Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
France, 8 August 1918
Amiens, or the Third Battle of the Somme, is the name given to the blow delivered on 8 August 1918 against German forces by the British Fourth Army and the French First Army. The British part of the operation - aimed at driving the enemy east, away from Amiens, for a distance of' up to eleven kilometres-was launched by three corps: the British 3rd north of the Somme River; the Australian south of that river and north of the Amiens-Chaulnes railway line; and the Canadian on the Australian right, between the railway and the Amiens-Rove road. The Canadians were brought down from Arras in great secrecy, while the Australian Corps was augmented by the return of its 1st Division from the Lys front. Guns were silently registered onto their targets rather than ranged by firing a few rounds. Also assisting the success of the attack were 430 British tanks, whose assembly was carefully masked using aircraft noise-a device successfully employed by Monash at Hamel (q.v.).
The battlefield was thickly covered in fog when massed British guns brought down the creeping barrage which signalled the start of the advance at 4.20 a.m. Little more than three hours later the enemy's front trench system had been overrun. In the Australian Corps sector, the 4th and 5th divisions passed through the 2nd and 3rd divisions, who had led the assault until then, and pushed ahead to the second line of objectives another three kilometres further on. By midafternoon these, too, had been taken. For a time the British corps in the north had fallen behind the required rate of progress, thereby allowing the 4th Division's left flank to be exposed to fire from enemy forces north of the Somme around Cérisy, in what was called the Chipilly peninsula. Despite this, the Australians pressed their advance to the second objectives - catching in the process hundreds of German support and reserve troops in the Morcourt valley - Allen continued on with the third and final stage, still with the enemy firing into their flank and rear.
By nightfall both the Allied armies had reached their final objectives south of the Somme. A shattering blow had been dealt to the enemy, who suffered 27,000 casualties (including 16,000 prisoners, 7,925 taken by Australians) and 450 guns captured. Among the latter was an 11-inch gun mounted on a railway carriage, with which the enemy had been shelling Amiens from near Harbonnières; this was attacked by a British aircraft, then British cavalry, and finally secured by Australian infantry. All this had been won for a cost to the attackers of 9,000 casualties (about 2,000 of whom were Australian). In the words of General Erich Ludendorff, 8 August had been the German Army's 'black day' of the war which showed the conflict's final outcome now to be inevitable.
The advance was continued on 9 August, the main emphasis being on the southern front with the Australians mainly engaged in pushing out apace to cover the Canadians' northern flank. This gave rise to further actions over the next three days (see Lihons, Etinehem and Proyart), however, in the face of stiffening enemy resistance, progress was not as spectacular as on this first day, nor were arrangements so well co-ordinated. As a consequence, by 14 August AIF losses climbed to 6,000 (1st Division 1,931: 2nd Division 1,295; 3rd Division 1,095; 4th Division 784; and 5th Division 886)-most of these being incurred during 9-12 August.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 151-152.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
H.S. Gullett (1944) The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Citation: Amiens, France, August 8, 1918