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Hundred Days Offensive

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hundred Days Offensive
Part of the Western Front of World War I
Western front 1918 allied.jpg

Allied gains in late 1918
Date8 August – 11 November 1918
Amiens, France to Mons, Belgium


Decisive Allied victory


 United Kingdom

 United States

German Empire Germany
Commanders and leaders
French Third Republic Ferdinand Foch
French Third Republic Philippe Pétain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Douglas Haig
United States John J. Pershing
Belgium King Albert I
German Empire Paul von Hindenburg
German Empire Erich Ludendorff
German Empire Wilhelm Groener
Strength on 11 November 1918:[3]
French Third Republic c. 2,559,000
British Empire c. 1,900,000
United States c. 1,900,000[4]
Belgium c. 190,000
Strength on 11 November 1918:[3]
German Empire c. 3,562,000
Casualties and losses
18 July – 11 November:
French Third Republic 531,000
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 412,000
United States 127,000
18 July – 11 November:
German Empire 1,172,075[5]
785,733 killed or wounded
386,342 captured
6,700 artillery pieces Austria-Hungary 17,500[8]
2,500 killed
5,000 captured
10,000 wounded

The Hundred Days Offensive (8 August to 11 November 1918) was an Allied offensive which ended the First World War. Beginning with the Battle of Amiens (8–12 August) on the Western Front, the Allies pushed Central Powers back after their gains from the Spring Offensive. The Germans eventually retreated to the Hindenburg Line, culminating in the Armistice of 11 November 1918. The term "Hundred Days Offensive" does not refer to a battle or strategy, but rather the rapid series of Allied victories against which the German armies had no reply.

