Fere-Peronne. The "Archangel" attack was conceived merely
as a diversion. The preparation of the attacks on Ypres-La
Bassee (George I. and II.) was to be continued, the Hector-
Achilles operations in the Argonne and Champagne were to be
In case the Michael attack stopped short
there was to be an attack by the III. Army. Instructions for
demonstration actions were kept in reserve.
Rupprecht's group of armies, which, according to this plan,
were to carry out the main assault with the XVII. and II.
'.'< 'olii i
SOMME, BATTLES OF THE (Peronne)
SOMME, BATTLES OF THE
Armies, were instructed to aim first and foremost at cutting off
the British in the Cambrai bend. The armies were to advance
with strong inner wings, the XVII. on Ypres and the II. on
Equancourt. Subsequently the XVII. army was to deliver an
assault in the direction of Arras-Albert and gradually roll up
the adjacent British front, the II. Army to push forward in a
westerly direction with the left wing on the Somme.
In the German Crown Prince's group of armies the XVIII.
Army had to conquer the Somme and the Crozat Canal and
eventually to extend to Peronne. If the II. Army should en-
counter any considerable resistance the XVIII. Army was to
advance strong forces through Beauvois-Tertry to cut off the
opponent in front of the II. Army. The Mars attack S. of the
Scarpe was to follow the Michael attack as soon as possible and
amplify the Michael operation. Farther N. preparations were
also made to profit by it (Mars, N. Walkxirenritt).
The forces provided for the break-through were 15 attack
divisions and 2 position divisions for the XVII. Army, 15
attack divisions and 3 of position for the II. Army, and 19
attack divisions and 5 of position for the XVIII. Army. Be-
sides these, 3 divisions were retained by the Supreme Command
for disposal, first at Bouchain, then at Denain. As regards
artillery, 950 field batteries, 701 heavy and 55 heaviest batteries
were called up. Added to these were a few Austro-Hungarian
heavy batteries, inadequately supplied with munitions.
In the prolonged preparations now carefully made, the attack
front was kept as lifeless as possible, with the troops unchanged
and the day-traffic kept down. Detrainments went on a long
way to the rear on a wide front, and all movements of impor-
tance were held over until night time.
In March, each of the four groups oi armies executed a first
attack. In the Crown Prince Rupprecht's group the prepar-
ations were so elaborate in the region of Ypres and Armentieres
that even the troops themselves and their leaders were con-
vinced that a great attack was really imminent. The German
Crown Prince's group made a show of preparing an attack in
the neighbourhood of Reims. From the i4th onwards reconnais-
sance attacks, bombardment of the enemy headquarters, bomb-
ing by airmen and the bringing up of reinforcements, set in.
The increased artillery activity continued until March 24.
Gallwitz's group of armies carried out a great attack on Verdun
systematically up to the stage when the infantry should have
come in, with several days of artillery preparation, a gas attack,
and the bombardment of railway stations behind the lines.
Duke Albrecht's group feigned an attack on the Lorraine front,
and carried out a heavy artillery battle from March 20 to 24.
The result of these German operations was to intensify the
opponents' suspense to the utmost. The British put themselves
in a position of defence against a great attack between Armen-
tieres and La Bassee and between Arras and St. Quentin, and
shifted forces from Flanders to the south. The French evidently
expected an attack at Reims. New defensive works arose every-
where in the chief opponents' lines. They reinforced their bat-
teries and sought by increased activity on the part of the air-
men and patrols, to penetrate the obscurity which enveloped
the German mode of procedure.
In the front of the actual attack the Germans counted upon
having, in front of the XVII. Army, 15 strong British divisions
of the III. Army (General Byng), and in front of both armies 23
divisions of the V. Army (General Gough). The Germans as-
sumed, further, that the leader of the combined operations of
the Entente, General Foch, would have in readiness strong re-
serves, mainly French, somewhere in the region of Meaux
behind the centre of the enemy front. The majority of the Brit-
ish reserves were supposed to be behind the centre of the British
front. No signs of withdrawing were seen on the enemy's part.
A restricted foreground was counted upon.
The actual forming up for deployment of the attacking armies
began on March 10 with the munitioning. The artillery deploy-
ment followed, and the attack divisions next moved into their
positions at the front. Everything passed off smoothly and with-
out any great counter-measures being taken by the 'defence.
