Arras-Albert railway, on which it was correctly assumed that the
enemy's main line of resistance was sited. The day of Aug. 22 would
then be used to get troops and guns into position on this front and
to bring forward the left of the IV. Army between the Somme and
the Ancre. The principal attack would then be delivered on Aug. 23
by the III. Army and the divisions of the IV. Army N. of the Somme,
the remainder of the IV. Army assisting by pushing forward S. of
the river to cover the flank of the main operation. Thereafter if
success attended our efforts, the whole of both armies were to press
forward with the greatest vigour and exploit to the full any advan-
tage we might have gained.
The line of the British IV. Army at the date of the opening of
the new battle on Aug. 21 ran from Fransart by Chilly, Proyart
and Dernancourt to Albert. The right of this line as far as the
Bray-Corbie road was held by the Australian Corps (Monash)
with five divisions (from the right, 4th Canadian, 4th Australian,
32nd, sth Australian and 3rd Australian) in line and three
(ist Canadian, ist Australian and 2nd Australian) in reserve.
To the left of this the III. Corps (47th, i2th and i8th Divs. in
line and s8th in reserve) continued the line to the army boundary
northward of Albert on a front running along the W. bank of the
Ancre as far as Beaucourt and thence W. of Puisieux, Bucquoy
and Moyenneville to the Cojeul. The III. Army held the line
in order from the S. with the V. Corps (Shute) with the 38th
and 2 ist Divs. in line and the 1 7th in reserve, from N. of Albert to
Beaucourt; the IV. Corps (Harper) with the 42nd, New Zealand
and 37th Div. in line and the sth and 63rd in support, extending
as far as opposite Ablainzeville; and the VI. Corps (Haldane)
(2nd Guards, 56th and 52nd Divs. in front line, with the 3rd in
rear), as far as the army boundary.
Facing these troops the German II. Army (v. Marwitz) held
the front opposite the IV. British Army, from N. of Roye to N.
of Albert. This army, after its battering on Aug. 8 and succeeding
days, held its front with 16 divisions, retaining 7, mostly ex-
hausted and reduced in numbers, in reserve. The XVII. Army
(Otto v. Below) was on the right of the II. extending as far as
Avion, S. of Lens. On the eve of the attack this army had n
divisions in first line and 2 in reserve. Both of these armies,
together with the IX., to the left of the II., belonged to the
newly-formed Army Group of von Boehm, whose area of com-
mand thus extended from N. of the Scarpe to the Aisne.
First Stage of III. Army's Advance (Aug. 21-26). The main
attack on the front of the British III. and IV. Armies was timed
for Aug. 23 and the two previous days were to be in some sense
only a prelude. The operation to be undertaken on Aug. 21
consisted of an advance by the IV. and VI. Corps on a front of
9 m. from opposite Miraumont to Moyenneville, while the left
division of the V. Corps secured the right flank of the attack
along the Ancre. The general objective was to be the line of the
Arras-Albert railway, the attainment of which involved a
penetration of the hostile front to a depth of 2 to 3 miles.
The attacking infantry, supported by tanks and covered by a
strong barrage, moved forward at 4:55 A.M. The enemy was
fully aware of the probability of an offensive on his XVII. Army
sector and had adopted his well-tried system of defence in depth,
the positions forward of the railway being lightly held by weak
forces. These were rapidly driven in along the whole front of
attack, their task being rendered difficult both by thick mist and
smoke thrown out to cover the advance of the assaulting infantry.
SOMME, BATTLES OF THE
While the 2ist Div. of the V. Corps pushed forward along the
right bank of the Ancre as far as Beaucourt and set to work to
prepare a passage over the flooded and marshy stream at St.
Pierre Divion, the 42nd, New Zealand, and 37th Divs. of the
IV. Corps carried their first objective, the high ground E. of
Bucquoy and Ablainzeville, and then gave place to the 5th and
63rd Divs., which carried the line up to the final objective W. of
the railway. Further to the N. the 2nd and Guards Divs. of the
VII. Corps, assisted by the 3rd Div., which was leap-frogged
over the 2nd for the last stage of the advance, also carried out
their allotted task, and though the fog, which had at first fa-
voured the attacking troops caused some little confusion and loss
of direction, succeeded not only in reaching but in crossing the
railway E. of Courcelles and Moyenneville. Over 2,000 prisoners
were captured along the front of attack, of which 1,400 fell to the
lot of the IV. Corps.