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1918. After three and a half years of war, the Allies are in crisis. Russia has been rocked by Revolution, and its new Bolshevik government has signed an armistice with the Central Powers. Thousands of German troops will be freed up to fight on the Western Front, where the carnage of trench warfare has already claimed more than a million lives. But Germany is also desperate. Britain's long naval blockade has led to shortages and social unrest at home... While America's entry into the war brings fresh manpower and vast resources to the Allied cause. Germany faces inevitable defeat, unless it can win a quick victory on the Western Front. US President Wilson announces his 'Fourteen Points'. They outline his vision for a post-war world, including an end to secret treaties, a reduction in the size of armed forces, self-determination for the people of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and an international organisation to settle future disputes. But most European leaders dismiss his ideas as wishful thinking. At Brest-Litovsk, Bolshevik Russia signs a peace treaty with the Central Powers. Russia gives up vast amounts of territory in exchange for peace. Half a million German troops can now be redeployed from the East to the Western Front, where German General Erich Ludendorff plans an all-out, last-ditch offensive to win the war. Ludendorff's Spring Offensive catches the Allies off-guard. German stormtroopers, using new infiltration tactics, help to overwhelm the British 5th Army, which is soon in full retreat. The German advance threatens to split the British and French armies, with disastrous consequences. So French General Ferdinand Foch is appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, to co-ordinate strategy. Outside Amiens, British and Australian troops improvise a defence, and finally halt the German advance. The German offensive switches to the north, targeting the Channel ports. But the British inflict heavy losses on the Germans, and prevent a breakthrough. Above the trenches, the first air war continues to escalate. Each side now has more than 3,000 aircraft in service on the Western Front. But by 1918 the Allies have won air superiority, thanks to greater resources. On 21st April, Germany's most famous pilot, Manfred von Richthofen, the 'Red Baron', is shot down and killed near Amiens. With 80 victories, he's the war's highest-scoring ace, and is buried by the Allies with full military honours. Britain's new 'Independent Bombing Force', launches a daylight raid against Cologne. It marks the beginning of Britain's own strategic bombing campaign. On the ground, Ludendorff's offensive switches south, targeting the French. German troops advance 30 miles, but are halted at the River Marne, just as fresh American divisions enter the line. The US 1st Division is the first to see combat, at the Battle of Cantigny. Three days later the US 2nd Division wins victory at the Battle of Belleau Wood. By now there are nearly a million American soldiers in France, with 10,000 more arriving every day. The fourth phase of the German Offensive leads to a 9 mile advance, but is finally halted by a French counterattack. In Italy, Austria-Hungary launches an attack at Asiago and the Piave River, to support Ludendorff's offensive in France. But it's repulsed with heavy losses, and morale amongst the Austro-Hungarian army collapses. British and French troops land at Murmansk in northern Russia. It's the beginning of Allied intervention in Russia's Civil War, on the side of so-called 'White', or anti-Bolshevik, forces. On the Western Front, the Germans' final attack is defeated in the Second Battle of the Marne. Ludendorff's Offensive has cost the Germans more than 600,000 casualties, and has failed to make a decisive breakthrough. Germany's final gamble has failed. The Allies now go on the attack. At the Battle of Amiens, British, Australian, Canadian and French troops, supported by tanks and aircraft, advance 7 miles in a single day. General Ludendorff calls 8th August 'the Black Day of the German army'. German troops are exhausted, hungry and demoralised, and begin to surrender in their thousands. The Battle of Amiens begins the Allies' 'Hundred Days Offensive': trench warfare is over; the Germans are in full retreat. In the Balkans, a new Allied offensive at Dobro Pole breaks through Bulgarian positions. The overstretched Bulgarian army collapses, and two weeks later Bulgaria signs an armistice. In the Middle East, British-led forces defeat the Turks at the Battle of Megiddo, taking 25,000 prisoners. Allied troops soon occupy Damascus and Aleppo. On the Western Front, Marshal Foch orders a general attack. British, French and American armies reach the Hindenburg Line, a line of reinforced German defences, and break through. Ludendorff informs the Kaiser that the military situation is hopeless, and that Germany must seek an armistice. Germany sends a request to US President Woodrow Wilson, who, in return, demands German withdrawal from all occupied territory, and the Kaiser's abdication. On the Italian Front, the Allies deliver the final blow to Austria-Hungary at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto. The Austro-Hungarian army disintegrates, and 300,000 prisoners are taken. With the Central Powers facing collapse, the Ottoman Empire signs an armistice with the Allies at Mudros. Four days later, Austria-Hungary signs an armistice with the Allies at Villa Giusti. At Kiel, the German High Seas Fleet is ordered to make a suicidal attack on the British navy, but instead, it mutinies. Revolution spreads through Germany. The Kaiser abdicates and a German republic is proclaimed. On 11th November 1918, a German delegation signs an armistice with the Allies, inside Marshal Foch's railway carriage at Compiègne. It comes into force at 11am, but fighting continues until the last moment. American private Henry Gunther is killed charging a German machinegun at 10.59. He is thought to be the last soldier killed during World War One. Three days later, in East Africa, German General Von Lettow-Vorbeck surrenders his army on the Chambezi River. For four years he has tied down huge numbers of Allied troops, remaining undefeated, while cut-off from home. He is still considered one of history's greatest guerrilla leaders. The Paris Peace Conference opens at the Palace of Versailles, just outside the French capital. Delegates accept a proposal to create a 'League of Nations', to settle future international disputes. The Versailles Treaty, signed in June, imposes harsh terms on Germany: its military is restricted in size, it must pay war reparations to the Allies, it loses territory to its neighbours, and its colonies are seized by the victors. Germany must also accept responsibility for the war in a 'war guilt' clause – a source of lasting resentment in Germany. The boundaries of Europe are redrawn: Poland re-emerges after a hundred years of foreign rule. While Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and an enlarged Romania emerge from the ashes of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Ottoman Empire is dismantled. New states, most under European control, are created in the Middle East. Here, as in Europe, the seeds of future conflict are sown. While in the Far East, former German possessions in China are handed to Japan, to China's outrage. World War One claimed the lives of nine and a half million soldiers, 1 in 8 of those who fought. 21 million more were wounded. 7 million civilians also lost their lives. Huge areas of Europe were left devastated. Old empires vanished; new states were born; lives across the world were transformed. The world was never the same again. If you enjoyed this video, please remember to like it and subscribe to the channel, and find out how you can help us make more videos at our Patreon page.



