Second Battle of the Somme (1918)

Second Battle of the Somme (1918)

During the First World War, the Second Battle of the Somme of 1918 was fought on the Western Front from the end of the summer, in the basin of the Somme River. It was a counter-offensive in response to the German Offensive during the spring, after a pause for redeployment and re-supply.

The most significant feature of the 1918 Somme battles was that with the first Battle of the Somme of 1918 having halted what had begun as an overwhelming German offensive, the second formed the central part of the Allies' advance to the Armistice of November 11.

The battle

On August 15 1918, Haig refused demands from Foch that he 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. Instead, Haig began to plan for an offensive at Albert, which opened on August 21. The main attack was launched by the British Third Army, with the United States II Corps attached.

The second battle began on August 21 with the opening of the Battle of Bapaume to the north of the river itself. That developed into an advance which pushed the German Second Army back over a 55 kilometre front, from south of Douai to La Fère, south of Saint-Quentin, Aisne. Albert was captured in August 22. On August 26, the British First Army widened the attack by another twelve kilometres. Bapaume fell on August 29. The Australian Corps crossed the Somme River on the night of August 31, and broke the German lines at the Battle of Mont St. Quentin and the Battle of Péronne. The British Fourth Army's commander, General Henry Rawlinson, described the Australian advances of August 31-September 4 as the greatest military achievement of the war. [ [ Australian War Memorial, 1998, "Mont St Quentin and Péronne"] Access date: March 1, 2007.]

On the morning of September 2, after a heavy battle, the Canadian Corps seized control of the Drocourt-Quéant‎ line (representing the west edge of the Hindenburg Line). The battle was fought by the Canadian 1st and 4th Divisions, assisted by the British 52nd Division. [ [ "The Saskatchewan Dragoons"] Access date: June 15, 2008.] Heavy German casualties were inflicted, and the Canadians also captured more than 6,000 unwounded prisoners. Canada's losses amounted to 5,600. [ [ Canadian War Memorials in France, "Dury Memorial"] Access date: June 15, 2008.] By noon that day Ludendorff had decided to withdraw behind the Canal du Nord.

By September 2, the Germans had been forced back to the Hindenburg Line, from which they had launched their offensive in the spring.

On their way to the Hindenburg Line, in a fierce battle, the Canadian troops, led by General Sir Arthur Currie, overcame the earthworks of the incomplete Canal du Nord during the Battle of Canal du Nord [ [ Veterans Affairs Canada, "Bourlon Wood Memorial"] Access date: June 15, 2008.] .

In late September/early Octover, one of the epic battles of the whole war was the breach of the Hindenburg Line (the Battle of St. Quentin Canal) by Australian and American troops (under the command of Australian General John Monash). Soon after, the Canadians breached the Hindenburg Line at the Battle of Cambrai.

A key part of the German supply line ran parallel with the front. This second 1918 battle around the Somme was part of a strategy designed to push parts of the German line back behind this main supply line so cutting it and making the efficient maintenance of the German forces on the front, impossible. The Campaign began with battle of Bapaume and, starting shortly after, the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, outside the Somme area, with the aim of reducing salients before using the fluidity of the broken line to press on to the strategic railway. It was hoped that this fluidity would be present as, owing to the German advance in the spring, the German forces were well in advance of their hitherto impregnable, very well prepared defences on the Hindenburg Line.

This policy worked but it took some very determined work at the St Quentin Canal, among the prepared defences, to achieve success.

ee also

*List of Canadian battles during World War I


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