Thanks to Charles Fair, who sent us this document, part of : "Histoire Officielle Britannique 1918" Vol 3 par Brigadier J.E. Edmonds


The Allied offensive of the 1st August, which caught the Germans making ready for a further retirement during the ensuing night, met wiih considerable success. Essentially a renewal of the attack of the 29th July with the same objectives, it extended a little farther to the left. The XXX Corps of the Tenth Army, with the British 34th and the French 25th and l9th Divisions in line, and the 127th in support ready to pass through the 25th, was to secure, first, the high ground Servenay - Orme de Grand Rozoy, and later the next ridge, south of Droizy. These divisions were covered on the right by the XI Corps of the same Army and by the II Corps of the Sixth Army, which was to outflank Saponay from the cast, whilst on the left the XX Corps was to hold itself ready to press forward in the direction of Droizy as soon as the success of the main attack developed.

On the eve of the offensive General Pétain addressed a long letter to General Foch in which he reviewed the situation. He stated that the French Armies had 71 divisions in the line and 32 in reserve; of the former, 20 had been in the line for over a month and 13 more for over 2 months; of the 19 divisions in the Eastern group, 11 had been in action and suffered heavy losses; of the reserve, 27 divisions had been in the fighting since the 15th July. In the battle in progress 58 divisions had been engaged, "I have not a single fresh division in my precautionary reserve". The quiet sectors, he continued, were very wide: a great deal of labour was needed to keep them in order, and effectives were very low: on the 30th July the total shortage of infantry was about 120,000, and only 19,000 mobilizable reinforcements were available, with the hope of 29,000 more in two or three months' time: the troops at the front or coming out of battle were in a state of excellent morale, but extremely tired. He concluded his letter with the words "we are at the limit of our effort".

Major-General Nicholson's orders to the 34th Division for the projected attack were issued at 5 pm on the 31st: the division would have the French 68th Division (XI Corps) on its right and the 25th Division (XXX Corps) on its left; the objective was the same as on the 29th and the outpost line was to be the starting line; the same artillery support and a forty-five-minute bombardment would be provided, followed by a four-minute barrage before the infantry advanced at 4.49 am. As in the previous attack the 103rd and 101st Brigades provided the leading battalions: 5/K.O.S.B., 5/Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, 4/R. Sussex and 2/4th Queen's. They were weak in numbers owing to the previous fighting - the 5/Argyll had only 6 officers and 260 other ranks. Consequently in order to cover their frontages they each placed three companies in the front line instead of two. Beugneux and Hill 158 south of it were not to be attacked frontally but by encirclement, the 103rd Brigade being authorized to cross its right boundary line in order to make a sufficiently wide enveloping movement. Smoke from the barrage added to the morning mist made visibility very poor, so that platoon direction had to be kept by compass. Notwithstanding, the attack on Beugneux and Hill 158, carried out by the two right battalions, was entirely successful, 4 German officers and 60 other ranks being captured, but the Argyll lost all their officers. The K.O.S.B. with the remnants of the Argyll under two K.O.S.B. officers, then fought their way about seven hundred yards up the ridge beyond Beugneux, just short of the final objective, but were then brought to a halt by the severity of the fire from Servenay, on the right front, which the French had not yet reached. A company of the 8/Scottish Rifles (103rd Brigade) was therefore sent to protect the right flank, but soon after, about 9 am, the French 68th Division reached Servenay.

The 101st Brigade had advanced more rapidly, and before 6 am reported that it was on the objective and in touch with the 103rd, although later reconnaissance showed its position to be about six hundred yards short of where it supposed that it was. The French 25th Division was not up so a company of the 2/Loyal North Lancashire (101st Brigade) which had been following closely, was despatched to guard the left flank; it pushed on some 1,500 yards north-east of Grand Rozoy, handing over the captured ground to the French when they arrived soon after. Two field batteries had followed up the advance as soon as the barrage stopped, and the remainder of the divisional artillery came forward 3,000 to 4,000 yards.