The Spring Offensive of the German Army on the Western Front had begun on 21 March 1918 with Operation Michael and had petered out by July. The Germans had advanced to the river Marne but failed to achieve a decisive (war determining) victory. When Operation Marne-Rheims ended in July, the Allied supreme commander Ferdinand Foch ordered a counter-offensive, which became known as the Second Battle of the Marne. The Germans, recognising their untenable position, withdrew from the Marne to the north. For this victory, Foch was granted the title Marshal of France.

Foch considered the time had arrived for the Allies to return to the offensive. The American Expeditionary Force (AEF, General John J. Pershing) was present in France in large numbers and invigorated the Allied armies.[9]:472 Pershing was keen to use his army as an independent force. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had also been reinforced by large numbers of troops returned from the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Italian Front and replacements held back in Britain by the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George.[9]:155

A number of proposals were considered and Foch agreed on a proposal by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the BEF, to strike on the River Somme, east of Amiens and south-west of the site of the 1916 Battle of the Somme, to force the Germans away from the vital Amiens–Paris railway.[9]:472 The Somme was chosen because it remained the boundary between the BEF and the French armies, along the Amiens–Roye road, allowing the two armies to cooperate. The Picardy terrain provided a good surface for tanks, which was not the case in Flanders and the defences of the German 2nd Army (General Georg von der Marwitz), were relatively weak, having been subjected to continual raiding by the Australians in a process termed peaceful penetration.


Advance in Picardy

Battle of Amiens

The Battle of Amiens (with the French attack on the southern flank called the Battle of Montdidier) opened on 8 August 1918, with an attack by more than 10 Allied divisions—Australian, Canadian, British and French forces—with more than 500 tanks.[9]:497 Through careful preparation, the Allies achieved surprise.[10]:20,95[11] The attack, led by the British Fourth Army, broke through the German lines and tanks attacked German rear positions, sowing panic and confusion. By the end of the day, a gap 15 mi (24 km) wide had been created in the German line south of the Somme.[12] The Allies had taken 17,000 prisoners and 330 guns. Total German losses were estimated to be 30,000 men, while the Allies had suffered about 6,500 killed, wounded and missing. The collapse in German morale led Erich Ludendorff to dub it "the Black Day of the German Army".[10]:20,95

The advance continued for three more days but without the spectacular results of 8 August, since the rapid advance outran the supporting artillery and ran short of supplies.[13] During those three days, the Allies had managed to gain 12 mi (19 km). Most of this was taken on the first day as the arrival of German reinforcements after this slowed the Allied advance.[14] On 10 August, the Germans began to pull out of the salient that they had managed to occupy during Operation Michael in March, back towards the Hindenburg Line.[15]


1 September 1918, Péronne (Somme). A machine gun position established by the Australian 54th Battalion during its attack on German forces in the town.
1 September 1918, Péronne (Somme). A machine gun position established by the Australian 54th Battalion during its attack on German forces in the town.

On 15 August 1918, Foch demanded that Haig continue the Amiens offensive, even though the attack was faltering as the troops outran their supplies and artillery and German reserves were being moved to the sector[citation needed]. Haig refused and prepared to launch a fresh offensive by the Third Army at Albert (the Battle of Albert), which opened on 21 August.[9]:713–4 The offensive was a success, pushing the German 2nd Army back over a 34 mi (55 km) front. Albert was captured on 22 August.[16] The attack was widened on the south, by the French Tenth Army starting the Second Battle of Noyon on 17 August, capturing the town of Noyon on 29 August.[16] On 26 August, to the north of the initial attack, the First Army widened the attack by another 7 mi (11 km) with the Second Battle of Arras of 1918. Bapaume fell on 29 August (during the Second Battle of Bapaume).

