Monday, 27 August 2018

Battle of Amiens

A grateful France gave thanks to the 6000 Australian troops who were casualties at Amiens, battling to save the encroaching Germans.  “We bow to you, Messieurs les Australians, for the magnificent deeds you did on those days, now happily at an end, for your country and for France, and for the victory of hope and sanity” proclaimed the Bishop of Amiens, “the soil of France is transformed to a new divinity by your sacrifices and bravery.”
Such is the acclaim and respect in which the Australians are held by the community of Amiens after their reprieve from the continual bombings and the reclaiming of their village.
On 8 August 1918, an attack began on the Somme that would be staggeringly successful. The Battle of Amiens, an all-arms attack led by Australian and Canadian troops, captured kilometres of ground and vast numbers of German men and materiel. From 8 August 1918, the German Army was on the back foot, the result of what Erich Ludendorff called "the black day of the German Army". Often regarded as the natural conclusion to Monash's success at Hamel a month earlier, Amiens was warfare on a staggering scale.
The battle began at 4.20 am with 2070 guns opening up a “titanic pandemonium” of artillery fire in the heavy mist.  The facing Germans were blinded by the heavy fog and unable to fire accurately and were crushed by the weight of the barrage of tanks and infantry.  The joint forces of Australian, Canadian, French and British troops made significant gains – advancing the front by up to 8 miles in some areas.
On the first day of the battle, the allies captured 13 miles of the front, seized 400 guns, and caused 27,000 casualties to the Germans, 12,000 of these were prisoners of war.
Tank losses on first day were severe: only 155 of the 430 that had gone into action on 8 August were serviceable the following day.  And the push slowed significantly in the following days – however for the Germans, it was the “greatest defeat the German army suffered since the beginning of the war”.
By 12th August, as the German resistance hardened – the advance of the British Fourth Army slowed.  Only half a dozen of the British tanks were still in action.  Nevertheless, the manner of the Allied victory at Amiens mattered more than its scale.  The BEFs combat skills and confidence were growing daily at a time when the German Army as a whole was clearly in sharp decline.  Their artillery and machine-gunners continued to fight, but a morose and fatalistic mood had descended upon many units.
Bereft on long-term solutions following Amiens, the Kaiser agreed at a conference at Spa on 14 August, to open peace negotiations through the Queen of the Netherlands.  Even so, as long as its forces continued to occupy large areas of Belgium and northern France, Germany might still hope to bargain from a position of strategic strength.
By 1st September, the 2nd Australian Division, stormed and held the formidable German bastion of Mont St Quentin, facilitating the capture of Peronne, which was cleared of German troops by midday on 2nd September.  Meanwhile, the Canadians broke through the Drocourt-Queant Position, and as these vital points between the Somme and the Sensee fell in turn, the only option for the Germans was to retreat from the Hindenburg Line.
Ballarat Star 1st January 1921

Private John Leslie Daniel (6786A)
 21st Battalion, who fought at the
Battle of Amiens, from Daylesford, Victoria
(Photo courtesy : AWM archive)

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