27th May 1918: Germans launch third major Spring Offensive on the Aisne

Operation Blucher-York, the Third Battle of the Aisne. At 1am a tremendous German bombardment fell on the whole of the Soissons-Reims front, including a crushing onslaught on the forward lines by trench mortars. The sector was partly held by five depleted British divisions – 8th, 19th (Western), 21st, 25th & 50th – which were ‘resting’ after their exertions earlier in the year. At 3.40am the Germans attacked in what was the third major campaign of the German Spring Offensive. By midday the Germans had reached the River Aisne – some five miles behind the Allied line. During the afternoon the second line between the Aisne and the Vesle Rivers was lost by both corps, and before nightfall the Germans were across the Vesle, beginning to outflank the French at Reims. The Germans in the centre had penetrated 12 miles, and by the third night as in 1914 the River Marne and then Paris (50 miles away) were becoming threatened. Petain and Clemenceau were convinced that the earlier attacks in the Spring Offensive Battle-of-Aisnewere merely designed to draw French reserves away to help the British in the north, and now Paris was vulnerable. Or was it just another feint to draw French resources away and for the Germans to renew their attack on the British and drive them to the sea? Foch believed it was the latter and was cautious in withdrawing his reserves in the north to the Marne.

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