Building On the Past: Amiens
By the beginning of August 1918, four years had passed since the beginning of the Great War. On the Western Front, trench warfare continued to destroy a whole generation of young men. The spring and summer of 1918 saw the failed German offensive Operation Michael, an event that threatened Paris and nearly succeeded in capturing the French capital.
Although a failure overall, the near-success of Operation Michael due to excellent German tactics convinced the Allies that they needed go on the offensive soon. In planning what would be known as the “Hundred Days Offensive”, Allied commanders planned on a long, bloody slog all the way to the German border. Even with this offensive, they figured the war would last until 1919 or 1920.
The offensive would begin on the morning of August 8, 1918.
August 6, 1918
4 a.m. local time
A huge barrage of German shells began to rain down on the British 18th Eastern Division just as the 58th London Division came up to relieve them. The men of the German 27th Wurttemberg Division overwhelmed the British forces and recaptured a location known as Brick Beacon Hill. The small raid threatened to reveal Allied plans that a major offensive was being planned.
6 p.m. local time
That evening, British Whippet tanks began lining up under the trees on Boulevard Pont-Noyelles in the town of Amiens.
9:30 p.m. local time
From a German soldier in the 26th Reserve Regiment, “After August 4th there could no longer exist any doubt of the enemy intentions. From 9:30 p.m. onwards throughout the whole night not only heavy train and road traffic, sounds of voices and neighing of horses, but actually the strong noise of motor-engines at Cachy and Villers-Bretonneux were heard by all sections of troops in the forward lines”. (Amiens, Dawn of Victory, page 101)
Despite frontline reports of Allied movements, German commanders remain unconvinced that any Allied tanks are in the region.
August 7, 1918
10 p.m. local time
German and Australian patrols skirmish near Accroche Wood. A short firefight breaks out, but both patrols withdraw and no prisoners are captured.
The story of Amiens continues on Wednesday, August 8th. Check back!