Victory on the Western Front?

The drive to Victory in 1918

In the spring of 1918 the Germans launched a series of large offensives. These were an attempt to win the war before the bulk of the US forces could be brought into action on the Western Front. The German army made some large gains during these offensives but the Allied line held and the German advance was halted.

The German failure to break the Allied lines in these spring offensives was to prove to be their downfall. The Allies were bolstered in 1918 by the arrival of troops and supplies from the United States. Tactics were continuing to be developed and improved and in 1918 the Allies were able to make effective use of a combination of artillery, tanks, aircraft and infantry on the battlefield. This allowed for a much more mobile assault with cover being provided for the infantry from above and alongside.

The final push to victory:

The Battle of Le Hamel

The Battle of Le Hamel saw a break with earlier tactics. The Australian commander in charge of preparations opted to not have a large barrage prior to the assault. He realised that such barrages simply served as a warning of an impending attack. Instead he opted for a ‘peaceful penetration’ policy which used tanks (60) and heavy machine guns to support advancing infantry. Artillery opened fire as the assault was launched and the ground forces were supported by aircraft. The Germans were taken completely by surprise and the objectives were met in just 93 minutes.

The Second Battle of the Marne

The Second Battle of the Marne proved to be the last German offensive of the war. The germans hoped to split French forces near Rheims and advance quickly through allied lines. Instead the Allies, bolstered by the arrival of 85,000 US soliders in the area, managed to withstand the assault. Once the german attack withered away a massive counter attack was launched with 350 tanks and 24 divisions of the French Army (along with other units from the British, Belgian and US armies) taking part. The Germans were forced to retreat to heavily fortified positions along the Aisne river.

The Battles of Epethy and Havrincourt

Though both relatively small battles these both confirmed to the Allies that the German will to fight was on the wane and demonstrated that the creeping barrage had now been developed into a deadly tactic. Epethy also marked the first assault conducted and planned solely by members of the American Expeditionary Force. These small victories encouraged the Allied commanders to bring forward plans to attack the heart of German defences.

In August 1918 General Haig ordered a series of assaults that pushed the Germans back to the Hindenburg Line. In September the first attacks were made on these defences, attacks which continued into October. These proved to be quite successful and the german line was penetrated on a number of occasions. As these attacks were taking place the German High Command was beginning to sue for peace terms, asking the Americans for an Armistice as early as October 3rd.

Why did the Allies win in 1918?

– Germany was at starvation point. The Naval blockade was highly effective and Germany was struggling to supply its forces with sufficient food, weapons and other essential supplies.

– A massive influenza epidemic was spreading through Europe at the time and had hit the Germans particularly hard.

– The Allies were bolstered by the arrival of new, fresh, troops from the United States.

– Tactics had by 1918 been developed that enabled the Allies to penetrate enemy lines. New technologies helped in this respect.

First World War Homepage
Causes of the First World WarAssassination of Franz Ferdinand
Schlieffen PlanPublic Reaction to the Outbreak of War
British Expeditionary ForceInteractive Timeline of the First World War
Simulation: Life in the TrenchesStatistics
Changing role of WomenWar Poetry
British Contribution to Western FrontDevelopment of New Weapons
Creeping BarrageWestern Front in 1918

World HistoryBritish History

First World War Homepage
Causes of the First World War – Assassination of Franz Ferdinand
Schlieffen Plan – Public Reaction to the Outbreak of War
British Expeditionary Force –  Interactive Timeline of the First World War
Simulation: Life in the Trenches – Statistics
Changing role of Women – War Poetry
British Contribution to Western Front – Development of New Weapons
Creeping Barrage – Western Front in 1918Haig and the Battle of the Somme
Home Front in the First World War
Timeline Infographic: Causes of World War OneLudendorff and the Spring Offensive
Propaganda of the First World War