To cover the advance of the French 127th Division towards Launoy, the 34th Division had been instructed to occupy and hold in strength the high ground about the farms of Mont Jour and Bucy le Bras, 1,000 to 1,500 yards beyond the division's objective. The task was allotted to the 102nd Brigade, and it detached the the 1/1st Herefordshire and 1/4th Cheshire, which followed the rear echelon of the attacking brigades and came up to pass through them when they halted. Owing to the severe machine-gun fire the Herefordshire were not able to go much beyond the line of the 103rd Brigade, but captured a detachment armed with a large-bore anti-tank rifle; the 1/4th Cheshire reported it had reached le Mont Jour, losing Lt-Colonel G. H. Swindells, killed; and it h eld this position, short of the farm, until relieved by the French 127th Division.

A long pause now ensued. Hostile artillery fire was never heavy and the work of consolidation proceeded without hindrance. About 11 am the 2/L North Lancashire was withdrawn into 101st Brigade reserve, and towards 2 pm the Herefordshire were also recalled, being relieved by a company of the 1/7th Cheshire, and the survivors of the 1/5th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders were replaced by the 1/8th Scottish Rifles.

About 5 pm it became clear that the line was not sufficiently advanced to cover the valleys on either side of the hill on which stood Bucy le Bras Farm. In the eastern-most of these valleys lay the village of Arcy, and here hostile action was causing considerable trouble to the troops of the 68th Division in Servenay, which stands at the head of the valley. Accordingly at 5.50 pm, after consultation with General Menvielle of that division, Major-General Nicholson issued verbal orders to his brigadiers (the written version was not ready until 7 pm) for an advance of from 300 to 400 yards to be made at 7 pm under a creeping barrage, as far as the le Mont Jour objective on the right, but somewhat short of it on the left. This movement, in which the left of the 68th Division co-operated, was successfully carried out against vigorous opposition by German rear-guards. By 10 pm the 2/L North Lancashire and 4/R Sussex had captured a hill which dominated the German line of retreat, and touch was obtained with the 127th Division, south-west of le Mont Jour.

With this success the operations of the 34th Division in the Aisne area came to an end. At 10 am on the 2nd Major-General Nicholson received orders from the XXX Corps to remain in his position whilst the French 25th Division passed through to follow up the enemy, who was apparently retiring - the whole plain was, indeed, already blue with advancing French. At 7 pm he was ordered to concentrate his division, and during the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th August it entrained for the British zone. It had lost since the 24th July 108 officers and 2,368 other ranks.

The 15th Division (Major-General H. L. Reed) also took part in the fighting on the 1st August. By the morning of the 30th July it had changed places with the French 87th Division, each leaving its artillery in position to cover the other. The new front of the 15th Division, from near Tigny (in enemy hands) to short of Buzancy (also in enemy hands), was overlooked. Opposite the right front lay a ridge a thousand yards long marked by three prominent hillocks - "Les Trois Mamelons" - which formed strongpoints in the German front system. The left of the line was faced by the western side of the Buzancy plateau, the approach to which led up an open and regular slope without a scrap of cover.

During the morning of the 29th, Major-General Reed had received orders from the XX Corps that his division would carry out an attack in conjunction with the French 12th Division on the right. The operation would begin by an encircling attack against the Bois d'Hartennes, between Hartennes and Taux, the 12th Division moving by the south and the 15th by the north; after joining hands beyond the wood the advance was to be continued eastward towards Droizy. The date, which depended on operations carried out farther south on the 30th, would probably be the 31st. It was later decided by General Mangin, as has been seen, to postpone the attack until the 1st August, when it could form part of the main operation.

During the 30th and 31st the 15th Division suffered heavy shelling, including much gas, both by day and night, but advanced headquarters being situated to a flank at Dommiers (6 miles west of Buzancy) escaped. At a conference in the afternoon of the 3lst the details of the attack were arranged. The 46th Brigade on the right was to attack the two northern of Les Trois Mamelons, - the French 12th Division would deal with the third and mask the wood. After the capture of its first objective the brigade was to move straight on past the northern side of the Bois d'Hartennes but only as far as the Chateau Thierry-Soissons road, which traverses the wood from north to south about a third of its depth from the western edge. The 44th Brigade, in reserve, would then pass through the 46th to the eastern edge of the wood, where junction was to be made with the French 12th Division. The 45th Brigade, in front of Villemontoire, was to keep touch with the left of the attacking brigade and form a defensive flank. The troops were to be in position at 4.45 am, and as the enemy had observation over the area the 44th Brigade must be moved up by night and hide in the cornfields east of Vierzy. Zero hour depended on the progress of the attack of the XXX Corps (in which the British 34th Division was engaged) on the right. The signal for the attack would be given by the XX Corps, by rockets fired from aeroplanes and balloons, and salvoes of 155 cm shells with black smoke from three places: at the first exact clock hour or half hour thirty minutes or more after the signal (e.g. 7 am if the signal were given at 6.22 am) the troops were to advance without any preliminary bombardment, under an artillery and macbine-gun barrage, whilst the heavy artillery would bombard the enemy back areas.

