'Battle of Arras 10th April 1917 - Captured 5.9 Howitzer Battery near Fampoux: snow on the ground! Germans now steel-helmeted'
Pen and ink and watercolour by Lieutenant Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly MBE, MC, RI (1896-1971), Royal Field Artillery, 1917.
Talbot Kelly recalled seeing this abandoned gun battery in his memoirs: 'On my way back I passed through a German battery oh 5.9" Howitzer that had been overrun. Its guns must have been silent for hours, for all around them lay the dead gunners and many dead horses which must have been killed when they came up to try to withdraw the guns.'
The British went on the offensive at Arras between 9 April and 16 May. After a huge artillery bombardment, elements of the First, Third and Fifth armies advanced up to eight kilometres (five miles) before the assault was halted. Casualties surpassed 150,000 for the British and Canadians and 100,000 for the Germans. Once again there had been no breakthrough, even though the Canadian Corps gained some success in taking Vimy Ridge, a key feature that dominated the surrounding area. Several days later a new French offensive from Soissons to Reims also ground to a halt after massive casualties.
As part of an 18-pounder gun battery crew, Talbot Kelly took part in many of the major offensives of the Western Front. He regularly served as a Forward Observation Officer, tasked with spotting where the artillery shells were landing. The unique vantage point of the battlefields that this job gave him, inspired him to draw his experiences.
NAM Accession Number
Not NAM Copyright, Artist's Copyright
National Army Museum, Study Collection