First a short visit to the spot of the 1st Tank vs. Tank Battle,
to follow next the traces of the Australian Corps from 4 July 1918,
from Villers Bretonneux, via le Hamel, Proyart,
to the Mont St. Quentin near Péronne.
Before we follow the traces of the Australian soldiers,
we start at the location of the 1st Tank to Tank Battle ever in history,
along the D 168 southwest of Villers Bretonneux,
and north of Cachy.
On 24 April 1918 one German A7V-tank,
out of a group of 4 tanks, approached from a slope,
just outside the village of Villers Bretonneux,
to the British lines and the position of
3 British Mark IV-Tanks; 2 " Females", and 1 "Male".
The "Male" tank fired once,
and one of the " Female" Mark IV tanks fired once at the A7V.
The A7V replied and made 2 succesful hits at the 2 "Females".
Then, for still unclear reasons, the A7V retreated uphill again.
The " Male" Mark IV followed the A7V for about 1500 yards,
fired some shots, and knew to destroy it.
Panorama of the slope,
from which the German A7V-Tank approached the British tanks.
The Kaiser's Battle
On 21 March 1918 The Germans launched a series of offensives, known as "The Kaiserschlacht". During the German Operation Michael General Von Der Marwitz' 2nd Army reconquered the former Somme battlefield on General Gough's 5th Army. The 5th Army was forced to withdraw at Amiens. The "new" front line was only some kilometres east of Villers Bretonneux.
Mainly a bad economical situation at home, long supply lines, bad quality supplies, and a low moral with the German lower rank soldier caused the Germans to stop fighting and to start looting the rich supplies, the British left behind during their hasty retreat. The momentum of the at first succesful German offensive was killed. The battle in the Somme area petered out around the end of April .
The last operation, "Marneschutz", of the Kaiser's Battle petered out at Chalons sur Marne on 15 July 1918.
Awaiting the soon arrival of the American Troops, the British and French resupplied and reorganised their Armies under the highest secrecy. On 18 July Foch' 6th Army launched the 2nd Battle of the Marne with good results.
On 8 August, at 4.20 AM, the Allied forces, the French 1st Army , the British III Corps of the 4th Army with the Australian Corps, Canadian Corps , and the Cavalry Corps, launched the Battle of Amiens. The troops were fortified with 2000 artillery guns, 534 tanks, and 800 aircrafts.
This was the first of a series of succesful offensives, also later reinforced with the mass of American Divisions.
The Battle of Amiens.
Before 8 August, on 4 July 1918, under the command of Lieutenant General Monash, the Australian 2nd Division, with the addition of machine gun battalions of the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Divisions, and the American 33rd Division, prepared an opening action for the later attacks in the Somme area. On 4 July, they wiped out the German 1st line Salient near le Hamel, northeast of Villers Bretonneux. (See later on this page).
Later, on 8 August, during the launch of the Battle of Amiens, the British III Corps attacked in the Somme area on the northern bank, in the zone around Albert. On the banks of the river and south of the Somme the Australian Corps attacked from the lines at le Hamel. The Canadian Corps attacked the area south of the straight Roman Road, the nowadays D1029 or N29. By 31 July 1918 the Australians would continue from the banks of the Somme to reach the Mont St. Quentin and Péronne. The French 1st Army , under British command, attacked at the right flank of the Canadian Corps.
North of the town of Villers Bretonneux, along the D 23,
we visited the Australian National Memorial and Military Cemetery
of Villers Bretonneux.
The Cemetery in front of the Memorial contains the graves of ....
... 1.085 UK , 770 Australian, 263 Canadian, 4 South African,
and 2 New Zealand officers, NCO's, and soldiers.
All these men were killed in the period from March 1918 and later.
The walls of the Memorial are engraved with
the 10.979 names of Australian soldiers, ...
... killed in Gallipoli and along the Western Front,
who have no known grave.
With some effort we climbed the 100 feet high Memorial tower
for some views over the landscape.
View from the tower southward in the direction of Villers Bretonneux.
View eastward over the Cemetery.
On a clear day one can see Amiens left at the horizon.
We cross the Somme at Corbie to the northern bank.
We pass along the D1 the Crash Site of the German flying Ace,
the Red Baron, Manfred Von Richthofen.
(Somewhere else on this site there is more to read about this event;
After some 2500 meter,
still before the junction to le Sec Sailly and Méricourt,
we discovered on the left side of the road this obelisque,
the Memorial to commemorate the 3rd Australian Division,
but also the other Australian Divisions, the 2nd, 4th, and 5th,
who advanced past this location,
along the banks and south of the Somme.
We cross the meandering Somme again
to the southern bank,
to continue to the former trenches near le Hamel.
