Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source2
Extract from a British Army report on the military situation in France, July 1918
(Catalogue ref: WO 158/105)
  • In early 1918, Russia pulled out of the war. This freed up large numbers of German troops for an attack on the western front before the main American army could arrive. The Germans unleashed five devastating offensives that captured large amounts of French territory and threatened to divide the French, British and US armies.
  • However, the last of these offensives was in mid-July and it seemed to the Allies that the Germans were a spent force. British forces were already beginning to push the Germans back in some areas.
  • This document from 25 July is interesting because its optimism seems justified. The British Army was large and well equipped. Its soldiers and officers were gaining experience all the time.
  • It had also developed new weapons like tanks and, more importantly, it had worked out effective tactics for using them.
  • British commanders realised by 1918 that artillery was more important than infantry. At Cambrai, in November 1917, they used a creeping barrage. British shellfire moved ahead of advancing troops with pinpoint accuracy and perfect timing. This pinned defenders down and allowed the infantry to capture enemy positions. The artillery also shelled areas behind the defenders, which stopped them bringing up reinforcements or supplying the front line troops with ammunition or supplies.
  • These tactics would be the foundation for the successes of 1918.
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