The German XVII. Army, in view of the loss of its forward
positions, requested permission to retake them by a counter-
offensive, which was delivered in force on the 22nd, and drove in
parts of the new line both in the IV. and VI. Corps sector. It
failed however to gain any decided advantage, as the Germans
themselves admit, and meanwhile the preparations for the gen-
eral advance on the whole of the IV. and III. Army fronts on the
23rd were being rapidly completed. At the point of junction of the
armies the 38th Div. of the V. Corps, in cooperation with the
III. Corps, carried out a series of operations which had as their
result the occupation of Albert, and the seizure of points of
passage which rendered it possible to throw strong forces to the
E. bank of the Ancre in preparation for the morrow.
The main phase of the III. Army's operations began in the
morning of Aug. 23, the various formations attacking at different
hours along the whole front of 16 m. from Albert to the Cojeul.
The enemy resisted with determination, but considerable prog-
ress was made all along the line. On the right the V. Corps, still
acting in close conjunction with the III. Corps to the S. of i(^
pushed out its right, the 38th Div., E. and N.E. from Albert and
completed its occupation of the hills overlooking the town.
By the end of the day this division held a line from just W. of
La Boisselle to Aveluy, while its left brigade had thrown parties
across the marshes E. of Hamel, where they held on all night in
face of repeated German attacks. On the front of the 2istDiv.,
on the left of the V. Corps, only small attacks took place, but
the IV. Corps to the N. of the Ancre, commencing its advance
at ii A.M., with the 42nd, New Zealand, 5th and 37th Divs.,
carried the railway, the enemy's main position, from N. of
Miraumont to Achiet le Grand, and pushing forward further on
the left, reached a line from Bihucourt to Loupart Wood, whence
the front at the end of the day ran sharply westwards N. of
Irles and N. and W. of Miraumont. On the VI. Corps the attack-
ing divisions, from right to left were the 2nd, 3rd, Guards, 56th
and 52nd. The 3rd Div. opened the advance at 4 A.M. with a
successful attack on Gomiecourt, after which at n A.M. the
znd Div. passed through on either side of the village to continue
the advance, its objective being the line of the Arras-Bapaume
road between Sapignies and Ervillers. The right of the attack
made little progress, but on the left Ervillers was taken early
in the afternoon. Farther N. the Guards, after seizing Hamelin-
court, had also established themselves across the main road,
and Boyelles and Boiry Becqucrelle also fell into the hands of the
VI. Corps before the end of the day, which resulted in the cap-
ture of 5,000 prisoners and a number of guns.
In view of the success gained during the day, it was decided
to renew the advance at i A.M. on the morning of the 24th, the
noon being then at the full. This decision was fully justified by
he excellent results achieved all along the line. On the V. Corps
ont, it was projected to carry the strong position on the Thiepval
plateau by means of a converging attack from S. and W. by the
two wings of the 38th Div. While the right brigade stormed the
high ground of La Boisselle and Ovillers, the left brigade, wading
across the Ancre at Hamel under cover of its detachments thrown
over the previous day, pushed forward as far as Pozieres, thus
turning the defences of Thiepval from the north. In the after-
noon and evening the V. Corps, of which the central and left
Divs., the i7thand 2ist, had pushed forward through Grandcourt,
by dint of heavy fighting, attained the general line W. of Con-
talmaison-Martinpuich-Courcelette. The IV. Corps had also
been highly successful; the 42nd Div. pushed its front by way of
Miraumont, where the enemy resisted with unusual stubbornness,
to Pys, while the 5th, New Zealand, and 37th Divs., farther N.,
advanced to the line Grevillers-Avesnes-W. of Behagnies-
Mory. The VI. Corps on the left of the army occupied St. Leger
and Henin-sur-Cojeul but were held up by a determined defence
in front of Croisilles and in St. Martin-sur-Cojeul.
The attack was vigorously pushed on the 25th despite the fact
that the troops were becoming weary and the enemy's line
heavily reinforced, showed signs of stiffening. The main advance
was in the centre; the V. Corps on the right advancing over the
old battlefields of 1916 where the ground afforded good facilities
for the defence could get on but slowly, and the enemy's prepared
fortifications gave him every advantage in the VI. Corps area,
where little progress could be achieved. In the centre however, N.
of Bapaume, the IV. Corps cleared up the hostile resistance at
Sapignies and Behagnies and pushed on in the evening to the line
Favreuil-Mory, thus seriously menacing the line of retreat of
the defenders of Bapaume.
In fact, at this moment the situation on the front of the XVII.
