<– Part 144 – April 22, 1917  | Part 145 – April 29, 1917 |  Part 146 – May 6, 1917 –>

Samarrah and its vitally important railroad fell to the British April 23, ending operations in that sector.

At Arras, a second round of fighting at the Scarpe has yielded territorial gains to the British. On April 28, British forces launched a shallow offensive intended to draw German reinforcements away from the Aisne. In addition to gaining territory at Arleux, German counter-attacks were halted. Despite the British efforts, French gains at the Aisne are minimal.

The British bombardment of Bulgarian lines at Doiran ended April 24, and the infantry offensive was launched, gaining several positions before losing them to Bulgarian counterattacks. All British attacks since have been stopped, and the British have withdrawn to their initial positions.

Due to heavy losses of Allied shipping, the British have agreed April 27 to use convoys. Initially hesitant to impose the delay on shipping that convoys require, the nearly 900,000 gross tons of lost shipping in April, over half of it British, has led to British supplies of wheat being less than six weeks worth. This has encouraged the Admiralty to revise its opinion. In the Meditteranean, no U-boat was sunk in the past month, although the Allies lost nearly 100.

<– Part 143 – April 15, 1917  | Part 144 – April 22, 1917 |  Part 145 – April 29, 1917 –>

A British assault on Gaza beginning April 17 failed after 2 days, the Ottoman lines holding steady. The British lost 6,500 men to the Ottomans’ 450, half of whom are MIA.

The following day, an intense British artillery barrage began on the Bulgarian lines at Doiran, and is still ongoing some days later. Tens of thousands of shells have reduced the forward defense to rubble, while the Bulgarian anti-battery fire has been equally intense.

At Arras, the tide has shifted against the Allies. German air superiority, due in large part to a “Red Baron” fighter ace, has led to shortages of capable pilots for the British – indeed, the average life expectancy of a British pilot is only 18 hours. Many of them have had their training abruptly ended and have been shipped to the front with little flight experience. On the ground, the British have been ordered to keep the Germans occupied to prevent excessive French casualties at nearby Aisne, where the French commander, Nivelle, expects the exhausted German lines to collapse in 1-2 days. However, the Germans, aware of the Allied plans, have formally adopted a revised defensive plan that emphasizes defense-in-depth and protection of artillery vantage points. The French have suffered heavy losses to German machine guns, while German artillery has devasted French tanks. Although 7,000 Germans have been taken prisoner, little land has been gained despite frequent attacks and counter-attacks.

In Persia, due to the Tsar’s abdication, the Russian Grand Duke has been arrested, and the royally-appointed General Yudenich has been reassigned to an inconsequential position. The troops have begun deserting en masse.

<– Part 142 – April 8, 1917  | Part 143 – April 15, 1917 |  Part 144 – April 22, 1917 –>

Map of the “creeping barrage” of artillery at Vimy Ridge

The Allied assault at Arras began April 9, with Canadian forces distinguishing themselves at the Vimy Ridge. The offensive had been originally scheduled for Easter Sunday, but was delayed one day to prevent Christian nations from slaughtering one another on that holiday. The Canadians achieved their objectives quickly, due to a focus on divisional-level attacks and artillery commanded by divisions in a “rolling attack,” where the artillery is just ahead of advancing infantry. Meanwhile the German commander was confused about his defensive orders and kept his reserves too far from the battle to be of use. Both sides are now consolidating their positions, with thousands of engineers building roads, digging gun pits, and dragging heavy artillery into position.

Canadian soldiers and their tank at Vimy Ridge


At Monastir, the French assault is still bogged down, but neither side possesses the peak of the mountain. In Persia, the Russian forces face desertions as soldiers receive news of the revolution. In Africa, the Senussi have signed a peace with Italy and England on April 14.


<– Part 141 – April 1, 1917  | Part 142 – April 8, 1917 |  Part 143 – April 15, 1917 –>

On April 2, Australian Lieutenant Colonel John Gellibrand ordered an attack by 2nd Division on Noreuil, expecting it to be vacated due to the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. In fact, said withdrawal was completed some time last week, so he suffered intense casualties in a disastrous assault. Gellibrand’s career is already checkered, as his landing at ANZAC Cove on Gallipoli was mishandled, his pride continually clashes with his superiors, and he is often criticized for having his headquarters over 3 miles from the front. Nevertheless, the German withdrawal has given the Allies more territory in the last few weeks than they had taken the entirety of the war since September 1914.


British machine gunners firing on German planes at Arras

The same day, US President Woodrow Wilson delivered a message to Congress at 8:32pm, asking the House of Representatives to declare war on the German Empire. The United States ended is neutrality April 6, declaring war, and entering the war.


At Arras, a bombardment of a front only 24 miles wide has been ongoing the last week, with German trenches having been reduced to mere “nests of men.” Allied troops have been seen massing, while aerial reconnaissance and underground tunneling (some tunnels large enough to accommodate light rail, and tens of thousands of troops), indicate a large, upcoming offensive.

French forces at Monastir have been unable to dislodge Bulgarian and German troops from the positions. In Russia, rumors have arrived that exiled communist Vladimir Lenin has arrived to oppose the Provisional Government. At Samarrah, British attacks on the Ottoman garrison continue.

<– Part 140 – March 25, 1917  | Part 141 – April 1, 1917 |  Part 142 – April 8, 1917 –>

The British Army’s Egyptian Expeditionary Force marched and engaged the Ottoman defenses at Gaza March 26. Despite encircling the 16,000 Ottomans with 22,000 of their own soldiers and taking trenches on three sides of the city, the British were ordered to withdraw that night as Ottoman reinforcements approached. 4,000 British soldiers were killed, while the Turks lost 1,400, with an additional 1,000 missing. Both sides have claimed victory, although the Ottomans are still in possession of the city.

The United States War College Division issued a report March 29, calling for preparations to raise an army nearly one million strong, and estimating ten months to send a force of 500,000 to Europe after training. This would put any potential US involvement in the war mid to late 1918, as the War College Division is adamant that untrained, drafted soldiers not be sent overseas. President Woodrow Wilson has called for a national army to be drafted and trained.