As good reports of the initial progress of the XXX Corps reached General Mangin, he ordered the XX Corps to advance. The agreed signals were given at 8.25 am, which signified that 9 am would be zero.

When the leading battalions of the 46th Brigade, the 9/Royal Scots and 7th/8th K.O.S.B. with the l0/Scottish Rifles behind them, began to advance they came under fire from heavy artillery and from machine guns hidden in derelict tanks in front of them and were checked, with severe casualties. On the left the 6/Cameron Highlanders and 13/Royal Scots of the 45th Brigade, forming the defensive flank, were able by 11 am to reach the Chateau Thierry-Soissons road and dig in. The 12th Division on the right was at first reported to be making good progress, it had in fact captured the small Tigny salient, but otherwise the advance had been very slight. At 12.55 pm the commanding officers of the 9/Royal Scots and 10/Scottish Rifles informed Brigadier-General Fortune that unless the French could come up and engage the machine guns on the right flank, further attack held no prospect of success. In the meantime, however, Major-General Reed had arranged for another bombardment by artillery and trench mortars and an assault at 3.30 pm. Help from the French was put out of the question by a German counter-attack against the left of the 12th Division; at 2.45 pm the S.O.S. was seen to go up from Tigny and French troops were seen leaving the village. Nevertheless the renewed bombardment was begun at 3 pm and at 3.27 pm the creeping barrage opened. The fire is said to have been more effective than in the morning, but when the 9/Royal Scots advanced towards the centre "mamelon" followed in echelon by the 10/Scottish Rifles which was to take the northernmost, fire from the right and right rear soon stopped all progress, and at 4.50 pm further attempts to push forward were abandoned; to use the words of the French Official Account: "the XX Corps after some progress towards Tigny and Taux was driven back towards its starting position". Major-General Reed was then informed that his division would be relieved during the night of the 2nd/3rd August.

In the course of the morning, the French airmen, who throughout the day met with very active opposition, had noticed fires starting at Fismes, Soissons and other places in German possession. From mid-day onwards they reported that the enemy seemed to be evacuating material and supplies from the valley of the Vesle. General Fayolle (G.A.R.), in spite of the stout resistance of the enemy and the lack of fresh troops, at 5 pm ordered the operation to be continued on the 2nd with the same objectives as on the I st, with the object of throwing the Germans back on to the Vesle, "but without playing their game, that is to say without expending more men than they do".

General Degoutte (Sixth Army) passed these orders on to his corps, but General Mangin (Tenth Army) after giving instructions for the relief of the British 34th and 15th Divisions, ordered that "for the continuation of the operations, the right of the XXX Corps and the XI Corps will dig themselves in solidly on the conquered positions, the XI Corps holding itself ready to support the Sixth Army by taking Saponay; the left of the XXX Corps will manoeuvre with a view to the capture of the Bois du Plessier". Active reconnaissances to watch the movements of the enemy and discover any symptom of retirement were recommended.

The Germans retired during the night to a position covering the Vesle, leaving weak rear-guards to delay pursuit, but still continued to hold Soissons. The first news of the retirement only reached General Mangin at 6 am on the 2nd. Major-General Reed had received no orders, except as regards his relief; not until 8.30 am did he hear from the artillery observers that on the right the French preceded by cavalry were pushing on eastwards following the retreating Germans. At 10 am the French 12th Division reported to him that its right wing, had advanced and that patrols were entering the Bois d'Hartennes without encountering opposition. Strong patrols were at once pushed out towards the "mamelons" and Taux. At 11.50 am orders arrived from the XX Corps for a general advance, and Major-General Reed then gave instructions for the 45th Brigade to swing forward its right, keeping contact with the 44th Brigade (now in the place of the 46th) which was to move due east through Taux and there get in touch with the French 12th Division. When this had been obtained, both brigades were to advance in a north-easterly direction, with the river Crise near Villeblain as the first objective.

