The battle of Bellecourt Tunnel was part of the wider attack on the Hindenburg Line that in autumn of 1918 saw the Allies break through the famous German defensive line.
Monash's Australians and Americans attacked to the left of the 46th North Midland Division, operating to the south of the Bellecourt Tunnel. This division successfully broke through the German defences (much to everyone's surprise), and their success eventually forced the Germans to pull back in Monash's sector as well.
In contrast Monash's own attack wasn't a success. The large but inexperienced American divisions were sent in first, and were repulsed. Their commanders didn't realise the extent of their defeat and reported that they had established a new front line in the old German lines. When the Australians advanced to support them they ran into the effectively intact German line. At the time the sequence of events wasn't fully understood, and the Australians and British blamed the Americans for failing to 'mop up' pockets of German resistance.
Blair places most of the blame for the setbacks and confusion on the senior commanders, at corps level and above. His argument is that they expected too much of the raw American troops, and believed that German morale was so poor that they would easily break. In fact Blair's account makes it clear that over-optimistic reports from the American commanders, who reported more success than they had achieved, and a typical First World War breakdown of communications between the advancing front line troops and even the nearest part of the Allied lines, also played a major part in the events of the battle.
This is a detailed and very well researched account of a significant but often overlooked battle on the Western Front, and a valuable examination of one of the last German successes of the war, and of one of the first attempts at coalition warfare involved the up and coming Americans.
1 - The Plan
2 - The Preliminary Operation
3 - 46th North Midland Division
4 - American 30th Division
5 - American 27th Division
6 - Australian 3rd Division
7 - Australian 5th Division
8 - Diggers and Doughboys
9 - 30 September
10 - The Last Ridge
Author: Dale Blair