All the difficulties due to compressing within a narrow space
great masses of human beings and piles of utensils and contriv-
ances were easily overcome. The divisions were organized in
groups, usually three lines deep, the first line being made the
strongest in order to ensure rapid results at the beginning. The
first line advanced close up to the front trenches on March
20, the second standing at a distance of 3-5 km. and the third
7-10 km. behind. The hindermost lines were looked upon as
reserves for the higher command. They were not simply to follow
up the others but to be fetched up according to the needs of the
The Supreme Command held in readiness, besides the above
mentioned three divisions at Denain, other reserves behind the
remaining army fronts, and reserved to itself the right of with-
drawing forces from the front line when necessary.
On March 20 the attack divisions, protected by aircraft, were
drawn up behind the position from which the assault was to be
made. The deployment of the artillery and minenwerfer was
complete and the munitions in readiness. Only the order to
advance had still to come. But here the weather threatened to
upset all plans, for the direction of the wind was such as would
spoil the effect of the artillery's gas, and the fog would make the
attack movement difficult for the infantry. By 12 at midday
the weather conditions had so far improved, however, that it
was decided to carry out the attack on March 21. On that day,
accordingly, at 3 :3O A.M., the gassing of the Allied batteries began.
Tftis was followed by a 3-hours' preliminary bombardment of
the British positions by the German artillery and minenwerfer.
At 9:40 A.M. the German infantry dashed forward to the attack.
The mass of artillery then made a barrage, which, creeping
gradually forward, was to pave a way for the infantry into the
depths of the opposing trench system.
The attack itself turned out very differently at different
points. In the XVII. Army, commanded by Otto von Below,
the cooperation of infantry and artillery was not without its
hitches. The barrage " ran away from the storming infantry,"
who only reached the opponent's first position and found itself
in the evening before the strongly occupied second position.
At Vaulx Vrancourt and to the N. of it, as also at Doignies, the
British put up strong counter-attacks, to repel which several
2nd line German divisions had to be put in. The British de-
fended themselves here with great stubbornness against the
obvious danger of being shut off on the Cambrai bend.
The II. Army, commanded by von der Marwitz, pushed through
to the line Gonzeaucourt-E. of Epehy-Templeux le Guerard-Le
Verguier. Their main battle raged around the high-perched
village of Epehy, which the XXIII. Reserve Corps failed to take
in spite of heroic efforts. With this army only a small portion of
the second line divisions needed to be brought up. There were
no serious counter-attacks.
The greatest success was achieved by the XVIII. Army, com-
manded by von Hutier. Its right wing pushed through the
second British position and took the Holnon Wood. The centre
got through beyond Savy, Dallon, Fontaine les Clercs, and the
left wing took Urvillers, Essigny le Grand and Beney, and forced
the Oise crossing. The XVIII. Army also took the most booty.
On the whole a great initial success had been achieved. Every-
thing depended upon whether it could be successfully developed.
The German Supreme Command was determined to order the
continuation of the attack according to the results of the first
day's fighting. It allotted the first reinforcements brought up
to the XVIII. Army and the left wing of the II. Army, direct-
ing the XVIII. to ease the advance of the II. by pushing for-
ward on Tertry. The II. Army was likewise to put its weight
upon the left wing. On the second day the fighting was heavy,
the chief burden falling on the infantry. A systematic prelim-
inary bombardment was impracticable on account of the progress
made on the first day, and it was a difficult matter to pull the
batteries through the obstacles and shelled areas. The heaviest
and most thankless task was once more allotted to the XVII.
Army. Its infantry penetrated the second British positions time
after time, only to be forced back just as often by strong count-
SOMME, BATTLES OF THE
er-attacks assisted by tanks. Not until the afternoon did they
succeed, with considerable losses, in taking Croiselles, Vaulx
Vrancourt and Morchies, and entering Hermies. To do this
they had to be assisted by large portions of the third line. In
the evening the army found itself once more up against another
strongly held British position on the line Behagnies, Beugnatre-
. The II. Army had also had more hard battles to win. It took
Epehy and pushed forward as far as Fins-Longavesnes-Mar-
quaix-Coulaincourt, capturing considerable booty. It was not
able to interfere with the British evacuation of the Cambrai
bend, owing to the slow progress made by the XVII. Army.
