The Battle of Arras
The Battle of Arras was a major British offensive which took place during the spring of 1917. British forces attacked German defences situated just a few kilometres east of the French town of Arras.
William Gosling’s detachment were stationed north of Arras, outside Roclincourt. They operated heavy trench mortars during the four-day precursor bombardment of the German lines prior to the main assault.
Sgt. Gosling was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 5th April 2017.
In World War 1 the ML 9.45 inch Heavy Trench Mortar was used by Allied forces. The mortar emerged onto the battlefields of Europe in 1916 and was used for siege warfare against hard targets up until late 1918. It was nicknamed ‘The Flying Pig’, due to the size of the 69kg shell fired from the weapon. Its effectiveness diminished as German policy shifted to a lightly held front and the mortar became redundant in late 1918.
The heavy shelling by British forces significantly weakened German defences and contributed to the success of the offensive. British gains on the first two days of battle were considered remarkable as there were relatively low casualties and vital strategic points were captured, most notably Vimy Ridge.
In addition, the battle succeeded in drawing German troops away from the Aisne sector where the imminent French offensive was planned. However, a stalemate soon ensued and the battle officially ended on 16 May 1917.
The offensive was deemed an Allied success but came at a heavy price with the loss of 160,000 British casualties.