Operation Georgette Comes to a Halt

On April 29, 1918 the German offensive code named Operation Georgette ground to a halt.  It had come tantalizingly close, fifteen miles, of the Channel ports of Boulogne, Dunkirk and Calais.  The situation became so critical that on April 11 Field Marshal Douglas Haig issued his famous Backs to the Wall order:

 

Three weeks ago to-day the enemy began his terrific attacks against us on a fifty-mile front. His objects are to separate us from the French, to take the Channel Ports and destroy the British Army.

In spite of throwing already 106 Divisions into the battle and enduring the most reckless sacrifice of human life, he has as yet made little progress towards his goals.

We owe this to the determined fighting and self-sacrifice of our troops. Words fail me to express the admiration which I feel for the splendid resistance offered by all ranks of our Army under the most trying circumstances.

Many amongst us now are tired. To those I would say that Victory will belong to the side which holds out the longest. The French Army is moving rapidly and in great force to our support.

There is no other course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end. The safety of our homes and the Freedom of mankind alike depend upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.

(Signed) D. Haig F.M.
Commander-in-Chief
British Armies in France

General Headquarters
Tuesday, April 11th, 1918

 

The British were saved by logistical problems that plagued the German offensive, and heavy counter-attacks by British, Anzac and French troops.  The Germans had more offensives in 1918, but they had just lost their best chance for victory, and, each day, thousands of American troops were landing in France.

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Published in: on April 29, 2018 at 11:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. Funny you should bring this up just now. No later than yesterday, I answered a question on quora dot com about why did the Brusilov offensive not knock Austria out of the war, as follows: The question is rather, how could it ever? No one big offensive on the main fronts ever succeeded in knocking out an opponent throughout the First World War. Not Caporetto, not First Marne, not Second Marne, not even the many disasters suffered by Russia. However impressive the gains made in the early stages, the attackers always ended up being contained. And for this there is a reason. Even more than the war of machine guns and barbed wire, WWI was the war of railways. All of Europe was riddled with railways by then, and even the notoriously slow and inefficient Austrian rail system was more than able to shift men from one point to another in large quantities. Every attack ended up meeting with masses of men shifted from elsewhere or, as in the case of Caporetto, reorganized as they stopped behind the Piave line.

    • Quite right Fabio. It was not until the fall of 1918 that the Allies had the manpower, skill and resources to attack the Germans on multiple fronts simultaneously and prevent them from amassing the reserves they needed to hold in any one location. The Hundred Days Offensive by the Allies is immensely instructive as to the Military Art and has derived insufficient attention as opposed to the immense bloodletting disasters of the Somme and Verdun. The Great War was an immense and tragic learning experience for the officers of both sides, but those who survived did learn and an easy way to understand this is to compare the campaigns of 1914 with the campaigns of 1918.


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