Starter reading to the Battle of Arras 1917

The Battle of Arras was for a long time a fairly neglected part of the war in terms of readable histories, but that has changed greatly in recent times. So where should someone new to this subject begin? This page presents my own view of a good reading list to get you going.

Cheerful sacrifice by Jonathan Nicholls

First published by Leo Cooper in 1990 and reprinted several times since, this is a deserved classic account of the battle. The author skilfully blends objective history with accounts from veterans that he met and interviewed. Perhaps the first book to highlight what an horrific battle this was when measured by daily loss of life.

A battle too far by Don Farr

A more recent history of the battle with a good, solidly researched approach and academic robustness.

British Official History of Military Operations, France and Flanders, 1917 volume 1 by Cyril Falls

Not everyone’s bedtime reading, but as the author was a fluent writer and very capable historian a surprisingly accessible piece of work.

Vimy: the battle and the legend by Tim Cook

Tackling the Canadian legend that is the capture of Vimy Ridge early in the battle. There have been a few shockers written about it: this one will see you right.

A Taste of Success: The First Battle of the Scarpe April 9-14 1917 by Jim Smithson

Another recent, through and well written account of the early phase of the battle.

Arras: The spring 1917 offensive in panoramas including Vimy Ridge and Bullecourt by Peter Barton and Jeremy Banning (Constable, 2010)

Now hard to find but worth tracking down for its good historical account and splendid mapping and photography.



Other recommended reading

The Battle of Arras

Haig’s despatch about the battle