- The XVIII. Army made a good advance encountering only
slight resistance. It stormed Feuquieres and forced a crossing
over the Crozat Canal between Jussy and Tergnier. For March
23 General Ludendorff ordered an attack by the XVII. Army
in the direction of Bapaume, to supplement the success of the
II. Army, and an advance on both sides of the Somme by the II.
and XVIII. Armies.
This day at last brought the reward of their heavy labour.
The XVII. Army met with sharp opposition even now from
newly put in divisions, but was able to take Monchy, Drien-
court, St. Leger, Beaumetz, Lebucquiere and Havrincourt.
The II. Army encountered heavy resistance on the right wing
only, and was able to reach the line Neuville-Etricourt-E. of
Bouchavesnes-E. of Peronne-the Somme at Brie, with only
slight opposition. The XVIII. Army took the Somme crossing
at Bethencourt by fighting, stormed Ham and crossed the
Crozat Canal. Its left wing corps (the IV. Reserve) repelled the
counter-attacks of 3 French divisions that were being hurried
up as reinforcements in a bloody battle.
For the next two days the scene remained unchanged. The
XVII. and II. Armies advanced towards the Ancre, fighting
violently, the II. being more and more hindered by the shelled
area of the Somme battle. But gradually a new front arose
on the Ancre in front of these armies, stretching southward to
the Somme. In the region of Albert the British executed one
counter-attack after another, though with heavy losses.
The centre and right wing of the II. Army had, by March 26,
reached Thiepval, Beaumont-Hamel, Mametz, Cornoy, Albert
and Braye sur Somme. Certain portions veering in from the
N. opened a way of advance for the lagging left wing, which was
thus able to come up with the rest of the army on March 27 on
arriving at Ville sur Ancre-Sailly. Meanwhile the resistance was
visibly growing, and it was possible to calculate the point at
which it would be equal to the decreasing pressure of the
The XVII. Army had been steadily fighting its way forwards
through village after village. In proportion as the opponent's
fighting power waned new forces were put in. He seemed de-
termined that there should be no question of rolling up or break-
ing through his front at Arras under any circumstances. In
spite of this the army managed to take Bapaume on March 24,
Behzgnies, Sapignies, Grevillers and Irles on the 2Sth, and to
reach Boiry, Becquerelle, Hamelincourt, Achiet le Grand and
Achiet le Petit on the 26th. The attacking power of the army
was now exhausted. On the 27th it did no more than capture
the village of Ablainzeville and repel the counter-attacks of
new British forces with powerful artillery.
. The II. Army progressed in much the same way. The XVIII.
Army maintained its almost unbroken advance throughout the
days from March 23 to 27. By the evening of the 2Sth it
had reached Nyencourt, Curchy, Nesle, Hattencourt-Beaulieu-
Bussy, and on the 27th was in possession of Pierrepont, Mont-
didier, Boulogne la Grosse and Lassigny.
. At this point the great battle came temporarily to a close.
General Ludendorff had, on the evening of March 26, shaped
his plans with the view of dividing the British and French by a
gradual left-wheel advance of the II. and XVIII. Armies against
the French. To this end the Somme at Amiens, and the Avre
had to be reached, and the operation continued towards the
S.W. The original plans had thus undergone a complete change
in the course of its execution. It would now very soon be shown
whether the tactical break-through could still be brought off in
spite of the waning of the Germans' strength and the increase
of the Allied resistance.
The course of events on March 27 did not come up to Luden-
dorff's arrogant expectations. It was impossible for the attack-
ing force to know that in the direction of Amiens the decisive
point the Allies had only very weak forces at their disposal on
that day. In this case, as in every break-through, the difficulty
of accurately estimating the exact effect presented itself. The
difficulties of provisioning, too, made themselves increasingly
felt in the shelled area of the Somme battlefield. The supply of
munitions ceased, and the establishment of rearward communi-
cations had not kept pace with the advance of the attack. From
certain signs it was evident that the German troops were not
everywhere at their highest level of achievement and endurance.
The losses, particularly those of the XVII. Army, exceeded
what under the circumstances was the legitimate number.
