After some three and a half years of global carnage on a scale never seen before in history, World War One was still in the balance, and would go through one more tremendous convulsion of death and horror before it finally ran its course.
On 21 March 1918 the German Army launched a massive series of attacks along the Western Front – the famous Operation Michael that was designed to finally overcome British and French resistance and bring a quick victory to the Kaiser. The German forces were heavily bolstered by the return of large numbers of troops from the Eastern front following Russian withdrawal from the war in late 1917 and these extra troops were immediately thrown into battle. Read more..
The last 100 days of World War One – a period that extended from 4th August to 11th November 1918 – proved decisive when finally, after more than four years of bloodshed, misery and carnage the like of which had never been seen before – the War was over. Read more..
- The ‘100 Days Offensive’ describes the last battles fought on the Western Front during World War One, between August 8th and November 11th, 1918.
- The Battle of Amiens kick-started the offensive. A huge operation for the Allies, they deployed every tank available to the British Army at the time… more than 500.
- On the first day of the battle, Australian and Canadian forces made the largest single-day Allied advance of the War: 12km. The German chief-of-staff, General Erich von Ludendorff, called August 8th “the black day of the German Army.
- The Allies advance at Amiens liberated 116 French villages and towns.
- By the end of the battle of Amiens, almost 30,000 German soldiers had surrendered and 50,000 captured and taken prisoner.
- An attack at Mont St Quentin on September 1st saw a relatively small Australian force take the German Army by surprise. Troops were told to ‘yell like a lot of bushrangers’ to disguise their limited numbers.
- The German troops at Mont St Quentin were so surprised by the Allied attack, many fled immediately, leaving their machine guns on the ground. They were forced back to the Hindenburg Line.
- The Hindenburg Line was the German Army’s last, and most powerful, defensive network. The Allies named this defensive zone after the German commander, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg. The Germans named parts of the line after the heroes of Teutonic sagas, Siegfried, Wotan and Hunding.
- Between August 26th and September 2nd, the Canadian Corps spearheaded a series of attacks on a heavily fortified section of the forward Hindenburg Line called the Drocourt-Queant Line. During intense fighting, the Canadians suffered 11,400 casualties, but they breached this strategically crucial point in the Line, forcing the Germans to retreat to their next line of defence. Commanding the Canadians, General Currie considered this success ‘one of the finest feats in our history’.
- During an attack on outposts of the Hindenburg Line on September 18th, Australian and British forces used only eight operational, and 10 ‘dummy’ or decoy tanks. Made from wood and cloth, these dummy tanks were dragged and strategically placed to distract the German Army. Supported by a huge artillery bombardment, the attack succeeded in breaking through the German positions and taking 4,300 prisoners.
- The assault on the main Hindenburg Line took place on the 29th of September. With no chance of surprise, the Allied attack was supported by an immense 3-day artillery barrage. At its most intense where the Germans least expected it – along the St Quentin Canal – advancing infantry were supported by 50,000 artillery shells for every 500 yards of front. By the end of the day, German defences had been outflanked, forcing a general withdrawal. The Hindenburg Line had been defeated.
- German Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated on November 9th and the armistice was signed that same day. Finally, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, the Armistice ceasefire came into effect, bringing the War to an end.
- The 100 Days Offensive saw the Allies claim victory over Germany, but at great cost. Allied casualties were around 700,000, with German casualties higher still at 760,000.