Issued down to Divisions
(for distribution down to Battalions)
NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 7.
GERMAN ATTACK NEAR GIVENCHY, APRIL 9th, 1918.
From captured German orders and the attached map which shows the dispositions and plans of the 4th Ersatz Division, it appears that the following method of attack was adopted by the enemy:-
1. A very careful study was made of our defences in this locality. It is noteworthy that three days before the attack the enemy issued to platoon commanders detailed information gathered from air reconnaissance carried out at low elevation on that day, together with a note indicating not only the force expected to oppose the attack but also the estimated quality of the opposition anticipated. As a result of his reconnaissance, the enemy seems to have based his plan on avoiding the strong locality at Givenchy itself, penetrating our line on either flank, and turning inwards so as to take Givenchy from the right rear (south-west and south). The attacking force was divided into two portions, a northern and a southern. The northern attack was undertaken by four battalions, of which two were in front line, one in support and one in reserve. The southern attack consisted of two battalions, one being in the front line and one in support. In these attacks, the leading battalions were ordered to push straight forward, while the supporting battalion of the southern attack was to turn north and to take Givenchy in flank and rear from the south-west and south, and the supporting battalion of the northern attack was to deal similarly with Festubert from the south. This method of dealing from the flank and rear with strong points which are not attacked frontally has been conspicuous in the German operations since the 21st of March 1918.
2. Our defences consisted of defended localities each of which was held by a complete unit of not less than a platoon; other platoons especially detailed for counter-attack were kept in support. The garrisons of the defended localities had received orders to hold on at all costs – orders which were carried out in every case – and the platoons in support had been instructed to counter-attack as soon as the occasion arose without waiting for further orders. Each defended locality was prepared and wired for all round defence. Many of the communication trenches were wired, and lines of wire running perpendicularly and obliquely to the front had been erected to check any lateral advance in the event of local penetration. These obstacles proved of great assistance in preventing the enemy from extending his flanks after he has forced his way into portions of our front defences.
3. The attack was launched in a heavy mist, which greatly assisted the enemy. The parties of Germans, however, which succeeded in penetrating our positions were held up by the garrisons of the defended localities. As soon as the enemy’s advance was thus checked, the platoons in support counter-attacked and worked round the flanks of the parties which had pressed forward into our line. The enemy was engaged, therefore, by fire and bayonet from all sides. Several hundred prisoners and a large number of machine guns were captured, and our line was maintained intact. There was very little bombing.
4. The failure of the enemy’s attack upon these defences was due to the stubbornness of the defence maintained by the garrisons of the defended localities, and to the promptitude and skill with which the supporting platoons made their counter-attacks. We employed the same tactics against the enemy as he was endeavouring to employ against us. No frontal counter-attack was delivered, but the enemy was defeated by a succession of immediate counter-attacks delivered from the flanks.
Full advantage was taken of counter-attacking platoons of their knowledge of the ground, with the result that the enemy was outmanoeuvred as well as outfought.
From a study of this engagement the fact emerges clearly that an enemy penetrating into gaps in our positions is very much at a disadvantage until he can widen the flanks of the gaps; if the defending troops strengthen the flanks of these gaps and hold on to their positions tenaciously, he is bound to be caught between two fires, and forced to surrender what he has gained.
April 24th 1918.
Printed in France by Army Printing and Stationary Services. PRESS A-4/18.-6188S-3,500.