This involved a British attack in the north to draw in German reserves, followed by a massive general French attack, aimed at the Arras-Soissons-Reims salient. Secrecy was soon lost. Nivelle was willing to talk about his plan to anyone who asked, including journalists, while the Germans captured copies of the battle plan left in the French trenches. To make things worse, at the start of 1917 the Germans withdrew to a new fortified line, the Hindenburg line, prepared with great care and expense. The British attack came first (Battle of Arras, 9-15 April 1917), followed by the great French assault (Second battle of Aisne, 16 April- 1917). The morale of the French troops was boosted by the arrival of American troops, the appearance of increasing numbers of Tanks, and most of all by Nivelle's boasts of success. Within hours of the start of the battle, the French ground to a halt, but Nivelle kept on attacking, despite promises not to continue if the results were not good. In alarm, the French government replaced him by General Petain on 15 May 1917. He was shuffled off to the African war in December 1917, from where he returned after the war was over, before retiring in 1921. Despite the failure of his great plan, his insistence on the further development of the tank produced results in 1918.
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