At 3.30 pm a report came from the 45th Brigade that it had reached the edge of the Bois de Concrois, and soon after the 44th Brigade came up. Villeblain was entered at 6.45 pm. The French 12th Division was next reported in Chacrise, to the right, and shortly after the 87th Division, to the left, on the Crise east of Buzancy; farther north Rozieres and Noyant were in French hands. The leading British troops then crossed the river and formed an outpost line.

At 7.50 pm orders were issued for an advance to the next objective: the road from Soissons south-east to Cuiry Housse. It was then decided by General Mangin that the relief of the 15th Division which had been planned to take place on two successive nights, should be carried out forthwith. The two relieving infantry regiments of the 17th Division arrived at 1 am on the 3rd and passed through the line of the 44th and 45th Brigades, which were then withdrawn. They left behind the two machine-gun companies attached to them: these were to remain until the afternoon. The 46th Brigade, which had moved up to the Bois de Concrois, was relieved at dawn by the third regiment of the 17th Division, and the artillery by batteries of the 87th Division.

It had been intended to transport the infantrv by bus, but owing to the congestion on the roads the buses did not arrive and the men marched back 18 miles to the Vivières (3 miles north of Villers Cotterets) area, whence they were sent in buses 35 miles westwards to the Liancourt area, where they entrained on the night of the 5th/6th and on the 6th.

In appreciation of the services of the 15th and 34th Divisions General Fayolle, G.A.R., was moved to write a special letter to Sir Douglas Haig, in which he said, "Both of them, by their dash, their courage, and their devotion, have excited the admiration of the French troops in whose midst they fought". They had indeed given of their best and worthily upheld the honour of the British Army in the ranks of our Ally, and in a country in which the defenders possessed all the advantages. Their share, as well as that of the 51st and 62nd Divisions, in the first victorious Allied offensive has been fully and gracefully acknowledged in France but almost entirely overlooked by their fellow-countrymen.

The casualties of the 15th Scottish Division from noon 21st July to 3rd August had been:



Other Ranks

















Franco-British Relations

The placing of British corps and divisions under the orders of the higher French commanders revealed that although the Allied troops had been fighting alongside each other for four years they knew very little of each other's methods. The occasional mingling of troops which had taken place, notably at "First Ypres 1914", again during the attachment of the small French First Army to the British forces during the Passchendaele fighting in 1917, once more in the sector of General Gough's Army in March 1918, and lastly when the D.A.N. formed part of General Plumer's Army in April 1918, had brought to notice certain difficulties. Owing to some extent to the difference of language, co-operation at the junctions of the Allied contingents from August 1914 onwards had not as a rule been very satisfactory, except on the 1st July 1916, the first day of the Sornme. No general measures to obviate friction had been taken except by the formation of Missions at the respective G.Q.G. and G.H.Q., and the attachment of interpreters to units and of liaison officers to the corps and divisions near the "soudures". No official attempts had been made to familiarize staff officers, still less the regimental officers, with the organization and methods of their Allies.

The French commanders and staffs were, with the one exception of the commander of the Sixth Army in May 1918, already referred to, consistently helpful and considerate. Representations were met in a sympathetic and practical manner. The relations of the French and British troops were at all times excellent, but the display of friendliness became more demonstrative after operations actually carried out in common, as they had been at "First Ypres" and were now again in the Chateau Thierry salient. Heavy demands were made on the four divisions of the XXII Corps, but they responded to them all, and thus completely effaced the bad impression of British fighting powers which they found prevalent among the French owing to the unfortunate events of March 1918.

It may be as well to summarize some "lessons learnt" by the staff of the XXII Corps and others. Very few British and French officers understood each other over the telephone, so liaison officers were called upon to speak - this also enabled national abbreviations, code words and slang to be used. It was almost impossible, except with long delays, to get English telegraphic messages through on French lines. French despatch riders seemed casual as to whom they delivered messages and their system of obtaining receipts was not as strict as with the British Signal Service. It was even more necessary than between entirely British staffs to enquire frequently by telephone if orders were on the way. Liaison officers found it advantageous to keep themselves informed as to when orders would be going out, so as to notify, if possible, British addressees by telephone. Practice was required in reading the unfamiliar, black and white hachured French maps.

