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THE BATTLES OF JULY 1918

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battle casualties. The spirit of insubordination grew apace, and was fostered by the simultaneous decline in the quality of the regimental officers due to the high wastage. During the first fortnight of May a serious mutiny occurred in the reinforcement camp at Beverloo in Belgium, among the Alsatians and Poles who had been brought over as drafts from the Russian Front. About the same period, supply trains were being held up and pillaged by armed parties of soldiers in the area of the Eighteenth German Army. An order published on the 8th May by General von Quast, commanding the Sixth Army, mentions 'the slow but steady deterioration of discipline'. On the 7th June General von der Marwitz, commanding the Second Army, published an order in which he said: 'Discipline, which is the keystone of our army, is seriously shaken'; another order, published five days later by the same Army Commander, admitted that cases of soldiers openly refusing to obey orders are increasing to an alarming extent'. These occurrences were ominous for the future, for discipline is an essential factor in the cohesion of an army, even when that army is numerically superior and victorious; but when an army suffers reverses or is compelled to give ground, only good discipline can save it from destruction.

34. The Battles of July. The first fortnight of July opens the period when the initiative was definitely wrested from the grasp of the German Higher Command. From the 28th June onwards the French and British had begun to improve their position in various sectors by small local operations. The most ambitious of these was the re-capture of HAMEL (12 miles east of AMIENS) by the Australian Corps on the 4th July. Sixty of the 'Mark V' tanks were employed for the first time; the attack was a complete surprise and produced encouraging results.

The German Higher Command was, however, still confident of success, and intended to strike a decisive blow in Flanders at the beginning of August. As Foch's reserves in that area were still too strong, a preliminary operation farther south was necessary to divert them. With this object the German Crown Prince was to carry out a great converging offensive on a 50-mile front east and west of REIMS, directed on EPERNAY and CHÂLONS-sur-MARNE. The French General Staff obtained ample warning of the attack and took measures accordingly; the Champagne blow spent itself in the air and broke down

completely, again with heavy losses. Ludendorff still failed to realize that he had definitely lost the initiative and must draw in his horns. He began in haste to transfer his reserve divisions, artillery, and aeroplanes to Flanders for the consummation of his long-cherished plan, when suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, Foch's counter-stroke developed.

At dawn on the 18th July, the Tenth and Sixth French Armies, under the command of Generals Mangin and Degoutte, attacked on a 35-mile front between SOISSONS and CHÂTEAU THIERRY. Over 450 tanks, which had been assembled unperceived in the Forest of VILLERS COTTERETS, prepared and assisted the assault. The German Ninth and Seventh Armies were completely surprised, and reserve divisions destined for the north had to be counter-ordered and sent hurriedly to fill the gap. The Germans lost 12,000 prisoners and 800 guns at one blow.

Foch's counter-stroke had completely upset the plans of the German Higher Command, besides inflicting very heavy casualties, It was not, however, until several days later that Ludendorff realized its full significance. The Flanders offensive was then definitely abandoned, and by the end of the month the Seventh Army had been withdrawn behind the line of the VESLE from the precarious CHÂTEAU THIERRY salient. Further, the losses sustained in the July battles had been so great that the German Higher Command was forced to disband ten infantry divisions in order to provide reinforcements for other units. The capital reserve of man-power was exhausted and the German armies were definitely forced to revert to a defensive rôle.

The military situation thus took an entirely new turn. In the words of Field-Marshal Lord Haig's Dispatch: "The complete success of the Allied counter-attack on the 18th July near SOISSONS marked the turning-point in the year's campaign, and commenced the second phase of the Allied operations. Thereafter the initiative lay with the Allies, and the growing superiority of their forces enabled them to roll back the tide of invasion with ever-increasing swiftness.'

35. The Allied Counter-offensive in August and September. If the 18th July was a heavy blow for the German Higher Command, still worse was to follow. On the 8th August the Fourth British Army, under General Lord Rawlinson, with the First French Army under General Debeney on its right, attacked the

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THE ALLIED COUNTER-OFFENSIVE, 1918 29

Second German Army on a front of 15 miles between MORLANCOURT (north of the SOMME) and MOREUIL on the River AVRE. The attack, which was planned and executed under the orders of Lord Haig, was carried out by some 17 divisions, and was supported by more than 400 tanks; it came as a complete surprise to the enemy and was entirely successful. The advance was continued until the 12th August, by which time over 30,000 prisoners and 700 guns had been captured. The attack of the 8th August set the seal on the Allied victory of the 18th July, and made the German Armies, both troops and leaders, realize their inferiority on the field of battle. As Ludendorff says, 'The 8th August is the German Army's black day in the history of this war'; and again, The 8th August determined the collapse of our fighting powers'.

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Marshal Foch's strategic effort was not confined to the victories already won by the French and British Armies between the MARNE and the SOMME. He had taken the measure of the situation and gauged exactly the relative values, moral and material, of the forces now set in motion. His strategic conception involved the crushing of the great German salient which was still thrust deep into the heart of France between ARTOIS and the ARGONNE. This salient was buttressed on the flanks by the great fortified pivots of LILLE and METZ. Between these pivots stretched the strongly entrenched Siegfried' Line,1 with its northern extension, the Wotan' Line,2 from the SCARPE to the Lys. Behind this barrier a second and shorter retrenchment was being hastily prepared between the SCHELDT and the Upper MEUSE, comprising the Hermann ', ' Hunding', and Brunhild' Lines. The two main faces of this great salient depended on the axes of the SAMBRE and MEUSE Valleys, radiating from NAMUR, which was thus the strategic focus of the whole front. Towards this focus the drives of the Allied Armies were directed, the British and Belgians on the western, the French and Americans on the southern face of the salient.

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Foch's blows fell in relentless succession. On the 21st August the offensive was resumed by the Third and Fourth British Armies and continued incessantly for ten days. BAPAUME and PÉRONNE fell, while the extension of the battle northwards by the First British Army resulted in the storming of the Wotan

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1 Known by the British as the HINDENBURG Line'.

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2 Known by the British as the 'DROCOURT-QUÉANT LINE'.

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