Amiens 1918: Victory from Disaster
by Gregory Blaxland
As the realities of the changing nature of warfare by late 1917 made the retention of static lines, no matter how sophisticated, no longer a long-term viable option for the defense; and with Russia knocked out of the war, the Germans under Hindenburg and Ludendorff determined on a bold series of major offensives, the first of which was aimed at the British Fifth Army with the objective of seizing Amiens, a crucial rail head and the city that marked the boundary between the BEF and the French. Capture this and the Germans had a good chance of separating the key allied powers. Despite almost destroying Fifth Army and advancing within ten miles of Amiens, the Germans failed in their objective; they turned to a number of other hard thrusts along the line but were foiled on each occasion.
Reinforced by substantial numbers of American troops, the Allies launched their first, French-led, counterattack on 18 July, which many considered the turning point of the 1918 campaign and, indeed the whole war. Shortly afterward, on 8 August, the BEF (with some French support) attacked with Fourth Army before Amiens and was stunningly successful – what Ludendorff described as the ‘Black Day of the German Army’. There followed a sequence of blows by all the allies along the Western Front, pushing the Germans back to the borders; with her allies collapsing and with the Imperial Navy in a state of mutiny.
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