A Brief History
On August 8, 1918, the Allied offensive known as the “Hundred Days Offensive” began with the start of the Battle of Amiens. Allied forces swept 7 miles into German lines, an incredible distance when in the previous 4 years, progress had been measured in feet or yards. The Battle of Amiens was the first in a string of victories that would carry the Allies to victory in World War I but also inevitably sow the seeds of World War II!
Both sides experienced tremendous effects on morale due to the huge early Allied success of the Amiens offensive; the Allies elated and encouraged, while the Germans became despondent and began surrendering in large numbers. The German commander, Erich Ludendorff, called it “the black day of the German Army.”
The Allies used tanks in one of the most effective, early mass armor attacks. Finally weapons and tactics had changed the face of trench warfare. With over 500 Allied tanks facing virtually no German tanks, 32 Allied divisions facing 14 German divisions and over 1,900 Allied aircraft facing 365 German aircraft, the tired and worn out German defenders were not likely to withstand the onslaught.
An interesting tactic at Amiens was the Allied use of unarmed tanks to provide protected transport of resupplies of food, water and ammo across the battlefield, as well as the evacuation of wounded.
As the Allied victories piled up, it became clear to both sides that Germany must surrender or face invasion and annihilation. An armistice was signed that went into effect on November 11, 1918, and the infamous Treaty of Versailles followed in 1919. The seeds of World War II are said to have been sown with the Treaty of Versailles and its harsh terms against Germany, blaming World War I on German aggression and belligerence, which was actually only partly the case. Onerous reparations would continue the sting for years to come. Truth be told, all the nations involved in the early part of the war share the blame for starting it, not just Germany. In addition to the bitterness generated by the terms of the treaty, propaganda caused the German people to believe that Germany had not been defeated militarily on the battlefield but rather that Germany had instead lost because politicians had mishandled the war (which was not true, as the military played a big part in losing the war).
The unhappy peace that followed is seen by many to have inevitably led to a second world war. Thus, it might be concluded that the Battle of Amiens, as the beginning of the end of World War I, can be thought of as the beginning of World War II. Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think? Is this fair analysis, or are we reaching too far? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please read…
Dennis, Peter and Alistair McCluskey. Amiens 1918: The Black Day of the German Army (Campaign). Osprey Publishing, 2008.
Kearsey, A. The Battle of Amiens 1918. Naval and Military Press, 2009.
The featured image in this article, 8th August, 1918 (oil-on-linen, 107 cm x 274 cm, 1918-1919) by Will Longstaff, Australian official war artist, is available from the Collection Database of the Australian War Memorial under the ID Number: ART03022. This image is Crown Copyright because it is owned by the Australian Government or that of the states or territories, and is in the public domain because it was created or published prior to 1970 and the copyright has therefore expired. The government of Australia has declared that the expiration of Crown Copyrights applies worldwide. This has been confirmed by correspondence received by OTRS (Ticket:2017062010010417).