Mont. St. Quentin
year of visit: 2007.
A trip to the trenches near le Hamel,
Proyart, and the Digger Memorial at Mont St. Quentin.
Nowadays on top of the former German trenches stands
the Australian National Memorial (top photo),
which was that day alas covered with a net for maintenance.
Southeast of the village of le Hamel,
the 1st German line passed a hill,
which the Germans called the Wolfsberg.
Around the Wolfsberg the Germans formed a small Salient.
The Germans fortified the hill with an Observation Post,
overseeiing the valleys around, and an artillery base.
On 4 July 1918, under the command of Lieutenant General Monash, the 4th Australian Division, launched a succesfull offensive at the 1st line German Salient of the Wolfsberg, southeast of the village of le Hamel.
Besides the Australian 2nd Division also other auxiliary troops attacked; machine gun battalions of the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Australian Divisions, 60 Mark V tanks, 600 artillery guns, and a great number of aircraft. Though after much discussion with the American Commander in Chief, General Pershing, the General consented on the last moment in the deployment of 1000 men of the American 33rd Division during the attack at le Hamel. It would be also one of the first times (besides battles around Château Thierry on 1 June), that American troops were fighting along the Western Front.
Monash used some new tactics: no huge preliminary bombardment anymore, but a creeping artillery barrage, followed by tanks as a part of infantry units in the front, followed by machine gunners taking positions for counter attacks, and infantry. It was also for the first time in history, that an army used parachutes for droppings of ammunition supplies above their troops. The Royal Air Force dropped 100.000 rounds with a precision of 100 meter above Australian machine gun posts, marked with a large V on the ground!
The attack started at 3.10 AM. Although the attack and the conquest of the hill was over after only 93 minutes, the Australians still had a fierce fight. The Australians won that day 2 Victoria Crosses; Private Thomas Exford and Private Henry Dalziel.
The Australians made 41 German officers captive and 1.431 other ranks. Two German field guns were taken, 171 machine guns, and 26 trench mortars.
The Australians had 775 casualties and the Americans 134 casualties.The casualties on the German side are unknown, at least to me.
The action at Hamel became an important model for future set piece combined operations during the next Allied offensives in 1918!
Around the Wolfsberg were 3 lines of defensive trenches,
with machine gun posts and trench mortars.
Through the rather odd reconstructed trenches,
we arrive at the location of the Observation Post.
A view southeastward,
which give an impression of the powerful overview the Germans had.
The first line of this sytem, the "Pear Trench",
as the Australians called it, lied in the valley.
A view southward from the tip of the O.P. in the direction of the Pear Trench,
and the slopes of the parachute ammunition droppings.
View northwestward to Vaire Wood.
After the conquest of the hill
the Australians installed themselves in the trenches
and in the Observation Post.
On a remembrance stone a poem by C.E.W. Bean:
On 8 August, at the start of the Battle of Amiens, these lines formed the Australian jump off lines for their new offensive in the direction of Proyart. The 2nd and 3rd Divisions reached the first out of three rather badly organised German defensive lines around 07:00 AM. The Australian 4th and 5th Divisions took over the assault and conquered the 2nd defensive line around 14:00 Hrs. A group of tanks surprised the soldiers, eating in the houses of the village of Proyart, along the third defensive line. Later in the afternoon of 8 August 1918, the Australian 4th and 5th Divisions reached Chuignolles and Proyart. Although the fighting would go on until 12 August, there was no important gain anymore, at least for the time being....
Inscription on the wall of the Memorial,
a quote of Ludendorff about the events of 8 August 1918:
Nowadays, there is no trace of the Australians to be found in the village of Proyart.
But we had to visit 2 locations,
on the northern side of the village.
We detected this beautiful modest "Arc de Triomphe",
and it's statue of a Poilu.
On it's pedestal bronze bas reliefs with heroic presentations, ..
... in an art style so typical for the 1920's in France, ...
... but also witnessing of the heroic actions of the French Armies..
Just outside the village:
the "Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof" of Proyart.
"HERE REST 4645 GERMAN SOLDIERS."
Most of the buried soldiers here
were killed during the period of March-September 1918.
Mont St. Quentin, Péronne.
From 9 August the Allies and the Australian Corps
continued their advance on a lower pace.
On 31 August 600 men of the Australian 2nd Division
reached the hill of Mont. St. Quentin, overlooking the Somme.
The Germans had fortified the Mont with a network of trenches and machine gun posts.
It took the Australians 8 hours to conquer the hill,
and 2 days to definitely gain control over the area around it on 2 September 1918.
To end this photo impression;
along the D 1017, north of Péronne,
on the summit of the Mont St. Quentin: ...
... the Memorial for the 2nd Australian Division.
TIP. Visit the next Special Impression: