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France in November 1917 was a guarantee that the fighting spirit of the French nation was not exhausted, and that the war policy of the Allies would be pursued with relentless vigour. In Great Britain still more men were combed from industry to replace the wastage of the Flanders fighting, and the British divisions (but not those of the Overseas Dominions) were reduced from 13 to 10 battalions. In Germany the 1917 Class (averaging 18 years) was called up, nearly two years before its normal time.

The universal shortage of material resources gave almost more cause for anxiety. Three years of war had rendered Europe economically unproductive; Russia, one of the world's chief sources of food supply, was plunged in chaos. The submarine campaign, although it had failed to produce the decisive results expected in Germany, was taking enormous toll of the world's shipping, and very seriously jeopardized the food supply of Great Britain.

But the privations of the Allies were insignificant compared to those suffered by the Central Powers. In spite of an elaborate organization, controlled by what had once been the most efficient bureaucracy in the world, Germany and Austria were suffering from an acute shortage of almost every essential raw material, and from a total deficiency of many of them. Neither the oilwells of Galicia and Rumania, the copper-mines of Serbia, nor the agricultural resources of the whole Danubian basin were sufficient to meet the demands of the prolonged struggle. The dearth of fats and oils of all kinds was particularly disastrous, both to human health and to industrial requirements. In spite of the resources of Westphalia, Silesia, and Poland, coal was extremely scarce, owing to the lack of labour and rolling-stock. The Allied Blockade was doing its work and doing it well.

21. The Issue at Stake. It was thus clear, at the close of 1917, that the strain was becoming too great to last, and that the end of the struggle was in sight. But what the end would be was as uncertain as ever. All the European belligerents appeared to have reached the end of their resources; Germany's territorial gains were greater than ever, and, though her people were weary, her armies were still unconquered. The collapse of Russia removed all pressure from her Eastern Front, and it was extremely doubtful if that pressure could ever be revived. Germany was free at last to concentrate superior force in the



main theatre—the Western Front—and thus challenge the final decision.

This challenge could not have been averted by a negotiated peace, to which both parties were stubbornly opposed. Germany's rulers were as determined as ever not to surrender the fruits of their military depredations; on this last point sufficient evidence is supplied by Ludendorff's conditions regarding Germany's future frontiers, as stated at the Crown Council in Berlin on the 11th September 1917.1 The Allies, for their part, could not consent to sacrifice the ideals which had called them to action and had maintained their solidarity throughout such countless trials. Besides, the entry of America had set the seal on the continuance of the Allies' effort and renewed their faith. If the Allies were trebly armed in knowing the moral justice of their cause, they were quadruply so in the expectation of America's material assistance.

The penultimate factor in deciding the issue of the War was the collapse of Russia, which enabled Germany to concentrate superior military force to attack the Allies in the West. The ultimate factor was the arrival of effective military aid from America-but would it arrive in time to save the Allies in the impending struggle?

22. The Seeds of Revolution in Germany. There were only two eventualities which could have prevented the German offensive of 1918: either a revolution in Germany or a defection of her allies. Both of these possibilities were to be reckoned with. As early as the 12th April 1917, Count Czernin, a close and reliable observer of conditions in Germany, had expressed himself as follows in a memorandum addressed to the Emperor Charles: I am firmly convinced that if Germany attempts to carry on another winter campaign, revolution will break out in that country.'

This prediction was practically, if not literally, fulfilled. The first Council of Workmen and Soldiers was formed at Reinickendorf before the close of 1917, and throughout January and February 1918 the industrial centres of Germany and Austria

1 War Memories, English edition, vol. ii, pp. 518-21. He demanded a protective belt round the iron-mines of Lorraine, economic union with Belgium, and, in effect, political control over her. The annexation of Luxemburg, an extension of the German frontier near the Upper Silesian coalfields and Danzig and Thorn, plus power to conscript the inhabitants of Courland and Lithuania, and economic control of the kingdom of Poland, were further demands.

Hungary were seething with half-suppressed revolt. The strikes which began on the 16th January at Vienna, and spread thence to Budapest and Berlin, were political in character, and were at least partly the outcome of the workers' protest against the sabre-rattling policy adopted during the Brest-Litovsk negotiations.

The crisis was tided over; the signing of peace with Russia relieved Germany of one great load of anxiety, and the promise of victory in the West was dangled—a tempting lure-before the war-weary German nation. The bait was swallowed, the murmurs of dissension were stifled, and the nation braced itself for a last effort. Germany's allies, although with little confidence in the issue, followed suit.

