100 Days to Victory Episodes

The extraordinary story of how the Allies turned the tide in the final months of 1918, to win the Great War.


PART ONE: THE SPRING OFFENSIVE

We meet the commanders and men in early 1918, at the moment of maximum jeopardy. In the original ‘shock and awe’, the Germans launch a mighty attack advancing more than 60 kilometres in only three days. Standing in their path are British, Australian, Canadian and French forces, while the Americans are arriving to join the fight.

The onslaught triggers a command crisis: Field Marshal Haig and Marshal Foch want Australia’s General Monash and Canada’s General Currie, to apply their minds to perfecting a new way of waging war – one that will deliver ultimate victory.

The generals arrive at the same conclusion: the path to victory lays with the use of the latest communication equipment to carefully co-ordinate artillery, tanks, aircraft and infantry. It’s not only the beginning of ‘total war’, but the birth of modern warfare. By August, they’re ready…for what will become a major turning point in the War: the battle of Amiens.

The formidable Allied Generals of WWI. From left to right: General Henry Horne, General Julian Byng, Field Marshal Douglas Haig, General Sir John Monash, General Sir Arthur Currie, Marshal Ferdinand Foch and General Henry Rawlinson.

 


PART TWO: THE FIGHTBACK

The Allies win a great victory at Amiens. The tide is turning but there are no illusions: the German Army remains a daunting fighting force … and it has an ace up its sleeve: the Hindenburg Line – the most formidable defensive system in military history. If the Allies have any hope for victory, they’ll need to find a way to punch through Germany’s wall of steel.

The generals formulate an ambitious plan incorporating the newly minted ‘combined arms’ tactics on a massive scale. They’ll commit artillery, tanks, aircraft and troops in careful concert, to attack the German line in the centre, the north and south. It becomes clear that only the combined might of the Allies on the Western Front can defeat Germany.

The generals lead their forces in a series of battles to break the line. The Canadians get close, the French get close; then on 29th September a combined Australian, British and American force breaks through the ‘impregnable’ Hindenburg Line. The Germans have no answer to this onslaught and soon seek peace negotiations.

Today, we widely remember Gallipoli, the Somme and Passchendaele. All were failures. And yet the extraordinary achievements by the Allied armies, on the fields of France in the final months of the Great War, also deserve to be commemorated. At Amiens and the Hindenburg Line the Allies, led by the Australians, Canadians and British, forced a crushing defeat upon Germany to win the war. For the Allies, in terms of scale and skill, the 100 Days to Victory has been called the finest hour of the 20th Century.

51st Highland Division Scottish soldiers enjoy a rare moment of relaxation.