German Army was regarded as " extremely critical." It was
believed that the offensive against it was bound to continue and
the difficulty of getting up reserves and supplies was enhanced
by the lack of communications across the desolated area of the
old Somme battlefields. The Army Group of von Boehm was
accordingly instructed to retire the line of the XVII. Army to a
position already reconnoitred and partly prepared running from
Queant E. of Bapaume and Combles. The withdrawal took
place at once in accordance with orders, and was completed by
the morning of the 27th under cover of strong rearguards which,
fiercely contested the advance of the British III. Army.
Conclusion of III. Army's Advance (Aug. 26-Sept. i). Dur-
ing the 26th the V. Corps gained the fruit of its hard struggles
of the previous days in a deep advance over the Somme battle-
ground, which carried it forward to the western outskirts of what
had once been the villages of Longueval, Flers, and Le Sars.
The IV. Corps continued to swing round to the N.E. of Bapaume,:
occupying Bcugnatre, but the garrison of the town still held out.
The next few days were taken up with bitter and strenuous
fighting along all the front of the army, which grew stiffer as the
advancing British drew nearer to the new prepared positions of
the enemy. A new British Corps, the XVII. (Ferguson), took
over the three left divisions (s6th, 52nd and 57th) of the VI.
Corps on the evening of Aug. 25, and undertook the hard task,
of overcoming the German resistance around Croisilles and in;
the Hindenburg line to the E. Croisilles was not finally secured',
until the 28th when the enemy garrison, finding its retreat menaced^
from both flanks, abandoned it early in the morning and from
that date for four successive days the XVII. Corps was engaged
in to-and-fro fighting in the maze of trenches and dugouts around;
Bullecourt and Hendecourt which were finally secured by the
52nd and 57th Divs., respectively, on the morning of Sept. i.
The line was established E. of Riencourt by the evening. The
part of the XVII. Corps in the brilliant operations of the I. Army i
against the Drocourt-Queant line on Sept. 2 does not come
within the scope of this narrative.
Further to the S. by the evening of Aug. 29 the Germans,
though still holding their ground stubbornly before the VT.
Corps, had left Bapaume to the New Zealand Div. of the IV.
Corps, and retired before the V. Corps to the eastern edge of
the devastated area on the general line Morval-Beaulencourt.
Following up their advantage the IV. Corps pressed their ad-
vance on Aug. 30 and 31 to beyond Riencourt, Bancourt and
Fremicourt, thus rendering it possible for their neighbours on
the right and left to resume their progress which had for the
moment ceased. While the V. Corps on Sept. i drove the enemy
from Beaulencourt, Morval and Sailly-Saillisel and on the 2nd
from Le Transloy, Rocquigny and Barastre, the VI. Corps finally
SOMME, BATTLES OF THE
made itself master of the bitterly contested villages of Ecoust
and Vaux Vrancourt and pushed forward to Noreuil. The IV.
Corps in the centre, keeping pace with its comrades reached the
front Villers au Flos-Beugny on the evening of Sept. 2.
During the 13 days' fighting the 14 divisions of the III. Army
had engaged 23 hostile divisions, taken from them 11,000 prison-
ers, many guns and much material of war, and had driven them
back to a depth of from 8 to 13 m. on a front of 20, besides in-
flicting on them heavy losses in killed and wounded.
IV. Army's Advance to Upper Somme (Aug. 22-30). It has
already been stated that the left of the IV. Army N. of the Somme
had successfully cooperated in the main advance being carried
out by the III. Army on its left during all the period under re-
view from Aug. 22 onward. At the same time, other offensive
operations were also carried out by the centre and right of Gen.
Rawlinson's line astride and S. of the river, which had the effect
towards the end of Aug. of forcing the Germans to retire to the
line of the Somme above Peronne.
The attack of the III. Corps, delivered on the morning of
Aug. 22, had for its objective the capture of Albert and the
crests E. and S.E. of it in order to afford a crossing-place for the
V. Corps (the right corps of the III. Army) over the Ancre
valley. The i8th, 47th and I2th Divs., as also the 3rd Australian
Div., were entrusted with the operation, which involved an
advance of some 2,000 to 3,000 yd.; the s8th Div. was held in
reserve. Despite the fact that all the precautions taken failed
to ensure secrecy and that hostile counter preparations began
at 4 A.M., 45 minutes before the attack was timed to commence,
considerable progress was made on the whole front. The i8th
Div. cleared Albert and joined hands E. of Meaulte with the left
of the 1 2th Div., which together with the 47th on its right, had
reached practically all its objectives before noon. The 3rd
Australian Div. on the extreme right of the attack had also
fulfilled their allotted task as early as 8:30 A.M. But in the
afternoon a heavy German counter-attack, put in against the
centre of the new British line, recovered much of the lost ground
in that quarter, and inflicted such severe losses on the 47th Div.
that it had to be relieved during the course of the next day by
the s8th Div. from reserve.