Advance to the Hindenburg Line

Troops of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 36th (Ulster) Division, advancing from Ravelsburg Ridge to the outskirts of Neuve Eglise, 1 September 1918.
Troops of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 36th (Ulster) Division, advancing from Ravelsburg Ridge to the outskirts of Neuve Eglise, 1 September 1918.

With the front line broken, a number of battles took place as the Allies forced the Germans back to the Hindenburg Line. East of Amiens (after the Battle of Amiens), with artillery brought forward and munitions replenished, the Fourth Army also resumed its advance, with the Australian Corps crossing the Somme River on the night of 31 August, breaking the German lines during the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin.[17] On 26 August, to the north of the Somme, the First Army widened the attack by another 7 mi (11 km) with the Second Battle of Arras of 1918, which includes the Battle of the Scarpe (1918) (26 August) and the Battle of Drocourt-Queant Line (2 September).[18]

South of the BEF, the French First Army approached the Hindenburg Line on the outskirts of St. Quentin during the Battle of Savy-Dallon (10 September),[19]:128–9 and the French Tenth Army approached the Hindenburg Line near Laon during the Battle of Vauxaillon (14 September).[19]:125 The British Fourth Army approached the Hindenburg Line along the St Quentin Canal, during the Battle of Épehy (18 September). By 2 September, the Germans had been forced back close to the Hindenburg Line from which they had launched their offensive in the spring.

Battles of the Hindenburg Line

Canadian troops shelter in a ditch along the Arras-Cambrai road
Canadian troops shelter in a ditch along the Arras-Cambrai road

Foch planned a series of concentric attacks on the German lines in France (sometimes referred to as the Grand Offensive), with the various axes of advance designed to cut German lateral communications, intending that the success of an attack would enable the entire front line to be advanced.[10]:205–6 The main German defences were anchored on the Hindenburg Line, a series of defensive fortifications stretching from Cerny on the Aisne river to Arras.[20] Before Foch's main offensive was launched, the remaining German salients west and east of the line were crushed at Havrincourt and St Mihiel on 12 September and at the Battle of Épehy and the Battle of the Canal du Nord on 27 September.[10]:217

The first attack of the Grand Offensive was launched on 26 September by the French and the AEF in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (this offensive includes the Battle of Somme-Py, the Battle of Saint-Thierry, the Battle of Montfaucon, and the Battle of Chesne of 1 November). The offensive involved attacking over difficult terrain, resulting in the Hindenburg Line not being broken until 17 October. Two days later, the Army Group under Albert I of Belgium (the Belgian Army, the British Second Army and the French Sixth Army), attacked near Ypres in Flanders (the Fifth Battle of Ypres). Both attacks made good progress initially but were then slowed by supply difficulties.

On 29 September, the central attack on the Hindenburg Line commenced, with the British Fourth Army (with British, Australian and American forces)[21] attacking in the Battle of St Quentin Canal and the French First Army attacking fortifications outside St Quentin. By 5 October, the Allies had broken through the entire depth of the Hindenburg defences over a 19 mi (31 km) front.[19]:123 General Rawlinson wrote, "Had the Boche [Germans] not shown marked signs of deterioration during the past month, I should never have contemplated attacking the Hindenburg line. Had it been defended by the Germans of two years ago, it would certainly have been impregnable…."

On 8 October, the First and Third British Armies broke through the Hindenburg Line at the Second Battle of Cambrai.[22] This collapse forced the German High Command to accept that the war had to be ended. The evidence of failing German morale also convinced many Allied commanders and political leaders that the war could be ended in 1918; previously, all efforts had been concentrated on building up forces to mount a decisive attack in 1919.

