隊はまだロレット山脚の北斜面を保持していた。





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    The French were pushed back from the heights of Hill 145 and Hill 119 (the Pimple) by 1:00 p.m. At the east end of the Lorette Spur the 28th Division was forced out of the first position. By afternoon, the left flank of XIV Corps had been uncovered near Carency. Rupprecht intended to use the remnants of the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division and the 115th Division to counter-attack and regain the lost positions. Instead, the 115th Division was sent to defend the right flank of the I Bavarian Reserve Corps and the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division was found to be too depleted to attack. Troops managed to counter-attack at Souchez and retook some ground, before being stopped by massed French artillery-fire around 8:00 p.m. By evening, Rupprecht knew that twelve French divisions had attacked four German divisions but believed that the French could be driven back. OHL sent the 117th Division to Douai and Rupprecht subordinated two regiments of the 58th Division to the I Bavarian Reserve Corps, for the counter-attack at Souchez. Artillery was sent to the east of Vimy Ridge, to support the attack. During the night, a French attack captured the front trenches astride the Béthune–Lens road and Lieutenant-General von Haenisch sent the last corps reserve to the 29th Division (Lieutenant-General Isbert); a counter-attack in the morning recovered the trenches. To the south-west of Carency, the trench to Souchez was lost, which left Carency almost surrounded. Rupprecht and Haenisch planned to counter-attack from Souchez to Neuville, with the I Bavarian Reserve Corps and the 58th and 115th divisions, rather than retire. At 4:00 p.m. French attacks began on the Lorette Spur and at Carency but were not able to push back the defenders. At 7:00 p.m., the 58th Division began the German counter-attack, with parts of the 115th Division to the south and at first made good progress, before being stopped by French defensive fire. The 28th Division headquarters began to fear that the line between Ablain and Carency would fall. On 10 May, the I Bavarian Reserve Division managed to retain its positions despite French attacks, particularly at Neuville on the right flank but several counter-attacks supported by parts of IV Corps and the 115th Division, recovered only small parts of the village. Next day, Fasbender doubted that the line from Ablain to Carency could be held and asked for more reinforcements. Falkenhayn released the 117th Division (General Kuntze) and sent the VIII Corps headquarters with the 16th Division to Douai as a replacement OHL reserve. To avoid a retirement, which would lead to the loss of the Lorette Spur, Rupprecht met the corps commanders and issued a standfast order, encouraged by the quietude of the French during the morning of 11 May. French attacks in the afternoon were poorly co-ordinated and repulsed with many casualties.

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    Air reconnaissance observed huge numbers of French guns and troops arriving at Doullens station, which showed that the French offensive would continue. A counter-attack to capture Ecurie, to disrupt the French artillery effort was considered and rejected due to the shortage of troops. Only at Neuville could troops assemble unseen and have good artillery observation. The 15th Division (Major-General Vollbrecht) at Neuville, was reinforced with troops from the 115th Division and attacked at 8:30 p.m. on 22 May; despite a 1st Trench Mortar Battalion bombardment and flame thrower support, the attack was a costly failure. To the south, the defence of the Labyrnthe continued, with frequent attacks to recover the first position in the centre, to relieve the right flank, which had been enveloped on three sides but without which Neuville could not be held. Bavarian Reserve Infantry Brigade 2 managed to assemble troops for a counter-attack towards the Lossow-Arkaden and advanced for about 160 yd (150 m) before being repulsed. French attacks in the opposite direction up to six times each day also failed, except for some ground on the Thélus road on the evening of 11 May. German reinforcements which had just arrived, were rushed forward to block the French advance on Thélus. The British attacked on the night of 15/16 May, south of Neuve Chapelle and by 20 May, had advanced 1.9 mi (3 km) and drawn in German reinforcements, which were able to defeat British attacks from 20–21 May over the Estaires–La Bassée road. The French offensive had severely eroded the 6th Army, which had used up all the fresh units sent from the OHL reserve in France. The 2nd Guard Reserve Division was diverted to VII Corps opposite the British and units worn out by the French supporting attacks beyond Artois were needed, before they had been rested. Only the tired 111th Division, 123rd Division and 8th Bavarian Reserve Division remained in the OHL reserve. Artillery reinforcements increased the firepower of the 6th Army, from 100 heavy howitzers and 74 heavy guns to 209 heavy howitzers and 98 heavy guns by 22 May, with plenty of ammunition. From 9–19 May, the 6th Army had fired 508,000 field artillery and 105,000 heavy shells. On 19 May, Krafft von Delmensingen, the 6th Army Chief of Staff, was replaced by Colonel von Wenge and sent to Italy with the new Alpenkorps. At the Lorette Spur, the 117th Division was sent forward to relieve the 28th Division on 18 May, from the Schlammulde (Muddy Hollow) to Ablain and the south end of Souchez. Most of the trenches had been demolished and those near the river were 2 ft (0.61 m) deep in water.