The very elaborate French operation orders were frequently not received until very late. The French General Staff seemed averse to issuing warning orders - for reasons of secrecy - but the intention was usually discussed some time before orders were drafted. It was therefore most necessary that good and intelligent liaison officers should be selected for the headquarters of the higher French formations, who would gain the confidence of the French staffs, learn their intentions early and possess sufficient knowledge and experience of military operations to enable them, with due permission, to send warning of what was coming. The French liaison officer was the actual representative of his commander, gave his orders and was empowered to vary them to meet local conditions and circumstances; sometimes, in anticipation of the arrival of the written orders, he gave verbal orders which were acted on, and on every occasion they were found to conform to the formal orders. Mere facility in the foreign language was not sufficient qualification for a liaison officer. It was discovered that far fewer French officers possessed a working knowledge of English than British officers a similar acquaintance with French, so that the French language was generally used.

It may be noted that French divisions were better provided with motor cars than the British; in view of the French methods of inter-communication, at least two extra cars should have been allotted to any division serving with our Ally.

The French as a rule did not put a distribution list on their orders, so it was not always certain, unless enquiry were made, whether flank divisions or divisions temporarily under the command of British formations had received orders.

Co-operation when French artillery covered British infantry and vice versa was good, but naturally took longer to arrange than in normal circumstances. It was learnt that a French barrage might have its corners turned back, so that the infantry were boxed in and the flank troops could not edge round any obstacle, whether human or topographical.

The French system of movement by train and bus differed from our own, and required study. The loading ramps were often of insufficient width for British methods. As men had sometimes to be put into railway vehicles previously occupied by horses, cleaning apparatus was required. Information as to "halte repas" and use of latrines was vague and untrustworthy. Buses were smaller than the British; debussing frequently took place at a considerable distance from the concentration area, and the marches proved a hardship to men of "B" class detailed for baths, salvage, and similar duties; yet unless the British officers held written authority from the French staff concerned, they could not alter route or destination. The French could not supply transport for laundry stores and the usual surplus baggage, so clean clothing was brought up as opportunity offered. Billets were often allotted by villages in which it was difficult to discover what the accommodation might be, unless it had been ascertained earlier from some local town-major. Previous personal reconnaissance by an officer was found desirable.

On occasions when coal supplies did not arrive the French were always ready to assist and hand over in bulk - on payment - and they cashed officers' cheques. What the troops missed most were the ordinary Expeditionary Force Canteen supplies, particularly cigarettes and tobacco. It should be added that the local estaminets on the line of march of the XXII Corps on the 17th July dispensed a clear brown liquid which looked like beer and was treated as such by a whole brigade that had never heard of still champagne, with disastrous results.

The End of the Battle

The concluding operations on the Aisne after the British divisions had left the line do not call for lengthy description. During the night of the 2nd/3rd August the German Seventh Army and the flanks of the First and Ninth on either side of it, retired behind the line of the Vesle and the Aisne, abandoning Soissons, but leaving the usual machine-gun rear parties. The commanders of the three French Armies, the Fifth, Sixth, and Tenth, had in the afternoon and evening of the 2nd independently ordered a general pursuit and the pushing forward of the divisional cavalries, followed by advanced guards or "groupes de combat" of all arms, "the main bodies proceeding by successive bounds from position to position in accordance with the progress of the advanced guards".

To these orders General Fayolle (G.A.R.) added that to prevent surprise reserves should be collected as the front was narrowing and the reduction of the numbers engaged thus became practicable: the pursuit should be continued "by advanced guards supported by the mass of the batteries, but the main bodies held ready to constitute a battle-front quickly".

Towards midday on the 3rd the French centre and left nearly reached the line of the Vesle and Aisne between Fismes and Soissons; but the right, that is the greater part of the Fifth Army and the right of the Sixth, could not push their main bodies as far as the Vesle, because the enemy artillery, after being silent, woke up about the middle of the afternoon and severely shelled the plateaux south of Muizon, Jonchery and Fismes. Neither General Maistre (G.A.C.) nor General Fayolle (G.A.R.) was prepared to risk an immediate assault of a position which might be strongly occupied and defended. Nothing could be done but reconnoitre, reorganize the divisions, reconstitute reserves, bring up the mass of the field artillery to cover the passage of the rivers, and then, if possible, form small bridgeheads.