This untoward incident somewhat disarranged the army plan
for the 23rd, which had originally involved an advance on the
whole front from Albert to Chaulnes. It was now decided that
only the i8th Div. on the extreme left of the III. Corps should
attack in conjunction with the Australians S. of the Somme.
Accordingly, on the morning of the 23rd, the i8th Div., acting
together with the V. Corps of the III. Army on its left, completed
its operations of the previous day by the capture of the ridge
immediately E. of Albert. The Australian attack to the S. was
more ambitious and equally successful. It was carried out on a
front of 4 m. by the 32nd Div. on the right and the ist Australian
on the left and involved an advance of some 2,000 yd. in depth,
right up to the edge of the area laid waste in 1916, on the ap-
proximate line Herleville-Chuignes-Cappy. The divisions de-
bouched at 4:45 A.M., assisted by 45 tanks and covered by an
excellent barrage. The 32nd Div. early seized Herleville and
the ist Australian Div. also successfully carried out the first two
stages of its advance, but met with unexpected difficulties in
the last phase, which were only overcome after severe and gallant
fighting. As a result of the day, 3,000 prisoners and 23 guns
remained in the Australian Corps' hands.
Gen. Rawlinson decided, as a result of the day's operations,
to go on with the attack N. of the river, and by way of variation
to the usual methods an advance was carried out just after
midnight of the 23rd by the whole of the III. Corps (47th, I2th
and i8th Divs.) and the 3rd Australian Division. With the aid
of the brilliant moonlight, good progress was made by all these
formations, and despite violent hostile reaction, the ground lost
on the 22nd was entirely recovered and La Boiselle, Becordel
and Bray all taken and held. The same good success attended
the continuance of the advance next day, Fricourt and Mametz
being both seized.
It had by now become evident, in fact, that the German re-
sistance on the IV. Army front, partly owing to the vigorous
pressure exercised throughout the last four days, partly owing
to the successes of the III. Army farther N., was beginning to
weaken, and that only strong rearguards were being encountered
fighting to gain time for the retirement of the main body behind
the line of the Somme above Peronne. The German Higher
Command, as already mentioned, on the 25th, ordered von Boehm
(who had about the middle of Aug. been appointed to the com-
mand of a new Army Group consisting of the II., XVIII. and XI.
Armies, between the Ancre and the Aisne) to fall back to the line
of the river Somme-Ham-N.E. of Noyon, and the movement was
carried out on the 26th and 27th. During these days the progress
of the IV. Army was rapid, being opposed mainly by long range
artillery fire and strong machine-gun detachments. By the
evening of the 2;th the Australian Corps, which had handed
over part of its line, as far N. as beyond Lihons, to the French I.
Army on the night of the 24th, had reached the front Vernian-
dovillers-Fontaine-Vaux, while the III. Corps which had been
severely tested by the resistance of three fresh enemy divisions
newly put into line on its front had cleared Trones Wood and
Longueval. The German II. Army had now reached its chosen
positions of defence between Morval and Pargny but had appar-
ently, at the desire of the Army Group which considered it im-
portant to retain the possibility of flanking movement from in
front of Peronne against any eventual British advance in the
open country to the N., decided to retain its hold on the W. bank
of the river in that quarter. Accordingly, the resistance in that
area, where the left of the Australian Corps was operating, grew
stiffer during the 28th and 29th; while the 32nd Div. on the right
of the corps reached the W. bank of the Somme astride the
Amiens-Brie road without severe fighting early on the 29th,
the sth and 2nd Australian Divs. only established themselves on
the river line after heavy fighting and thanks largely to the
cooperation of the 3rd Australian Div. on the N. of the Somme.
By the evening of the 3oth the Australian line ran along the W.
bank from Cizancourt in the S. to Biaches and thence over the
river to Clery and was continued by the III. Corps along the
western edge of Marrieres Wood to Pricz Farm and E. of Combles.