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    Late on 16 June, the French attacked in a smoke-screen and reached the forward German positions, where several footholds was gained and protected by box-barrages. German counter-attacks later in the evening eliminated one foothold and took 205 prisoners but further to the left a French foothold was maintained by the weight of covering artillery-fire. By night, the French had consolidated in the 7th Division trenches at Liévin and Angres. The German survivors in the Schlammulde, between Angres and the chapel at Notre Dame de Lorette, were forced back. House-to-house fighting continued in Souchez and in the 16th Division area, where the front line for 0.62 mi (1 km) had been lost. Some French troops reached German artillery positions, beyond which were no trench defences. Against the 5th Division in the south, the French attacks collapsed but the 58th Division at the Labyrnthe and areas just to the south were broken through. In counter-attacks during the night by Armee-Gruppe Lochow, the 7th Division recaptured trenches at Liévin and Angres but failed to the south-west and at Schlammulde. The 8th Division regained the second Lorette switch line and the 16th Division cleared a few isolated penetrations but not the area south of Souchez; artillery-fire prevented the digging of a switch trench. A continuous barrage (Dauerfeur) was maintained on the breakthrough, which prevented the French advancing further, except at the churchyard at Souchez and by dawn the Labyrnthe had been recaptured. About 700 French prisoners were taken. The 6th Army was reduced to a desperate position and OHL sent VI Corps units forward as they arrived. On 17 June the French attack resumed and broke into the 5th Division defences and was then pushed out from there and either side by counter-attacks. A French advance to the north along the Aix-Noulette–Souchez road made Schlammulde untenable and it was abandoned overnight; Marokkanerwäldchen (Moroccan Copse) on the Arras–Béthune road was lost. There were many German casualties and the 16th Division was relieved by the 11th Division of VI Corps; the 58th Division was kept in line for lack of a replacement. OHL provided the 15th Division, which had had only a few days' rest and the 123rd Division in an emergency. The 12th Division of VI Corps could not hasten its arrival before 19 June and the 187th Infantry Brigade was hurried north, the 53rd Reserve Division relieved the 3rd Bavarian Division which then replaced the 58th Division and another thirteen heavy batteries were sent to the 6th Army. Armee-Gruppe Lochow held the north with the IV Corps headquarters, the 117th and 123rd Saxon divisions on the right, the 7th and 8th divisions on the left and the 3rd Ersatz Brigade in reserve. VIII Corps held the central area with the 11th and 5th divisions, the 12th Division (Lieutenant-General Chales de Beaulieu) to join on the northern flank and the 6th Division in 6th Army reserve when it arrived.

