Story Filed By Correspondent Matteo Clingenberg
Tribune de Genève
The French general Nivelle’s long awaited offensive officially kicked into gear at 4:45AM this morning Paris time as the rumble of hundreds of guns woke the front along the Aisine River from its Winter slumber.
A furious dawn assault by lead battalions of French troops of the 5th , 6th, and 10th Armees plowed into the front trenches of the German 7th, 1st, and 3rd Armees where initial surprise was soon replaced with heavy hand to hand fighting in the early morning light. Hundreds of sleepy and surprised German prisoners were seen being escorted across No Mans Land and by 6AM, things were looking amazingly promising for the rest of the day.
Then by 7AM, the lead French troops realized that their comrades in the follow up waves of the assault didn’t seem to be arriving from behind them. Running low on ammunition and beginning to take considerable losses as the Germans counter-attacked, the troops hastily withdrew from the vast majority of their early gained territory and returned to the safety of their own jump-off trenches.
Initial investigations into the matter suggest that somehow, the timetable for the offensive only reached a bare handful of the French divisions expected to be engaged in the initial assault. This blunder has likely resulted in a total loss of element of surprise that Nivelle was counting on for his anticipated breakthrough maneuver.
Almost as shocking, the German troops who counter-attacked did not attempt to press the advantage as the French troops sought to disengage, and seemed mostly content just to regain the ground they had lost and then settle back into their old trenches. Thus this long awaited day ended for all intents and purposes quite abruptly by 8AM when it was really supposed to be just beginning.
Aerial operations on both sides were also reportedly unusually sluggish thanks to an unexpectedly thick haze that settled over the entire sector as the sun rose, which made bombing, reconnaissance, and artillery spotting support operations nearly impossible.
Nonetheless, at least one French observation balloon was brought down in flames, and there are reports that French pilots might have returned the favor to at least one if not two German balloons. Sparse and unconfirmed reports indicate that aircraft from both sides may have also carried out limited attacks on road and rail traffic behind the front lines during the course of the morning.
General Haig, the commander of British forces pushing forward East of Arras for the past two weeks (despite considerable losses) refused to comment on the situation but was reported to have been in an extremely foul mood after hearing the latest news from his South.
Estimated French Losses This Week:
- 12,985 Infantry casualties / 1.25 divisions or 2.3% of their total effective strength
1 observation balloon
1 military supply train
4 supply barges
7 Aircraft destroyed, 15 damaged (half of these rounding down will be considered write-offs)
15 Pilot casualties
- A spy was successfully brought back home with key information.
- 13, 584 infantry casualties / 1.4 divisions or 3.7% of their total effective strength
2 observation balloons
1 military road convoy
1 strategic target
3 supply barges
6 Aircraft destroyed, 10 damaged (half of these rounding down will be considered write-offs)
8 Pilot casualties
- The French Army’s deepest sustained penetration was ~496m of German trenches
French casualties were 20.8% of the 62,333 expected casualties
14 French aircraft were permanently removed from service
German casualties were 25.8% of the 54,333 expected casualties
11 German aircraft were permanently removed from service
- The French Army’s total penetration is ~491m of German trenches, which is roughly 7.6% of the 6.5km expected for the campaign.
The French Army’s deepest sustained penetration so far at any one time was ~491m of German trenches (Week 1)
Total French infantry casualties are at 6.94% of the 187,000 expected casualties for the campaign
French pilot losses are currently at 25.4% of the 59 expected losses for the campaign
French plane losses (shot down + writeoffs) are currently at 19.4% of their expected 72 losses for the campaign.
Total German infantry casualties are at 8.33% of the 163,000 expected casualties for the campaign
German pilot losses are currently at 22.8% of the 35 expected losses for the campaign.
German plane losses (shot down + writeoffs) are currently at 22.9% of their expected 48 losses for the campaign.