The 3rd August was therefore passed in closing up, so that on the 4th, in spite of gun and machine-gun fire, a few patrols managed to cross the Vesle to the east and west of Fismes and to the east and west of Braine. On the 4th General Pétain issued a General Instruction to the effect that the mission of the three Armies remained as before to throw the enemy north of the Vesle and the Aisne, " but without " exposing themselves to useless losses or to failure with a river behind them ": that endeavour should be made to discover the intentions of the enemy so as not to allow him-without, however, attacking prematurely-to continue the retirement of his main bodies under cover of a weak screen left on the Vesle and the Aisne: that if only rear-guards were found to have been left on these rivers they were to be hustled back and an advance made to the Aisne and later the Ailette, always in considerable depth; but that if the enemy was found to be established in force the Armies were to dig in thoroughly in front of him and postpone all general action until a decision had been reached by the High Command.

Both air and ground reconnaissances on the 4th and 5th gave the impression that the enemy was well entrenched behind the Vesle and Aisne. On the evening of the 6th therefore, General Pétain came to the decision that the Fifth, Sixth and Tenth Armies should establish themselves south of the rivers, but must continue offensive preparations, so as to give the enemy the impression that a serious attack was about to take place, particularly on the 8th August, the date fixed by General Foch for the Franco-British offensive elsewhere. General Pétain telegraphed at 10.10 p.m.: " Until further orders, no attempt will be made north of the Vesle to carry the enemy positions ".

The Second Battle of the Marne was over. Between the 15th July and 5th August, the French Armies and the Allied divisions engaged with them had taken prisoner 659 officers and 28,708 other ranks, had captured 793 guns and 3,728 machine guns. The French casualties in the battle had been 2,539 officers and 92,626 other ranks. The enemy losses are not yet known. The Germans attribute their defeat to the surprise by General Mangin's Army on the 18th July, and to the numerical and physical weakness of their infantry. Battalion trench strength (excluding machine gunners) had, it is stated, fallen to 200-240 rifles, with 15-20 light machine guns, with a fatal lack of regimental officers and N.C.O.'s: one regiment, reduced to two battalions, had only four of its companies led by officers and both battalion commanders were second lieutenants. Physical fitness had been reduced by poor rations and influenza.

The state of the German Second Army at the beginning of August has been revealed, and the others were hardly in better condition: on the 3rd August, of its 13 divisions only 2 were "fully fit for battle"; 5 only fit for position warfare; 3 only fit for defence on a quiet front; and 3 required relief, having a trench strength of about one quarter of their establishments. French and British Intelligence calculations agreed that the Germans had lost almost exactly a million men in battle on the Western Front since the 21st March (450,000 in March and April and 550,000 in their subsequent diversion offensives), plus 350,000 on other fronts; the depots were nearly empty and men with two months' training, drawn in anticipation from the 1920 class, were being sent to the front.

On the 7th the French Commander-in-Chief in a congratulatory order to his Armies, summed up the result as: "Four years of effort aided by our faithful Allies, four years of trial stoically accepted, commence to bear their fruit."

"Broken in the fifth of his attempts in 1918, the invader has recoiled. His effectives are falling, his morale is weakening, whilst on our side, our American comrades, just disembarked, have already made our disconcerted enemy feel the vigour of their blows."

"Yesterday I said to you: Obstinacy, Patience, your American comrades are coming. To-day I say to you Tenacity, Boldness, and Victory must be yours."

Tactics of Defence

The Allies had been very slow in adopting suitable methods to meet the great German offensives, only learning by experience that neither the first position nor the intermediate line could as a whole be maintained. Even to the last the French relied on stopping the enemy on the second position, on which the forward troops retired whilst a counter-attack from a flank was prepared - whereas, after adopting "elastic yielding" the Germans depended upon a proportion at least of the troops in the forward zone sticking to their posts to embarrass the attackers and an immediate counter-stroke by divisions kept near at hand for the purpose of recovering the lost ground. The system adopted by some old Regular divisions in early 1915 of sign-boarding their support trenches as "counter-attack trenches" had in the course of time been forgotten. The selection of a single good line, covered by outposts, any part of which if lost was to be recovered by local counterstroke, as exhibited by Major-General H. S. Jeudwine in the defence of Bethune in April 1918, proved remarkably effective. No system, of course, should be made of universal application, for, next to surprise, variety of tactics is of supreme importance. Further, the system selected must be the best suited to ground, not a rigid system applied to all types of country. It is unnecessary to emphasize the advantages of a reverse slope position, on which the enemy has no ground observation, whilst its foreground can be covered by our own field-gun fire. Few counter-attack troops are required in such a case. But on a long front many varieties of contour will be encountered and a continuous reverse slope out of the question.

It may be suggested that in the end all was for the best. Had not the great and carefully prepared offensive of the 21st March met with a considerable measure of success, Ludendorff might earlier have realized the immense difficulties of a strategic break-through, and instead of dashing the German Armies to ruin, with loss of numbers, morale and prestige, as he did, he might by a series of retirements have lured the Allies on to one position after another, have inflicted on them losses of trained men, for which even the American contingents would scarcely have been adequate compensation; or if the Allies refused to attack, have established a stalemate in which time was not altogether in the Allies' favour, for the French and British civil populations were suffering considerable hardships.

No one knew better than the Germans that victory can be obtained only by attack. In theory Ludendorff's Plan for drawing the Allied reserves away from Flanders by a series of offensives elsewhere before delivering the final blow was perfect; but misled by his experience of offensive warfare on the Eastern Front - though his strategic adviser, Lieut.-Colonel Wetzell, had warned him against the danger of such miscalculation - he failed to reckon the cost of offensives against French, American and British troops in 1918. And it is the best and bravest who fall in attack. With more pertinacity, such as Sir Douglas Haig showed in 1917, Ludendorff might perhaps have hammered through to Amiens or Hazebrouck in March or April; for he had driven the British from their fortified zones, and they were fighting on unprepared ground; but having in mind his own methods, he conjured up a vision of impending counter-attacks; and ordered a halt. In order to draw away from Flanders the dreaded Allied reserves, he attacked elsewhere against fully prepared positions and with many weeks' fatal interval between the different operations, each of the new offensives being a separate major operation which required as an indispensable preliminary the presence of the "battering train" of heavy guns, trench mortars and aeroplanes: hence unavoidable delay. It has several times been pointed out in these volumes that in the old days of the assault of fortresses reliance was not entirely placed on an attack on the main breach, but that simultaneous subsidiary and feint attacks were carried out, and that as often as not the main attack failed, for the besieged were ready for it, and one of the minor assaults effected an entry. For even one such subsidiary attack Ludendorff said in March 1918 that he had not the men and material; he could stage only one attack at a time. Foch was to show him that in modern times the old theory of the attack of fortified lines can be modified by executing a series of attacks following each other closely at different places instead of several simultaneous assaults.

German Morale

General Foch was not slow to take advantage of the situation which the German failure at the Second Battle of the Marne had gradually created, and for which the Allies had so long waited. The prospect of success had dawned. Enemy morale was at last beginning to break, and all who knew the Germans expected that once it did show signs of "cracking" it would collapse rapidly. In the later part of July, Intelligence reports had shown the radical difference between the state of mind of the prisoners captured in the recent operations and that of those taken in the earlier offensives of the year. Time after time from the 21st March onwards the prisoners stated they had been told that this particular offensive would be the last, and after it a victorious peace would be concluded. The majority of those taken after the 15th July, however, retained only a much shaken confidence in these promises of success. They showed signs of war-weariness and often of complete indifference; only a few exhibited the old arrogant attitude and spoke of having been "betrayed" by deserters revealing the secret of the operations, in itself an indication of falling morale. On seeing American troops, of whose presence they had been kept in ignorance, some admitted that victory was no longer possible.

The grave crisis through which the German Homeland was passing could be detected even in the closely controlled German Press. In July the newspapers contained such phrases as "the hour has come when the faith of the nation in the future and in victory requires to be sustained with a strong heart"; "it is the resistance of the nerves which will win the War". Some spoke of "a serious moral depression"; although the heavy cost of the unsuccessful offensives in France, the gravity of the defeat of the Austrians in Italy, the failure of submarine warfare, and the arrival of the Army of the United States were all either concealed or minimized. Even without great Allied victories, when the peace promised before autumn did not come, a final collapse might well be expected. Obviously the time had come to accelerate the process of disintegration by the counter-offensives of which Maréchal Foch had spoken earlier in the year.