Ludendorff therefore changed his intention once more on
March 27; The XVII. Army was ordered to close down the
attack. The XVIII. and the left wing of the II. were to renew
their attack on the now isolated French on March 30 between
the Somme and the Oise. This attack resulted in the filling out
of the German line where it curved in S. of the Somme, and the
taking of the localities Aubercourt, Demuin, Moreuil, Sauvillers,
Hargicourt, Contigny, Anainvillers, and Rollot the so-called
bridgehead of the Avre. But while the break-through at Amiens
failed, the Germans were able to repulse the violent, though dis-
connected, French counter-attacks in every case. By April 4
the right wing of the XVIII. Army had still been able to take
the heights W. of Moreuil. The II. Army reached the western
border of Hamel and pushed forward almost to Villers Breton-
neux and Hangard. The battle then ceased.
Later repetitions of the attack in the direction of Amiens had
no better results. An assault on April 24 by the II. Army in the
neighbourhood of Villers Bretonneux, in which tanks were used,
made good progress at first but could not hold the ground gained.
The battle ended therefore without any clear decision. Cer-
tainly the Germans had achieved an initial success such as had
been denied to the Entente during the preceding 3^ years of
hard struggle in spite of the masses of men and material put in;
they had more than made good the ground lost in 1916, and
had captured apart from enormous booty 90,000 prisoners
and 1,200 guns. The British army was heavily shaken; 20
French divisions had been drawn into the battle; but the war
had not been won, and neither the transition to a war of move-
ment, nor the separation of the French and British had been
achieved. In the course of the battle 90 German divisions
almost half of the western army had suffered more or less
heavy losses. New and great efforts would be required for the
fulfilment of Ludendorff's great aim.
Battles of Arras and the Oise. An attempt was next made
to extend the front of the attack on both sides. To this end
Rupprecht's group of armies had been preparing since March 22
to carry out the Mars N. attack at an early date, and had
allotted to the XVII. Army three divisions standing behind the
VI. Army in view of this. To replace them four divisions of the
IV. Army were sent to the VI. The group of armies hoped at
last to break the British lines by delivering two attacks on their
front this one and the Walkiirenritt by the VI. Army while
the II. and XVIII. Armies profited by their early success on
the British right wing. But this plan had for the moment to be
pushed aside as the Supreme Command placed all the pressure
on the left wing of the Michael operation. Not until March 25
did Ludendorff revert to the extension of the attack on the
British. He settled that the Mars attack should take place
between the Loretto height and the Scarpe on March 28, to-
gether with a secondary attack south of that stream. The
Walkiirenritt attack on the Loretto height was to follow closely.
For this attack 7 German divisions were placed N. of the
Scarpe, under the general command of the I. Bavarian Reserve
Corps, and 4 S. of it under the general command of the III.
SOMME, BATTLES OF THE
Bavarian and IX. Reserve Corps. But no success was obtained,
although the divisions were mainly fresh ones. The work of
attacking was hampered by the indistinct nature of the country
and the endless maze of trenches. The British opposed the
attack with fresh forces, and, particularly by 'the skillful use
of their machine-guns, impeded the advance of the attacking
force. North of the Scarpe the ist line divisions, after some
insignificant successes at the start, met with strong British
counter-attacks, which threw back the attackers for the most
part to their starting positions. Only the two localities, Gravelle
and Roeux, remained in German hands. The Command did
not put in any reserves.
South of the stream the localities of Neuville and Ayette
yielded to the bold assaults of the German divisions fighting
in that quarter, but no decisive success was attained. The
taking of several thousand prisoners, and heavy losses on the
Allied side, were the only positive results of the Mars attack,
which had failed for two reasons it was obviously on too narrow
a front and had not been launched as a surprise.
The Supreme Command now gave up the VI. Army attack
on the Loretto height, and ordered the XVII. Army, including
its right wing, to stand on the defensive.
The extension of the attack S. of the Oise had no such wide
operative aims. It was designed in the first place to protect the
projecting left flank of the XVIII. Army and the road running
behind it through La Fere-Chauny-Nayn, which was indispen-
sable for bringing up drafts. To ensure this the Ailette line,
which cut off the reentering angle between the XVIII. and VII.
Armies, had to be won. The task was entrusted to the general
commands of the VIII. Army Corps and the VIII. Reserve
Corps under the leading of the 7th Higher Army Command.