Subsequent operations

Comparison of Allied and German frontline rifle strength before and after the Hundred Days Offensive and arrival of additional American troops.[23]
Comparison of Allied and German frontline rifle strength before and after the Hundred Days Offensive and arrival of additional American troops.[23]

Through October, the German armies retreated through the territory gained in 1914. The Allies pressed the Germans back toward the lateral railway line from Metz to Bruges, which had supplied the front in Northern France and Belgium for much of the war. As the Allied armies reached this line, the Germans were forced to abandon increasingly large amounts of heavy equipment and supplies, further reducing their morale and capacity to resist.[24]

There were many casualties in the Allied and German armies. Rearguard actions were fought during the Pursuit to the Selle (9 October), Battle of Courtrai (14 October), Battle of Mont-d'Origny (15 October), Battle of the Selle (17 October), Battle of Lys and Escaut (20 October) (including the subsidiary Battle of the Lys and Battle of the Escaut), Battle of the Serre (20 October), Battle of Valenciennes (1 November) and the Battle of the Sambre (including the Second Battle of Guise (4 November) and the Battle of Thiérache (4 November), with fighting continuing until the last minutes before the Armistice took effect at 11:00 on 11 November 1918. The last soldier to die was Henry Gunther, one minute before the armistice came into effect.

See also


  1. ^ Caracciolo, M. Le truppe italiane in Francia. Mondadori. Milan 1929
  2. ^ Julien Sapori, Les troupes italiennes en France pendant la première guerre mondiale, éditions Anovi, 2008
  3. ^ a b Neiberg p. 95
  4. ^ Also possessed 2,251 artillery pieces on the frontline out of the 3,500 total artillery pieces used by the Americans. Ayers p. 81
  5. ^ a b Tucker 2014, p. 634.
  6. ^ Bond 1990, p. 20.
  7. ^ a b c Reid 2006, p. 448.
  8. ^ Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire During the Great War 1914–1920, The War Office, p. 356-357.
  9. ^ a b c d e Bean. The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Allied Offensive..
  10. ^ a b c d Livesay, John Frederick Bligh (1919). Canada's Hundred Days: With the Canadian Corps from Amiens to Mons, Aug. 8 – Nov. 11, 1918. Toronto: Thomas Allen.
  11. ^ Christie, Norm M. (1999). For King and Empire: The Canadians at Amiens, August 1918. CEF Books. ISBN 1-896979-20-3.
  12. ^ Schreiber, Shane B. (2004) [1977]. Shock Army of the British Empire: the Canadian Corps in the last 100 days of the Great War. St. Catharines, ON: Vanwell. ISBN 1-55125-096-9.
  13. ^ Orgill, Douglas (1972). Armoured Onslaught: 8th August 1918. New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-02608-X.
  14. ^ "Canada's Hundred Days". Canada: Veterans Affairs. 29 July 2004. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  15. ^ Dancocks, Daniel George (1987). Spearhead to Victory: Canada and the Great War. Hurtig. p. 294. ISBN 0-88830-310-6.
  16. ^ a b "History of the Great War – principal events timeline – 1918". Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  17. ^ "Mont St Quentin – Peronne 31 August – 2 September 1918". Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  18. ^ "The Second Battles of Arras, 1918 – The Long, Long Trail". Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  19. ^ a b c Hanotaux. Histoire illustrée de la guerre de 1914.
  20. ^ Christie, Norm M. (2005) [1997]. The Canadians at Arras and the Drocourt–Queant Line, August–September, 1918. For King and Empire: A Social History and Battlefield Tour. CEF Books. ISBN 1-896979-43-2. OCLC 60369666.
  21. ^ Blair 2011, pp. 145–148.
  22. ^ Christie, Norm M. (1997). The Canadians at Cambrai and the Canal du Nord, August–September 1918. For King and Empire: A Social History and Battlefield Tour. CEF Books. ISBN 1-896979-18-1. OCLC 166099767.
  23. ^ Leonard P. Ayers, online The War with Germany: a statistical summary (1919) p 105
  24. ^ Wasserstein, Bernard (2007). Barbarism and Civilization: A History of Europe in Our Time. Oxford University Press. pp. 93–96. ISBN 978-0-1987-3074-3.


External links

This page was last edited on 28 November 2018, at 04:39
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