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The second battle of Villers-Bretonneux, 27-27 April 1918, took place during General Ludendorff’s great spring offensive of 1918. His first major offensive, the second battle of the Somme, had come close to creating a gap between the British and French lines. It had also reached to within ten miles of Amiens, before being stopped in the first battle of Villers-Bretonneux. After the failure of the Somme offensive, Ludendorff had turned north, launching a second offensive against the British in Flanders (battle of the Lys, 9-29 April 1918).
The second battle of Villers-Bretonneux came during the period of the battle of Lys, but was launched further south, in an attempt to break the British lines in front of Amiens (held by the 8th Division).
The German attack was supported by 13 of their A7V tanks, making it one of the biggest attacks launched by the German built tank. It would also see the first tank-vs-tank battle, a confrontation between three A7Vs and three British Mk IVs.
The German attack was preceded by a short artillery bombardment, with a mix of mustard gas and high explosive shells. The 8th Division was overwhelmed. A three mile wide gap was opened in the British lines, and Villers-Bretonneux fell to the Germans. There was a serious danger that the Germans might break through to Amiens.
General Rawlinson responded by launched an immediate counterattack. This would be a night attack, to be launched by two Australian brigades – the 13th (Brigadier Elliot) and 15th (Brigadier Glasgow). The attack, on the night of 24-25 April, was a total success. By dawn the main German line had been forced back, and the troops in Villers-Bretonneux cut off. By the end of the day the village was back in Allied hands. The Australians suffered 1,455 casualties during the battle.
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