Hundred Days Offensive
Having finally halted the German Spring Offensive, the final period of the Great War was called the Hundred Days Offensive. The Allies launched a series of successful attacks against Germany and the Central Powers on the Western Front from the 8th August to 11th November 1918. Beginning with the Battle of Amiens, the offensive essentially pushed the Germans out of France. The Germans were forced to retreat behind the Hindenburg Line which resulted in an armistice on the 11th November 1918. The term ”Hundred Days Offensive” does not refer to a specific battle, but rather the rapid series of Allied victories beginning with the Battle of Amiens.
The Battle of Amiens was the opening phase of the offensive which began on the 8th August 1918. Later known as the Hundred Days Offensive, Allied forces advanced over 11 km (7 miles) on the first day, one of greatest advances of the war, with the British Fourth Army playing the decisive role. The battle began in dense fog at 4.20 a.m. when the III Corps of the Fourth Army attacked north of the Somme. The Australians attacked south of the river and the Canadians south of the Australians. Although German forces were aware of an imminent attack, when the attack occurred it was so unexpected that the Germans only began their counter-artillery bombardment at the area after the Allies forces had long vacated their trenches. The attackers captured the first German position by 7.30 a.m. advancing approximately 3.7 km (2.3 miles). By the end of the day the Allies had punched a gap 24 km (15 miles) long in the German line south of the Somme and taken approximately 16,000 prisoners. Total German losses were estimated to be 30,000 whilst the Fourth Army’s casualties, British, Australian and Canadian infantry, were approximately 8,800. The German General Erich Ludendorff described the first day of Amiens as the “Black day of German Army”, not because of the ground lost but because the morale of German troops had sunk to a point where large numbers of troops began to capitulate. The Battle of Amiens was a major turning point in the tempo of the war. On the 27th August 1918 the Germans had been forced into defensive rather than offensive positions , without any hope of victory on the Western Front. All they could hope for was to defend themselves long enough to gain peace by negotiation.
The advance was continued on the 9th August 1918 at the Battle of Montdidier with French forces attacking the southern part of the battlefield. The advance was not quite as spectacular as the result of the first day as the infantry had outrun their supporting artillery. The Germans commanded a wide field of fire to the south of the Somme on the Chipilly Spur until a small Australian party slipped across the river and captured the village of Chipilly itself on the 12th August 1918.
The Second Battle of Noyon was fought on the 17th August 1918 when the French attacked and captured the town on the 29th August 1918.
On the 15th August 1918, British Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig refused demands from Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch to continue the Amiens offensive. The German attack at Amiens was faltering as their troops outran their supplies and artillery. The decision by Foch to launch a three-pronged attack against the Germans saw Haig beginning to plan for an offensive at Albert. The main attack was to be launched by the British Third Army, with the assistance of the United States II Corps.
The Third Battle of Albert was fought on the 21st -22nd August 1918, and Albert was taken from the Germans on the 22nd August 1918. The British and Americans began the advance on Arras. This battle was significant in that it was the opening push that would lead to the Second Battle of the Somme.
The Second Battle of the Somme began with the Second Battle of Bapaume, which was a continuation of the Battle of Albert, and was fought between the 21st August and the 3rd September 1918. These attacks developed into an advance, which pushed the German Army back along an 80 km (50 mile) front line.
On the 29th August 1918 during the Second Battle of Bapaume, the town fell into New Zealand hands. This resulted in an advance by the Australian Corps who crossed the Somme River on the 31st August 1918 and broke the German lines during the Battle of Mont St.Quentin. The German armies were pushed back to the Hindenburg Line from which they had launched their spring offensive in March 1918.
The Battle of the Scarpe was fought between the 26th and 30th August 1918. On the 26th August 1918 the Canadian forces advanced over 5km (3.2 miles) and captured the towns of Monchy-le-Preux and Wancourt. The Allies widened the attack by another 11 km (7 miles) with the Second Battle of Arras. On the 26th August 1918, heavy rain during the night of the 26th/27th August 1918 resulted in slippery ground, making it difficult to assemble troops and the day’s assaults started late. Stiff resistance from the Germans and their heavily defended positions limited the Canadian gains to approximately 3 km (1.9 miles). On the 28th August 1918 the Canadian Infantry seized an important portion of the German Fresnes-Rouvroy defence system after three days of intense fighting. The Canadian Corp cleared portions of the Fresnes-Rouvroy trench system on the 30th August 1918. After holding out all day under heavy fire the Canadians drove off a German counter-attack.
On the Italian Front the Battle of San Matteo was fought from 13th August 1918 to 3rd September 1918, on the Punta San Matteo, with the Italians resisting the Austro-Hungarian forces. The battle was regarded as the highest fought battle in history, but has subsequently been surpassed since. The battle followed the defeat at Caporetto and the subsequent counter-attack by the Italians had recaptured all the territory on the southern bank of the Piave River and the battle was over by the 29th June 1918. At the beginning of 1918 Austro-Hungarian troops had set up a fortified position on top of the San Matteo Peak. From this high ground they were able to harass the Italian supply convoys to the front line. On the 13th August 1918 a small group of Italian troops conducted a surprise attack on the peak, and successfully took the fortified position. The Austro-Hungarian forces launched an attack aimed to retake the mountain on the 3rd September 1918. The lost position was recaptured following a massive artillery bombardment and subsequent infantry attack. The successful counter-attack was the last Austro-Hungarian victory in the Great War, and they held that position until the armistice of November 1918.
During the Caucasus Campaign the Battle of Baku was fought from 26th August to 14th September 1918. The clash was between the Turkish-Azerbaijani coalition forces and the British-Armenian-White Russian forces. Baku and its environs had been the site of clashes since June 1918, and on the 26th August 1918, the Islamic section in the Turkish Army of the Caucasus launched its main attack against positions at Wolf’s Gate. Despite a shortage of artillery, British and Baku troops held the positions against the army of the Caucasus. Over the period of 28th – 29th August 1918, the Turkish forces heavily shelled the city, and attacked the Binagadi Hill position. 500 Turkish soldiers in close order charged up the hill, but were repulsed with the help of artillery. However, the under-strength British troops were forced to retire to positions further south. From the 29th August to 1st September 1918 the Turkish forces managed to capture the positions of Binagadi Hill and Diga. By this point, Allied troops were pushed back to the saucer-like position that made up the heights surrounding Baku. However, Turkish losses were so heavy they were not immediately able to continue their offensive. This gave the Baku Army invaluable time to reorganise their defences.
In August 1918, Flora Sandes was back in the trenches in Serbia. She was the only English lady to fight in the trenches for the Serbian Army. She had been wounded in 1916 and was sent back to England to convalesce. Upon recovery in December 1917 she was ready to resume her duty with her troops but was told by the Serbian Embassy she would be more help to Serbia by continuing a lecture tour in the YMCA centres in Northern France. She had been lecturing to audiences about the plight of the Serbian people, and had raised considerable funds to help relieve the Serbian troops who were desparately short of basic essentials. Upon returning to the trenches another piece of shrapnel trapped inside her body had moved which entailed her having another operation to remove it. She returned to her regiment and was waiting for the order to begin the advance on the long road back into Serbia.