The Germans in this latter area had also fought stubbornly
during the past two days and it became evident that they were
here standing on a chosen line of defence. In view, however, of
the small prospect of success afforded by any attempt to force
the strongly held Somme line above Peronne, the IV. Army
Command decided that the next operation must be a strong ad-
vance by the centre and left in order to turn that line to the N.
and orders to this effect were issued on the evening of the 3oth.
Forcing of the Somme Line by IV. Army (Aug. jo-Sept. 2).
The plan for the IV. Army's further operations involved the
turning of the Somme line, to which the German II. Army had
retired, by means of an advance N. of Peronne to the high ground
around Nurlu. The III. Corps was to carry out the frontal attack
from the W. against the German line northwards from Peronne,
while the Australian Corps covered the southern flank of the
attack and cooperated in the main operation by pushing for-
ward against Nurlu from the S.W. Before this could be done,
however, it was necessary to occupy Peronne and the key to it,
the commanding height of Mont St. Quentin. This in itself was
a most formidable task, for the position, strong both by nature
and by art, dominated all the country to N. and W., and all
the river passages by which it could be approached. The German
High Command fully realized its importance, and had com-
mitted its defence to the picked troops of the 2nd Guard Div.
with orders to hold it at all costs.
Sir John Monash, the Australian Corps commander, had
already on the 29th formulated his plans for the attack of this
stronghold. On this date the line of the corps was held from S.
to N. by the 32nd, sth, 2nd and 3rd" Divs., the last-named being
N. of the Somme. The idea was to bring over the 5th and 2nd
Divs. to the N. bank, for the attack of Peronne and Mont St.
Quentin respectively. The seizure of a bridgehead on the N.
bank S.E. of Clery, an essential preliminary, was carried out by
the 2nd Australian Div. during the course of the 3oth, and the
SONNINO SOROLLA Y BASTIDA
bridge at Ommiecourt was ready for use by before dawn on the
morrow. On this same night the 32nd Div. on the corps, right
extended its front to the N., relieving part of the 5th Div. which
in turn took over part of the front of the 2nd Div., thus liberating
the necessary forces for the assault.
This was opened at 5 A.M. on the 3ist by the 5th Bde., of the
and Div. which moved off under cover of a strong barrage and
making good progress had attained by 7 A.M. both Feuillaucourt
and Mont St. Quentin villages; the right of the brigade however
was held up in front of Anvil Wood. To the left of the brigade
also the attack of the 3rd Australian Div. had failed to keep pace
and a heavy German counter-attack, flung in against the front
and left of the troops holding Mont St. Quentin village, com-
pelled them to relinquish it. They rallied again, however, on the
western edge and there held their ground till nightfall. Feuillau-
court had also to be abandoned later in the day. Meanwhile
the 6th Bde. (also of the 2nd Div.) crossed the river behind the
5th and part of it pushing forward on the right of its comrades,
seized Halle and established itself on a line beyond. The re-
mainder halted S.E. of Clery. The i4th Bde. of the sth Div.,
also effected a crossing at that place and collected E. of that
village, pending the moment when the further advance of the
2nd Div. should allow it to advance against its assigned objective
Peronne. By nightfall the 1,200 fighting men of the 5th Bde. had
already broken the back of their task. Despite the difficulties
which faced them, they had penetrated the formidable hostile
positions to a depth of some 2,000 yd., and though reduced in
numbers to some 600 rifles had held out on a wide front of 4,000
yd. against reiterated and desperate counter-blows by a foe in
every way worthy of their steel. Their single feat of arms was
rightly judged one of the finest in the war, and was to receive
full fruition on the morrow.
The 6th Bde. of the 2nd Div., assembled S.E. of Clery, was
assigned to complete the capture of Mont St. Quentin, passing
through the sorely tried 5th Bde., its units already in the front
line S.E. of Halle being relieved by the i4th Bde. of the 5th Div.,
which now undertook the attack on Peronne. While this last-
named brigade swept forward through Anvil Wood and Ste.
Radegonde, forced its way into Peronne and got possession before
noon of practically all the town with the exception of the north-
eastern suburbs, the 6th Bde., despite strong opposition from
parties of the enemy still at large behind the 5th Bde. front on the
Peronne-Bapaume high road, reached the line of that road and
after a short preparation by artillery stormed Mont St. Quentin
village and wood and established itself on a line from there N. to
near Allaines and S. to the E. edge of Peronne. The night of
Sept. i thus saw the Australian Corps, the 3rd Div. of which
on the extreme left had taken possession of the ridges S. of
Bouchavesnes, in possession of all its objectives, after completely
defeating the enemy opposed to it.