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

Causes of the First World War – Timeline of Causes – Forgotten Causes – Assassination of Franz Ferdinand – The Schlieffen Plan – Historiography of the Causes of the First World War

Outbreak of War (Public reaction in Britain) – The British Expeditionary Force in 1914

Trench Warfare – Simulation: Would you make a good officer in the trenches? – British contribution to the Western Front

Battles of the First World War – First Battle of the Marne – The Gallipoli Campaign – Battle of Verdun – Battle of Jutland – Brusilov Offensive – Battle of the Somme – Battle of Passchendaele – The Spring Offensive – Battle of Amiens – Victory on the Western Front?

The Home Front – Revision exercise – Changing role of Women – Propaganda – Censorship – Conscientious Objectors – Rationing and Recruitment

Personalities – Douglas Haig and the Somme – Charles Gass – Billy Bishop – Ludendorff – The Bradford Pals – Black History and the First World War

Technology and New Weapons – British Tanks – Machine Guns

Medicine in the First World War

Other wars:

The Norman ConquestThe Wars of the RosesThe British and English Civil WarsThe Second World War – Vietnam WarCold War

Famous Battles:

Battle of Hastings – Battle of TowtonBattle of BosworthD Day

Related Content:

The British EmpireThe Treaty of VersaillesImpact of the War on Germany – Primary HistoryHistory Teachers Resources