The German offensive failed because they had no motorised transport, armoured cars, heavy machine guns or tanks. Only nine captured British tanks were available to the Germans and these were unable to exploit the British line. The enemy also had no heavy cavalry units and the ‘Michael’ attack was forced to proceed at infantry pace.
British units were forced to retreat forty miles by the German offensive; some of the most famous British Infantry Regiments were cut off and over-run. The British Commander was forced on the defensive, as the allied armies tried to stem the German onslaught and establish a new front line.
On the 28 of March 1917, the German High Command issued orders for an attack on Arras code named ‘Operation Mars’. The British 1 Army XV11 Corps caused the German Stormtroopers heavy casualties, as the attack on Arras was repelled.
The 2 Seaforth Highlanders were in the front line close to Rouex and Fampoux on the 21 of March, as the enemy offensive was launched. The battalion suffered a gas bombardment and came under heavy shellfire as the enemy attempted to knock out the British gun positions. At 6am on the morning of the 27, the enemy had tried to raid the battalion line but was driven off.
At 3am on the 28 of March, the enemy launched a heavy bombardment on the Seaforths lines and then attacked with massed infantry in thick formation at 7am. The Seaforth Highlanders were forced to withdraw from the front line, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy from the support trenches. Lewis gunners wiped out a German Cavalry patrol of five men, the attack was stopped and the enemy was forced to retire having suffered terrible losses.
Private Henry Mackay was one of approximately, 100 casualties suffered by the 2 Battalion Seaforth Highlanders in action of the 28 of March 1918 near Arras; he was 27 years of age.
Henry’s brother James, who served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was seriously wounded in the right arm and right eye in August 1918, during the Second Battle of the Somme and at one stage was close to death but he did recover. James died a few years after the war having never fully recovered from his wounds; he is buried in Tongue churchyard.