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Third Battle of the Aisne

This article is about the 1918 battle. For other battles of the Aisne see Battles of the Aisne.
Third Battle of the Aisne
Part of the Western Front of World War I

The Western Front, July 1918
Date 27 May – 6 June 1918
Location Aisne River near Paris, France
Result German advance halted after initial gains
Belligerents
 France
 United Kingdom
 United States
German Empire
Commanders and leaders
Denis Auguste Duchêne
Alexander Hamilton-Gordon
Erich Ludendorff
Crown Prince Wilhelm
Strength
French 6th Army, British IX Corps and later 2 American Divisions[Note 1] German 1st and 7th Armies (over 20 divisions and 4,000 artillery guns)
Casualties and losses
127,000 130,000

The Third Battle of the Aisne (French: 3e Bataille de L'Aisne) was a battle of the German Spring Offensive during World War I that focused on capturing the Chemin des Dames Ridge before the American Expeditionary Forces could arrive completely in France. It was one of a series of offensives, known as the Kaiserschlacht, launched by the Germans in the spring and summer of 1918.

Contents

  • Background 1
  • Battle 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
    • Notes 5.1
    • Citations 5.2
    • Bibliography 5.3
  • External links 6

Background

The massive surprise attack (named Blücher-Yorck after two Prussian generals of the Napoleonic Wars) lasted from 27 May until 4 June 1918[1] and was the first full-scale German offensive following the Lys Offensive in Flanders in April.

The Germans had held the Chemin des Dames Ridge from the First Battle of the Aisne in September 1914 to 1917, when General Mangin captured it during the Second Battle of the Aisne (in the Nivelle Offensive).

Operation Blücher-Yorck was planned primarily by Erich Ludendorff, who was certain that success at the Aisne would lead the German armies to within striking distance of Paris. Ludendorff, who saw the BEF as the main threat, believed that this, in turn, would cause the Allies to move forces from Flanders to help defend the French capital, allowing the Germans to continue their Flanders offensive with greater ease. Thus, the Aisne drive was to be essentially a large diversionary attack.

The defense of the Aisne area was in the hands of General Denis Auguste Duchêne, commander of the French Sixth Army; in addition, four divisions of the British IX Corps, led by Lieutenant-General Sir Alexander Hamilton-Gordon, held the Chemin des Dames Ridge; they had been posted there to rest and refit after surviving the "Michael" battle.

Battle

Men of the Worcestershire Regiment holding the southern bank of the River Aisne at Maizy, 27 May 1918.

On the morning of 27 May 1918, the Germans began a bombardment (Feuerwalze) of the Allied front lines with over 4,000 artillery pieces. The British suffered heavy losses, because Duchene was reluctant to abandon the Chemin des Dames Ridge, after it had been captured at such cost the previous year, had ordered them to mass together in the front trenches, in defiance of instructions from the French Commander-in-Chief Henri-Philippe Petain. Huddled together, they made easy artillery targets.[2]

The bombardment was followed by a On 6 June 1918, following many successful Allied counter-attacks, the German advance halted on the

Victory seemed near for the Germans, who had captured just over 50,000 Allied soldiers and well over 800 guns by 30 May 1918. But after having advanced within 56 kilometres (35 mi) of Paris on 3 June, the German armies were beset by numerous problems, including supply shortages, fatigue, lack of reserves and many casualties.

Taken completely by surprise and with their defences spread thin, the Allies were unable to stop the attack and the German army advanced through a 40 kilometres (25 mi) gap in the Allied lines. Reaching the Aisne in under six hours, the Germans smashed through eight Allied divisions on a line between Reims and Soissons, pushing the Allies back to the river Vesle and gaining an extra 15 km of territory by nightfall.

[3] offensives had in March and April of that year.

Aftermath

The French had suffered over 98,000 casualties and the British around 29,000. German losses were nearly as great if not slightly heavier. Duchene was sacked by French Commander-in-Chief Philippe Petain for his poor handling of the British and French troops. The Americans had arrived and proven themselves in combat for the first time in the war.

Ludendorff, encouraged by the gains of Blücher-Yorck, would launch further offensives culminating in the Second Battle of the Marne.

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ The divisions of American Expeditionary Force were double the size of those of the British, French and Germans (with a full strength of around 20,000 each). Due to this fact, they were sometimes referred to as Grandes Divisions (Big Divisions).

Citations

  1. ^ "The German Spring Offensive March–July 1918". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Hart 2008, pp 266–8
  3. ^ Hart 2008, pp 283

Bibliography

  • Evans, M. M. (2004). Battles of World War I. Select Editions. ISBN 1-84193-226-4.
  • Hart, Peter (2008). 1918: A Very British Victory, Phoenix Books, London. ISBN 978-0-7538-2689-8
  • Ward, Alec (2008). A Young Man's War, Medlar Press. ISBN 978-1-899600-84-7

External links

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