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    Most of Ablain had been captured but French attempts to advance further, had been repulsed in mutually costly fighting and a lull occurred, except for a small French attack at Neuville during the day. Rupprecht rated the 29th Division as worn out, the condition of the 28th Division as not much better and the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division as exhausted. The 1st Bavarian Reserve Division, 58th and 115th divisions were severely damaged and c. 20,000 casualties had been incurred from 9–13 May. Rupprecht requested more reinforcements to replace all of the worn-out divisions and Falkenhayn began to strip more units from the Western Front. Falkenhayn also appointed General Ewald von Lochow, the III Corps commander to control the units being sent to the 6th Army. The 117th Division began to relieve the 28th Division on the night of 13/14 May and the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division remnants were relieved during the day. General Julius Riemann the VIII Corps commander, took over the 16th, 58th, 115th and part of the 15th divisions from Souchez to Neuville. The reinforcement of the 6th Army had drained the OHL reserve and further claims by Rupprecht were refused, which led him to complain to the Kaiser. North of the Lorette Spur and in the area of the 1st Bavarian Reserve Division, most of the old front line was intact. North of the Carency stream, XIV Corps held parts of the front line in Schlammulde, along Barrikadenweg (Barricade Way) and the east end of Ablain. South of the stream, the line was held by a mixture of the 58th and 115th divisions, the remnants of the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division and a regiment of the 52nd Reserve Infantry Brigade. In reserve, the 16th Division (Lieutenant-General Fuchs) was ready to move into line from Souchez to Hill 123 on a 1.2 mi (2 km) front, the 15th Division and the new 1st Trench Mortar Battalion had arrived in the 6th Army area. Lochow took over from 14 May to 12 June and continued to reorganise mingled units and withdraw tired troops into reserve. Artillery command in each area was centralised for barrage fire, counter-battery bombardments and flanking fire into other areas. The 5th Bavarian Reserve and 58th divisions were relieved by the 16th Division and three corps sectors established, XIV Corps on the right with the 117th Division and 85th Reserve Brigade, VIII Corps with the 115th and 58th divisions from the Carency stream to the Arras–Lens road and the 1st Bavarian Reserve Corps, with the 1st Bavarian Reserve Division and 52nd Infantry Brigade, from the road to the Scarpe river. Lochow planned a counter-attack by XIV Corps to regain the commanding ground of the Lorette Spur, from 15 to 17 May and succeeded only in exhausting the 117th Division, which had to be withdrawn.

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    Delivery of supplies was intermittent, because field kitchens had to be set up well back to avoid shellfire. The remaining defences had been improvised between attacks many were overlooked from a flank and some from French positions behind them. A big attack on 21 May, pushed the defenders back and a counter-attack failed to restore the position, which was re-established further back along a track at the northern fringe of Ablain. Trenches were dug forwards towards the Lorette Spur, which gave some flank protection. II Battalion, Infantry Regiment 157 was severely depleted in the fighting and was relieved by units from six regiments. Constant French attacks slowly forced the surviving defenders back but the consequences of losing ground north-west of Souchez were so dangerous, that a stream of German units were sent to hold the area between late May and 7 June. After several days of minor operations, French infantry attacked from the Lorette Spur to the Scarpe at 4:00 p.m. From Ecurie southwards, the French were seen assembling and bombarded, which stopped the attack in no man's land. In the north, several footholds were gained and only recaptured during the night. Lochow requested more reinforcements, IV Corps south of Arras with the 8th and 7th divisions, was exchanged with two burnt-out divisions and the 111th Division took over the line from the 8th Division; the 115th Division was relieved at Neuville by the 58th Division. French attacks continued from 25 to 26 May, from Liévin to Souchez which captured German trenches, then lost them to German counter-attacks. On 27 May, Ablain cemetery and trenches to the south were lost, which made the village untenable and on 28 May, the Germans retired to a line either side of the sugar refinery west of Souchez. Local attacks continued and on 29 May, a French attack up the road from Aix-Noulette to Souchez was repulsed by Reserve Infantry Brigade 85. Lochow suspected that the attack was a ruse and next day the French attacked further south. On 30 May, French artillery-fire fell in the south and extended into the VIII Corps area, before an attack at 5:00 p.m. from Souchez to Roclincourt, which was eventually repulsed. Late on 31 May, trenches between Angres, the Carency stream and the sugar refinery were lost and only the trenches to the north were recaptured on 1 June after many counter-attacks. During the evening, an attack from Neuville to Tsingtao Trench captured the trench, which threatened the German hold on the Labyrnthe. Lochow put Fasbinder in command with the 58th Division and moved the 15th Division to Neuville. British diversionary attacks around Givenchy-lez-la-Bassée, continued during early June and were repulsed in costly fighting by VII and XIX corps.

