Building On the Past: Amiens Concludes
August 8, 1918
In the quiet early morning hours, German forces had little idea of any Allied plans. On the Allied lines, tanks and men prepared for launching the great Amiens offensive, a battle that would forever change the course of history.
3 a.m. local time
Reports from German officers north of the Somme indicate a possible counterattack against Brick Beacon Hill by British forces spotted in no man’s land. Around 3:40 a.m., Captain Rechtern of the 265th Reserve Infantry Regiment ordered an artillery barrage to hold off the British regiment until daylight.
4 a.m. local time
A lone British bomber is heard over the fog-shrouded battlefield. The bomber makes several passes over the German lines, occasionally dropping a bomb here and there. The bombs and the drone of the aircraft make it difficult to listen for enemy movement across no man’s land. The elite German 117th Infantry Division, fresh off several months rest and assigned to relieve the 109th Infantry Division, note that the bomber leaves the area around 4:20 a.m.
4:20 a.m. local time
Allied artillery opens up in a spectacular barrage, catching the Germans completely by surprise. While panicked calls for help go up among the German line, over 400 Allied tanks begin their slow advance toward key positions behind a creeping artillery barrage. Comprised mostly of Mark V and Whippet tanks, the sheer number of armored vehicles rivaled that of the Battle of Cambrai just a year earlier. The Allies are successful in breaking the German lines in several areas.
5:15 a.m. local time
Lieutenant J. Robertson and his Mark V Oblivis Caris reach German trenches at the town of Marcelcave. Ahead of schedule, the Allied tanks approach is covered by a morning mist. They capture the town almost 45 minutes ahead of schedule.
12 p.m. local time
A single Whippet tank, Musical Box, penetrates German lines. Commanded by Lieutenant Clement Arnold, Musical Box goes on a six-hour rampage harassing convoys, retreating soldiers, and supply trucks. Eventually captured, the tank crew inflicted hundreds of German casualties and destroyed several tons of supplies.
2–3 p.m. local time
The 5th Australian Dragoon Division spots a 28cm German “Bruno” railway gun near Harbonnieres. Several British Sopwith Camels move in and drop bombs on the train as it tries to escape, setting it on fire. After a brief engagement with the remaining German soldiers, the Australians capture the massive weapon. Most of the train is in flames, but the railway gun is undamaged. The Dragoons continue to move forward while the 8th Engineer Field Company move the Bruno behind Allied lines. Marshal Ferdinand Foch would later have the gun displayed in Paris as a war trophy.
Described as a “the blackest day for the German Army” by General Erich Ludendorff, the battle of Amiens dashed any hope of German victory.