The 100 Days Offensive 1918

The year 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 100 Days Offensive, 18th July – 11th November

The 100 days Offensive was the final Allied Offensive of the First World War on the Western Front. Now under a unified Allied Commander, Marshal Foch, Phase 1 began on 18th July 1918 with a French counter attack at Marne. Canadian troops were sent North towards Belgium in a move to deceive the Germans into believing the main thrust would come there. However, the Canadians doubled back to rendezvous with fresh American and Australian troops in the British sector near Amiens.

The main allied attack took place here at 4:20 am on the morning of August 8th, 1918. It was a misty morning which greatly assisted the element of surprise when allied troops attacked the enemy lines. William Stewart Parkinson DCM – a cousin of Queensferry resident, Trevor Whittley – bravely led a cavalry charge that day and single handedly captured a machine gun emplacement. Battle casualties were enormous and William himself was severely wounded; hospitals were overwhelmed, and William was left for dead outside the triage tent as he had been shot in the head and abdomen; miraculously he was later discovered by his sister, an army nurse and rescued from death.

© IWM (CO3230) Western Front finally ended in 1918, the Allied cavalry resumed the offensive, pursuing and attacking the retreating German forces. Canadian cavalry are shown passing through newly captured country near Cherisy.

Black Day of the German Army

Aided by an unprecedented concentration of British tanks, including the new Mark V tank and airplanes, a major breakthrough of enemy lines was achieved at the Battle of Amiens. The very next day, August 9th, the German High Command was shaken by their losses. General Ludendorff of the German army wrote that “August 8th was the Black Day of the German Army in the history of this war”. The Kaiser told Ludendorff “We have reached the limits of our capacity; the war must be ended”. By the end of that week Ludendorff said, “We cannot win this war anymore, but we must not lose it”.

The Allies launched a series of offensives against the Central Powers across the Western Front with the support of almost 2 million fresh American troops using new artillery techniques and operational methods. Equally important was allied material superiority in a wide range of areas from artillery, ammunition and machine guns to food supplies and even horses.

By September, in Phase 2, the Allies were placed ready for what they hoped would be the final ‘Big Push’. The Germans had been pushed back close to the Hindenburg line from where they had launched their Spring offensive. On 8 October, the First and Third British Armies broke through the Hindenburg Line at Cambrai. This collapse forced the German High Command to accept that the war had to be ended. The evidence of failing German morale also convinced many Allied commanders and political leaders that the war could be ended in 1918; previously, all efforts had been concentrated on building up forces to mount a decisive attack in 1919.

© IWM (Q 9347) Horse team of the Royal Field Artillery pulling an 18 pounder field gun up the slope of a cutting through the bank of the Canal du Nord near Moeuvres, 27 September 1918.

Phase 3 – The German Collapse

The three-pronged Allied offensive triggered a process of collapse inside the German establishment. The 30th of October was a key day being the day that Turkey surrendered. Germany’s only remaining ally, the Austro -Hungarian Empire, was in the process of dissolving. With defeat clearly imminent the German High Seas Fleet was ordered to sea, to seek a final battle with the British Grand Fleet and perhaps enhance the prospect of better peace terms. However, the crews thought little of this suicidal mission and not surprisingly they mutinied and refused to take to sea.

The Hundred Days Offensive essentially pushed the Germans out of France and was followed by the Armistice on 11th November.

The term “Hundred Days Offensive” does not refer to a specific battle or unified strategy, but rather the rapid series of Allied victories

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