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    To the south, XX Corps made slow progress at Neuville, where the 39th Division held a front with a right-angle facing the western and northern fringes of the village, with the right-hand brigade attacking the village and the left-hand brigade attempting to capture ferme La Folie. Every attempt to advance was met with massed artillery-fire. IX Corps on the northern flank, X and XVII corps on the southern flank, made limited attacks, which were mostly repulsed. To the south, the French attack on Neuville and the Labyrnthe continued and the cemetery was captured. Pétain reported that machine-gun fire from both flanks and German artillery-fire had increased, which had caused far more casualties. The result of the attack on 11 May, led d'Urbal to order that the German defences on the flanks at Souchez and Neuville were to be captured, before resuming the attack on Vimy Ridge. XXI Corps was to resume the advance along the Lorette Spur, XXXIII Corps was to capture Carency and then attack Souchez, as XX Corps to the south attacked Neuville. Before dawn on 12 May, French Chasseurs attacked the strong point near the Chapel of Notre Dame de Lorette on the Lorette Spur; after hand-to-hand fighting the strong point and the remains of the Chapel were captured. At dawn, under a German artillery bombardment, the French pushed towards the Spur of the White Way, which commanded the valley from Ablain to Souchez. At Carency, French infantry attacked after a bombardment, captured the wooded hillock east of the village and eventually took the stone quarry to the west. The French entered the western block of houses at the same time and at 5.30 p.m. about 1,000 members of the garrison surrendered. Conditions on the plateau were appalling, because bursting shells had disinterred the corpses of hundreds of French and German soldiers killed before the offensive. The French continued the advance from Carency towards Ablain, which suddenly caught fire, as the Germans withdrew to houses at the eastern fringe of the village. The French took 2,000 prisoners, field artillery and machine-guns in the area. On Thursday 13 May, in heavy rain a German counter-attack on the Spur of the White Way was repulsed by machine-gun fire. By the morning of 14 May, the French had captured most of the Lorette Spur and Carency but not the intervening positions, from which flanking fire had stopped the XXXIII Corps from advancing on Souchez. On 15 May, another French attack on the Spur of the White Way failed and until 21 May, the French on the Lorette Spur consolidated, under fire from the German artillery at Angres and Liévin. In the valley, the Germans held on at the east end of Ablain and recaptured the church and cemetery.

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    French artillery bombarded the German lines overnight and then abated until 6:00 a.m. when a bombardment, slowly increasing in intensity began on the fronts of VII, XIV and I Bavarian Reserve corps, which from mid-morning reached the extent of Trommelfeuer. Lulls in the fire were ruses to prompt German infantry to emerge from shelter, only to be caught in more Trommelfeuer; the German artillery reply was sparse. The French infantry assembled unseen and the advance began after several mines were sprung, obtaining a measure of surprise. The main French attack was received at 11:00 a.m. on the left of XIV Corps and against I Bavarian Reserve Corps, from Lens to Arras, as a second attack began against the centre of XIV Corps along the Béthune–Lens road, which was repulsed by a counter-attack. The 28th Division on the Lorette Spur, was forced out of the front trenches, with many losses and in the evening a battalion of Jäger was sent forward. Further south, the villages of Ablain-St. Nazaire (Ablain) and Carency were held against determined French attacks. By noon 2.5 mi (4 km) of the German front defences had fallen and the French had penetrated up to a depth of 1.9 mi (3 km). In the I Bavarian Reserve Corps area (General Karl von Fasbender), the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division (General Kress von Kressenstein) south of Carency, was pushed back to a line from Cabaret Rouge to Neuville-St. Vaast (Neuville) and French troops advanced as far as artillery positions around Givenchy-en-Gohelle (Givenchy), where reinforcements arrived at noon and managed to forestall a new French attack. To the south, the 1st Bavarian Reserve Division (Lieutenant-General Göringer) managed to repulse the French in hand-to-hand fighting and then enfilade the French further north, who had broken through at La Targette. Crown Prince Rupprecht applied to Falkenhayn, for the two divisions in OHL reserve and the 115th Division (Major-General von Kleist) was moved behind the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division. The 58th Division (Lieutenant-General von Gersdorf) went into the 6th Army reserve and closed up to Lens, as artillery also released from the OHL reserve came forward. On the southern flank of the breakthrough, French attacks were also pushing slowly through the network of trenches known as the Labyrnthe. North of Ecurie, Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 12 took over more ground to the north and prevented the French from widening the breakthrough and in Neuville St. Vaast a counter-attack by a battalion of Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 10 retook the east end of the village and many of the field guns which had been lost earlier. A defence line was improvised between Neuville and La Folie to the north and was used to engage the French troops further north with flanking fire. Bavarian Infantry Regiment 7 was rushed up from reserve to counter-attack the French on Vimy Ridge.

