Centenary of the Second Battle of the Somme 1918

In holding the German Spring Offensive, the Allies and particularly the B.E.F. took increased confidence in their ability to turn the tide of war in their favour.

On 15th August 1918, British Field Marshal Douglas Haig refused demands from Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch to continue the Amiens offensive, as that attack was faltering as the troops outran their supplies and artillery, and German reserves were being moved to the sector. Instead, Field Marshal Haig began to plan for an offensive at Albert, which opened on 21st August on the same ground over which the 1916 Battle of the Somme was fought.

3rd Grenadier Guards in the second German line near Moyenneville which they took on August 21st 1918, prisoners and wounded are coming in
3rd Grenadier Guards in the second German line near Moyenneville which they took on August 21st 1918, prisoners and wounded are coming in

Replacement troops, including over 108,000 members of the recently arrived United States Army took part in the campaign, and new equipment helped to rebuild after the losses earlier in the year.

Infantry were trained to work in co-operation with the armoured regiments (the new Whippet and Mark V tanks were much improved compared to their predecessors) and to coordinate with the R.A.F. when air cover was needed. At 05.00am on 21st August 1918, Divisions of Allied infantry advanced through fog and under cover of a creeping artillery barrage along the front.

Whippets going off to battle tank
Whippets going off to battle tank

That offensive developed into an advance which pushed the German Second Army back over a 55-kilometre front, from south of Douai to La Fère, south of Saint-Quentin, Aisne.

Albert was captured on 22nd August, the city of Albert had an added significance for the Allies throughout the war as the site of the famous "leaning Madonna" - a statue of the Virgin and Child dangling precariously off of the spire of the city's church. It was prophesied that should the Madonna finally fall from the church spire, the war would end. She never did, however, and it came as something of a surprise afterwards to discover that a work team from the Royal Corps of Engineers had clandestinely bolted her into place under cover of darkness. Bapaume fell into New Zealand hands on 29th August, and the Australian Corps crossed the Somme River on the night of 31st August and broke the German lines at the Battle of Mont St. Quentin and the Battle of Péronne. The British Fourth Army's commander, General Henry Rawlinson, described the Australian advances of 31 August – 4 September “as the greatest military achievement of the war.”

Albert Church
Albert Church 1918

This second 1918 battle around the Somme including the Battle of Albert, 21st – 23rd August 1918 and the Second Battle of Bapaume, 31st August – 3rd September 1918 was part of a strategy designed to push parts of the German line back behind their main supply line so cutting it and making impossible the efficient maintenance of the German forces on the front. This success resulted in the German forces in this sector being pushed as far back as the Hindenburg line, which was the Germans major defensive line incorporating many underground tunnels, passages and fortifications.


Advance to Victory - The Last 100 Days of World War One.

Forces War Records unique ‘WW1 Troop Movement’ using Order of Battle of Divisions (ORBATS) an interactive audio-visual feature follows the Allies' advance across the Somme to the Hindenberg Line, then onto Mons where the last shots were fired and finally onto Compiègne where the Armistice was signed, thus ending the hostilities.


WWI Troop movements - Follow the Hundred Days offensive
WWI Troop movements - Follow the Hundred Days offensive
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