The German Drive - 1918

In the spring of 1918 the German High Command mounted a series of grand offensives to break the Allied front and end the war with victory or at least a draw. The German plan was to separate the Allied armies and force a decision in the west before the full potential of the newly-arrived American troops could be realized. It very nearly succeeded.

On March 21 thousands of specially trained troops were thrown upon the weakest part of the British front between St. Quentin and Arras. In the desperate fighting east of Amiens the Canadian Cavalry Brigade distinguished itself, showing the value of the horse in a battle of manoeuvre.

This was followed during the next four months with a series of blows against the Allies in the vicinity of Ypres, Soissons, and Reims. All achieved considerable territorial success, and once more the Germans reached the Marne and were within 70 kilometres of Paris. Exhausted Allied troops reeled and retreated, but the front did not collapse, and the expected gap did not develop. The Allies had agreed to the appointment of General Foch as co-ordinator of all the Allied Forces on the Western Front, and the steady build-up of American troops provided needed reserves. The desperate German gamble failed. During these months the Canadian Corps never took part in the defensive battles, but took over much greater lengths of line to allow the relieved divisions to take part in actions elsewhere on the front.

Now the Allied turn came. On July 4, Australian and American infantry and British tanks and aircraft inflicted a small scale but stunning defeat on the Germans at Le Hamel. It was the first use of the integrated attack—co-ordinated use of artillery, infantry, tanks and air power—the basis of the modern battlefield. On July 18, French, American and British forces launched a counter-attack on the Marne and by August 2 they had regained much of the territory lost in the German July offensive. Light tanks overran enemy forward positions and, together with a massive artillery bombardment, shattered the morale of the German troops. All along the line, quick relentless attacks followed in one section after another. By early September the Allies were advancing in every sector: the British were hammering at the Hindenburg line; the French were pushing forward in Champagne; and the Americans, victorious at St. Mihiel, were advancing in the Meuse-Argonne.

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