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    A lull occurred on the main front as the French infantry reorganised and the surviving German defenders recovered from the effects of the attack. French gunners were hampered (paralysed) by their ignorance of the positions of the infantry and left unable to fire a preparatory bombardment; the gunners concentrated on shelling German reserves seen advancing and on counter-battery fire. The most advanced French infantry were cut off by German barrage-fire, suffered from a serious shortage of water and frequently were counter-attacked, which rapidly reduced their ability to attack again, particularly in the units which had advanced the furthest. To the south of XXXIII Corps, the 39th Division attacked Neuville on the orders of the corps commander, despite the reservations of the divisional and army commanders and suffered a costly repulse by devastating fire from the defenders. On the right, beyond the Arras–Béthune road, Neuville cemetery was taken and counter-attacks by German reserves brought up from Douai and Lens were repulsed. By 11 May, the Tenth Army had reorganised sufficiently to attempt another general offensive but the DM and the 77th Division, which were the most advanced, had received the fewest reinforcements and supplies. Communication with the foremost troops was almost impossible through the German artillery-fire but d'Urbal thought that the German defence was rapidly increasing in effectiveness and that delay would put the French at a greater disadvantage. To the north the 70th Division and the 13th Division of XXI Corps managed to advance at Ablain, Carency, Bois 125 and along the Lorette Spur, which left the German garrison in Ablain outflanked on both sides. The attack by the XXXIII Corps was met by a huge volume of German artillery and small-arms fire and repulsed, DM having suffered 5,120 casualties since 9 May; the 77th Division also gained little ground due to German flanking fire. On the evening of 11 May, the French captured the lower slopes of the Arabs' Spur in mutually costly fighting and a night counter-attack by German troops from the Spur of the White Way was repulsed. The 13th and 43rd divisions captured the crest of the Lorette Spur during the night, which deprived the Germans of the commanding views from the ridge. German artillery in Angres and the machine-guns in Ablain kept a constant fire on the new French positions. On 11 May, D'Urbal reinforced the XXXIII Corps and XX Corps with fresh divisions, ready to attack after a two-hour bombardment. The French captured the wood east of Carency, which overlooked German communication trenches with Souchez and prevented their use. A German party on a wooded hillock kept the French from the east end of the village and the western approach was blocked by infantry at a stone quarry, nearly 91 m (300 ft) deep.