23. Germany's Plan for the 1918 Campaign. The circumstances which impelled Germany to undertake the great spring offensive are clearly defined. With Austria-Hungary and Turkey at the end of their military strength, and Bulgaria frankly disaffected, the Quadruple Alliance could only be held together by the definite promise of a German victory. The internal cohesion of Germany itself depended on the fulfilment of that long-deferred hope. During two years of almost continuous attacks by the French and British Armies, the German troops in the West had remained on the defensive; their casualties had been colossal and the moral strain enormous; they certainly could not be expected to await a repetition of these hammer-blows by the American Army with fresh troops and unlimited ammunition. Besides, every officer and man of the German Army knew the truth of the military axiom that decisive success in battle can be gained only by a vigorous offensive'. Ludendorff defines the position accurately in the following words: The situation of our allies and of ourselves, as well as the condition of the army, demanded an offensive which would produce a quick decision. That could only be brought about on the Western Front.'


Time pressed. The blow would have to be delivered at the earliest possible moment if the arrival of the Americans was to be forestalled. Ludendorff's masterly training manual, entitled The Offensive Battle in Position Warfare, was issued on the 1st January 1918. The training of the troops could be completed by the middle of March. But a premature start might prejudice success. Offensive operations are largely dependent



on communications, which in turn depend on the state of the ground and weather. Forage is bulky and is difficult to transport in the battle zone; horses may have to depend on grazing as an emergency measure, and this is not to be found before the spring. All these factors had militated against the success of the German offensive at Verdun, which had commenced on the 21st February 1916. The opening of the 1918 offensive was fixed for a month later in the season.

24. Choice of the Sector of Attack. The German General Staff considered four alternative sectors of the Western Front for the delivery of the great blow; these were: FLANDERS, YPRES-LENS, ARRAS-LA FÈRE, and VERDUN. The two northern, which would have had the capture of the Channel Ports as their strategic objective, were ruled out owing to the mud of Flanders and of the Lys Valley, which would not be dry enough for operations until the middle of April. The VERDUN sector was also rejected, as its strategic importance was secondary and, from a tactical point of view, the ground was too hilly and broken to be suitable. The remaining sector, which coincided with the famous 'Siegfried Line', did not suffer from the above drawbacks, while it offered the distinct tactical advantage that the Entente troops were known to be holding the line thinly on this front. At the beginning of February the British Army had taken over from the French an additional 28 miles of line, from north of ST. QUENTIN to south of LA FÈRE.. This extension of line was not justified by any corresponding increase in the forces available to hold it. On the 1st January 1918, the British Army in France, with a rifle strength of 659,000, had been holding a line 95 miles in length, i. e. with rather less than 4 rifles to every yard of front. By the 21st March 1918, it held a line 123 miles long, but its rifle strength had fallen to 616,000, giving less than 3 men per yard of front. The new sector, south of ST. QUENTIN, comprised the broad and marshy OISE Valley and the Forest of ST. GOBAIN; it was held, therefore, less strongly than the more active sectors farther north.

The greater part of the ground south of ST. QUENTIN was entirely new to the British troops; they were unfamiliar with the local topography and defensive organization. Besides, the strength of a modern defensive system depends so vitally on the intimate co-ordination and mutual support of adjoining sectors that any break in its continuity or cohesion, such as

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tends to arise at the point of junction between two armies of different nationalities, is a source of both strategical and tactical weakness.

Another tactical disadvantage which the ARRAS-LA FÈRE sector imposed on the British Army was the existence in front of the Siegfried Line' of a zone, some 20 miles wide, which had been systematically devastated by the First and Second German Armies before their retirement in March 1917. Communications were therefore difficult and shelter practically non-existent, so that the area was an extremely unfavourable one for the concentration of troops.

From the strategic point of view the choice of the ARRASLA FÈRE sector would afford the assailant a chance of definitely separating the French from the British and Belgian Armies by driving them back on their divergent lines of communication; in this eventuality the British and Belgian Armies would be penned into a narrow strip of coast north of the SOMME, where they could hardly hope to maintain themselves.

The choice of this sector for the offensive was therefore amply justified both strategically and tactically, though we have Ludendorff's word for it that the tactical advantages alone were held to be paramount.

25. Relative Strengths on 21st March 1918. Ultimate success in war demands the concentration of superior force-moral and physical at the decisive point and at the most advantageous moment. Granting that the German Higher Command had correctly chosen the time and place for their final offensive blow, the factor of material and moral superiority, upon which the result depended, remains to be considered.

During the greater part of the War the German forces on the Western Front had been slightly inferior numerically to the combined strength of the Allies. Owing partly to the advantages possessed by Germany in her unity of command and her strategical position on interior lines, the Allies had never been able to turn this margin of superiority to account. At the beginning of January 1918 the balance was still in favour of the Allies, who had some 168 divisions with which to oppose some 157 German ones. The rifle strength of the Allies was roughly 1,600,000 to the German 1,230,000. The collapse of Russia, however, enabled the tables to be turned. Between the 1st December 1917 and the end of March 1918, no fewer than

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