The attack was led from the N.E. in view of the difficult Oise
crossing. The attacking force, on April 6, took the French
who were apparently in no great strength obviously by sur-
prise, and pushed through South Chauny and Amigny to
Marizelle and Barisis railway station. On April 7, after a short
preliminary bombardment, the attack was continued, and
Pierremande and the Coucy Wood were reached with only slight
opposition. On the 8th the VIII. Army Corps advanced to the
Ailette, S. of Le Bac d'Arblincourt, and stormed Champs. The
VIII. Reserve Corps captured Coucy le Chateau, and reached
the road Coucy-Landricourt-Arizy at nightfall. Finally on the
9th the two corps won the Oise-Aisne Canal along the whole front.
In a 4-days' struggle the problem had been smoothly solved.
The victors held 2,300 prisoners. The front had been consider-
ably shortened, and the possibility of successful attacks even
against French defenders had been established. (W. M.-Lo.)
III. THE BATTLE OF AMIENS, AUG. 8-22 1918
At the beginning of the fourth week in July, the German
offensive on the Marne and in Champagne, which had been
intended by their Higher Command as decisive, had been bril-
liantly repulsed by an Allied counter-blow, which had not only
thrown back the enemy over the Marne but was forcing him
back to the Vesle. Gen. Foch was resolved to follow up the ad-
vantage thus gained and assume the offensive on all his front as
soon as possible ; but it was essential before so doing to clear the
main railway lines running laterally behind his front, several of
which were menaced or blocked by the enemy. The most
important of these was the Paris-Amiens line, and it was there-
fore decided that the first measure should be the freeing of this
railway by a joint Franco-British attack on a wide front E. of
Amiens. This operation was discussed first at a council of the
four Allied commanders-in-chief, held at Bombon, near Melun,
on July 24 1918 and further in a conference between Gen. Foch
and Sir D. Haig on the 26th, and was finally embodied in a
directive issued by the Allied Generalissimo on the 28th. It
was therein laid down that the offensive should be conducted
by the IV. British and I. French Armies, under the command of
Field-Marshal Haig; that covered by the Somme, it should be
pushed as far as possible in the direction of Roye, and that the
road from Amiens to that place should be the dividing line
between the two armies. The date fixed, at first Aug. 10, was
later advanced to Aug. 8.
Preparation for the British Attack. An operation similar to
that ordered had for some time been contemplated by the IV.
Army, and preparations for it were therefore pressed on from
July 26 onwards. At this date the army, under Gen. Rawlinson's
command consisted of the Australian (Monash) and III. Corps
(Butler), (8 infantry divisions and one cavalry division), on the
front Albert- Villers-Bretonneux. By the date of the attack it
had been reinforced by the Canadian Corps (Currie) (4 in-
fantry divs., another Australian infantry div., and 2 cavalry
divs.), while the artillery was brought up to a total of over
2,000 guns, the aircraft to 28 squadrons and the tanks to 456
machines, 96 being whippets. The difficulties of effecting the
concentration of these masses of troops and material, while
keeping it secret from the enemy, were successfully, overcome
by means of elaborate precautions surpassing even those taken
by the Germans before their spring and summer offensives.
The cavalry, whippet tanks and part of the artillery were moved
into the IV. Army area by road, the remainder (far the larger
proportion) of the troops and material, being brought up in
the period Aug. 1-8 in some 300 special trains. It was re-
garded as of the utmost importance to keep secret the arrival of
the Canadians; in order to deceive the enemy, the troops them-
selves were deceived; Canadian units were sent from Arras into
the trenches in Flanders, and the corps was actually brought
into line, only a few hours before the attack, relieving the right
of the Australian Corps, which had by Aug. i taken over the
front from the French as far as the Amiens-Roye road. The
precautionary measures taken were entirely successful in their
object of ensuring that no warning of the attack should reach
The front of the IV. Army attack extended from the Ancre S.
of Albert to the Amiens-Roye road, a frontage of some 13 m.;
three successive objectives were assigned, at distances, respec-
tively of about 2-2, 3-5, and 6-8 m. from the original starting
line, which would bring the army eventually on the line of the
" Amiens outer defences," on the front Le Quesnel-Harbon-
nieres-Morcourt. The country, open rolling downland, was
favourable for the operations of all arms; the enemy's defences
were not formidable. The hostile forces believed to be available
to oppose the British, consisted of the LI., XI. and XIV. German