The Spring Offensive 1918

1918 saw two major Offensives, The Spring Offensive 21st March – 18th July 1918 and the 100 Days Offensive 18th July – 11th November 1918, which brought about the end of the War on the Western Front. Queensferry and Dalmeny lost a total of 16 men to these offensives.

THE GERMAN ARMY ON THE EASTERN FRONT, 19140-1918 (Q 86940) A horse-drawn transport cart, carrying barbed wire, finds the going heavy in the muddy conditions of the Eastern Front. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

The Spring Offensive 21st March – 18th July

This was a series of German attacks mainly in the Somme, along the Western Front, beginning on 21st March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914. By the end of March 250,000 American troops had joined the conflict. The Germans realised that their only remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the intended overwhelming human and material resources of the American Expeditionary Force could be fully deployed. Germany also had the temporary advantage in numbers with approximately 50 divisions, which had been freed by the Russian withdrawal from the war by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which formally ended the war on the Eastern Front.

THE GERMAN SPRING OFFENSIVE, 1918 © IWM (Q 8629) Battle of Rosières (Operation Michael). A 6-inch Mark VII gun of the Royal Garrison Artillery in action near Hedauville, 26 March 1918.

There were four German offensives at this time, one codenamed Operation Michael, was the main attack starting on 21st March, which was intended to break through the Allied lines, outflank the British forces, which held the front from the Somme River to the English Channel and defeat the British Army. Once that was achieved, it was hoped that the French would seek armistice terms. The other offensives were subsidiary to Michael and were designed to divert Allied forces from the main offensive effort on the Somme.

By the end of the first day of the attack, 21,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner. Though the German attack had been spectacular in terms of land conquered, it had also been expensive in terms of men lost. Between March and April, the Germans suffered 230,000 casualties. The German Army simply could not sustain such casualties. By late April the danger of a German breakthrough had passed.

© IWM.(Q 23844) Scottish prisoners captured during the Spring Offensive, March-April 1918.

The Germans were unable to move supplies and reinforcements fast enough to maintain their advance. The fast-moving storm-troopers leading the attack could not carry enough food and ammunition to sustain themselves for long, and all the German offensives petered out by 18th July, partly for lack of supplies. Between March and July 1918, the Germans lost one million men.

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