This is the penultimate entry in an excellent series of the fighting on the Western Front, and focuses on the defeat of the final German offensive, the Allied counterattacks that led to the ‘black day’ of the German army on 8 August, and the prolonged Allied advance that took then all the way up to the Hindenburg Line.
The author has made a conscious decision not to go into too much detail about each stage of the battle, instead focusing on giving an understandable overview of the battle. I entirely agree with this decision – some books on the fighting on the Western Front have to focus on very small advances because that’s all that was achieved, but in this case there is plenty of movement to focus on. This starts with the last German advance during Operation Peace Storm, but the Allies soon counterattacked, ending that offensive. After a brief pause the Allies attacked in an attempt to take advantage of the over-extended German position. The British contribution was the Battle of Amiens, which opened on 8 August with a victory that Ludendorff described as the ‘black day’ of the German Army (one of several).
After that the tone of the book is very different to most books on the Western Front, reflecting the different nature of the fighting. Almost every British attack made some progress, until the Germans were forced into a series of fighting retreats back towards the Hindenburg Line, and every map shows actual progress. These advances aren’t limited to a small part of the line either, and for the first time in years the entire line was on the move. The British troops soon sensed this was different, and the tone of their letters and diary entries is very different to earlier battles.
One of the main themes here is the skilful use of combined arms tactics, with the infantry and tanks working together fairly well, supported by artillery that was finally able to move up with the troops, and support from the air.
This is an excellent account of a key period on the Western Front, when the Germans finally ran out of steam, and began to be pushed back towards defensive lines that, as the final volume in the series will tell us, they would prove unable to defend.
1 - A Foot by Foot Defence
2 - Countering Operation Peace Storm
3 - Phantoms of the Imagination
4 - It All looked a Certain, Confident Success
5 - We have Nearly Reached the Limit of our Powers of Resistance
6 - The Finest Attack in Open Warfare
7 - A Sense we had Reached Success at Last
8 - Keep the Same Attitude and Continue your Pursuit
9 - Indeed a Magnificent Performance
10 - The Hardest Fighting During the Whole Advance
11 - Germany is Defeated and the Sooner We Recognise it the Better
12 - They Went Over Like a Pack of Hounds
Author: Andrew Rawson
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military