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    South of Ablain rose wooded heights towards Carency, with the village in a hollow, the houses in five groups, one in the centre and the others facing north, west, south and east, protected by four lines of trenches. Each street and house had been fortified, connected by underground passages and garrisoned with four battalions of infantry and six companies of engineers. Field guns and machine-guns had been dug into the gardens and orchards, as well as behind the church, which made it impossible to attack the village except form the south and east. Trenches connected Carency with Ablain and Souchez on the Béthune–Arras road. Between Souchez and Arras at the hamlet of La Targette, the Germans had dug trenches, known as the "White Works", under which lay a German fortress. To the east of La Targette, was the village of Neuville St. Vaast, 1.5 mi (2.4 km) long and 700 yd (640 m) wide, between the Arras–Béthune and Arras–Lens roads, which had also been turned into an underground fortress. South of Neuville St. Vaast extended the Labyrnthe, on both sides of the Arras–Lens road, which contained tunnels and small strong points organised in a maze, with frequent blank walls and sally ports for the defenders to appear behind the attackers, linked by tunnels to Neuville St. Vaast. About 2 mi (3.2 km) east of the Labyrnthe and Neuville St. Vaast was the edge of the heights bounding the plain between the Scarpe and the Béthune–La-Bassée–Lille Canal. Opposite the French Tenth Army, the XIV Corps held the front with the 29th and 28th divisions and to the south, I Bavarian Reserve Corps held the line from Souchez to the south bank of the Scarpe at Arras, with the 5th and 1st Bavarian Reserve divisions. After the British attack at Neuve Chapelle, the local attacks which had occurred since December 1914 resumed, which resulted in minor changes of the front line. At the end of April, indications of a bigger attack in preparation and reports of new French units being formed suggested a more ambitious French attack north of Arras. French artillery fire began to increase in May but the weather in Artois was mainly cloudy and overcast, which with French air superiority restricted German air reconnaissance and ground observation of the rear of the French Tenth Army. Infantry patrolling was also inhibited and the presence of the French XVII Corps was not detected until 8 May. An attack on the same day was made on the positions of the 28th Division west of Liévin by the French 43rd Division, which was eventually repulsed at great cost to both sides. The final bombardment began at 6:00 a.m., with registration of targets for an hour. At 8:00 a.m. the mines in the Carency sector and the Lorette Spur were sprung, as an intense bombardment of the first two German positions continued, until a ten-minute pause at 9:40 a.m., followed by a ten-minute hurricane bombardment. As the infantry began their attack, the bombardment changed to a creeping barrage.

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    After 11 May, the French consolidated captured positions and moved the supply infrastructure of the army, hospitals, depots, rail lines and headquarters forward. New artillery positions were prepared, ready for operations to secure bases de départ ("jumping-off positions"); depleted units were relieved and replacements trained by the survivors. The attacks by the 70th, part of the 77th and the 13th divisions which captured Bois 125, Carency and the chapel on the Lorette Spur, placed the German garrison in Ablain in a salient and forced the Germans to withdraw on 12 May, to a line from Château Carleul to Souchez, the cemetery at Ablain and the sugar refinery. German troops in the remaining positions of the Lorette Spur withdrew to maintain contact with the new defensive positions to the east. On 13 May, the 70th Division cautiously followed up the German retirement and the 77th and 13th divisions made a converging attack on the sugar refinery. Engineers rebuilt trenches in the captured area ready for an attack on Souchez on 14 May. At Neuville the 11th Division and part of the 39th Division attacked again on 12 May, despite the costly failure on 11 May, when some units had 50 percent casualties. The 39th Division advanced, the infantry moving behind a shower of hand grenades and trench mortar bombs but was forced back when the left-hand regiment was repulsed. The 11th Division was bogged down in Neuville and the Labyrnthe. The 39th Division commander, General Nourrisson, objected to the continuation of large attacks but d'Urbal insisted that they continue as new defences were dug and fresh troops were brought forward. Until 15 May large rushed attacks continued, with many failures and a few costly successes. On 15 May a larger general attack was made and was another costly failure. Artillery support was inadequate due to losses from German counter-battery fire and barrel explosions from inferior ammunition. Artillery tactics were unchanged and the density of shell-fire diminished, which gave German reinforcements, which had arrived from 13 to 14 May time to dig in many new machine-guns and meet the attack with massed machine-gun fire supported by a heavy bombardment by the artillery, which stopped the attack as soon as it began. On 18 May, d'Urbal asked for the XVII and X corps to be withdrawn by 24 May because of the costly failure of their attacks but was over-ruled by Foch, who ordered an end to rushed attacks. Foch ordered a pause of eight days, to prepare an attack with the thoroughness of 9 May; in the interim, local attacks were to be made with massed artillery support on limited objectives.