A story of gallantry in the Battle of Arras
April 9th marks the centenary of the opening of the Battle of Arras, one of the less well known battles of 1917. The initial advance of three miles into the German positions was the deepest yet made by the Entente Powers. Stiffening resistance, fierce blizzards and the poor state of the roads behind the German lines combined to stall progress after a couple of days. Instead of shutting down the operation the British high command persisted in launching further set piece attacks for the next month, many of which incurred heavy losses for very little gain.
William Lowe, whose papers survive in Durham University Library’s Archives and Special Collections, had been adjutant of 18th Durham Light Infantry since the beginning of the war. When the Battle of Arras began he was in England on a Senior Officers’ Course training to take command of a battalion. Despite his absence from the battalion he collected a series of reports and signals from the Arras operations, which suggests that even at that stage he intended to write a history of the battalion, which he did in 1920. Some are still stained with mud and candle grease.