First World War Timeline: 1918



21st March German Spring offensive The German army launched its Spring Offensive with a massive 63 divisions over a 110-kilometre front. The capitulation of Russia had enabled the Germans to employ in the west units previously engaged on the Eastern Front, before the balance tipped in the favour of the allies with the arrival of the American Expeditionary Forces. There were three main attacks: Operation Michael, directed against Amiens; Operation Georgette, thrusting towards Calais, Boulogne, and Dunkirk; and Operation Blucher (and Gneisenau), which aimed to split the British and French. Using new ‘Stormtrooper’ assault teams the Germans hit the British hardest on the old Somme battlefields of 1916, breaking through their line, taking 16,000 prisoners and advancing dangerously close to the vital transport and communications hub of Amiens.
27th Marchimage
Attacks on Dernancourt On 28 March 1918 troops of the 4th Australian Division occupying positions around the village of Dernancourt were met with the German Army’s Spring Offensive advance. The fighting extended all the way from Dernancourt to Albert, but all attacks were beaten back. In the same area on 5th April four German divisions launched a heavy attack on two brigades of the 4th Division, strung out along the railway siding. The Germans made some important gains, and for a time the Australians were in a precarious position. Some of the lost positions were regained by Australian counter-attacks, but the Germans failed to fully break through the Australian defences. A tactical withdrawal enabled the 4th Division to strengthen its defensive line. The fighting at Dernancourt cost the 4th Division 1,230 casualties.
5th Aprilimage
German offensive halted at Amiens The German Spring Offensive halts outside Amiens as British and Australian forces hold the line. The second battle of the Somme ends, as Germany calls off Operation Michael.
9th April The Battle of the Lys The Battle of the Lys, marked by Operation ‘Georgette’, is the second German Spring Offensive.
24th Aprilimage
Villers-Bretonneux After the action on 5 April, German troops successfully captured Villers-Bretonneux – the last major village before Amiens and an important railhead to Paris. As the Germans had stretched their supply lines in the great advance of Operation Michael, it was deemed important for allied troops to regain control of the village. Australia’s 13th Brigade of the 4th Division and 15th Brigade of the 5th Division launched a counter-attack and were able to wrest control of the village from the Germans. The counter-attack cost the two brigades 1,469 casualties.
29th April Battle of the Lys ends Three British Divisions hold off 13 German divisions, inflicting crippling loss.
27th May The Battle of the Aisne Operation Blucher, the third German Spring Offensive assaults the French army along the Aisne River. The French are forced back to the Marne but hold the river after being reinforced by American troops.
9th June Fourth German offensive The fourth German Offensive on the Western Front, codenamed ‘Gneisenau,’ between Noyan and Montdidier. It fails to break the French line and ends four days later.
15th June Second Battle of the Piave River The second Battle of the Piave River, Italy, opens with a massive offensive by the Austro-Hungarian Army. Italian and British troops first hold and then push back the attackers. Despite heavy losses the Allies destroy the Austro-Hungarian Army, precipitating the collapse of the Empire.
4th Julyimage
Battle of Hamel Using aircraft, artillery, and armour in effective combination with infantry, the attack mounted by AIF General Monash was over in the space of 93 minutes – just three minutes over schedule – having achieved its objective of straightening the allied line and taking the town of Hamel. The Australian Corps advanced the line by two kilometres across a 6.5-kilometre front and captured 1,600 prisoners, 200 machine guns, trench mortars, and anti-tank weapons. The Australians suffered 1,204 casualties. This battle demonstrated the value of carefully planned, integrated battles with limited objectives. For the first time, Australian troops worked alongside American troops.
15th July Second Battle of the Marne The second Battle of the Marne marks the final phase of the German Spring Offensive. Allied counter attacks inflict irreplaceable German casualties. The defeat leads to the cancellation of the planned invasion of Flanders and puts the Germans on the complete defensive.
8th Augustimage
Start of the Allied Offensive on the Somme The second Battle of Amiens begins. In response to the German Spring Offensive, 20 allied divisions launched a massive counter-offensive against the German Army. The Australians advanced 11 kilometres and the Canadians almost 13. Australia’s 4th and 5th divisions led the advance before the 2nd and 3rd divisions took another three kilometres and secured the secondary objective. So successful was the attack that German General Erich Ludendorff describes Amiens as the “black day of the German army in this war”, but it came at a cost of 6,000 Australian casualties. German resistance is sporadic and thousands surrender. Fighting is now defined by mobility as the lines of trenches are breached.
29th Augustimage
Advance to Peronne Advancing along the south bank of the Somme, the Australian Corps made its first attempt to take Peronne on 29 August. Neither the 2nd Division before the town nor the 5th Division to the south of it was able to secure a crossing point over the Somme, and the town remained firmly in German hands.
31st Augustimage
Battle of Mont St. Quentin The 2nd Division crossed the Somme River and attacked and captured Mont St Quentin, while the 5th Division attacked and captured Peronne. The attack on Mont St Quentin was extremely difficult: the steep sides of the hill prevented the effective use of artillery and the infantry advanced under the cover of rifle grenades and trench mortars. Although they were pushed off the summit by a determined German counter-attack, the Australians re-took their objectives in an operation sometimes regarded as the finest ever conducted by the AIF.
28th Septemberimage
Battle of Megiddo The British continued their offensive into Palestine, and during the battle at Megiddo on 28 September two divisions of Australian mounted troops, along with No. 1 Squadron, AFC, took part in the decisive victory in which 70,000 Turkish soldiers were taken prisoner.
29th Septemberimage
Breaking the Hindenburg Line Australian and American troops spearheaded the British attack on the Hindenburg Line. Working in conjunction with massive amounts of artillery, aircraft, and tanks, they succeeded in breaking through at Bellicourt with extremely heavy casualties. In this part of the line the Canal du Nord was incorporated into the defences, and the Australian and US troops attacked across the Bellicourt tunnel. Nearby, the British 46th North Midland Division used artillery to obliterate the canal’s sides, and floated across using life jackets from troopships. Once across they broke the Hindenburg Line, materially assisting the attack of the Australians and their American counterparts.
30th September Damascus taken British and Arab troops take Damascus, capturing 7,000 prisoners and securing stability in the Middle East.
4th October Germans ask for Armistice The German and Austrian peace proposal is sent to the American President, Woodrow Wilson, requesting an armistice.
5th Octoberimage
Battle of Montbrehain The Australian Corps fought its last action on the Western Front at Montbrehain. By this time, the Australian Corps had been fighting for six months without rest, resulting in 11 of the 60 battalions being disbanded due to heavy casualties and low numbers of reinforcements. A total of 27,000 Australian troops had been killed or wounded since the start of the offensive at Amiens on 8 August.
17th October Channel coast liberated British and American troops launch attacks at the Battle of the Selle. The British liberate Lille and Douai. Belgians retake Ostend and reach Zeebrugge the following day. The whole of the Channel coast in the west of Flanders is liberated.
30th October Turkey signs Armistice At the end of October the Turkish government signed an armistice, bringing an end to the fighting in the Middle East.
11th November Armistice On 11 November the German government signed an armistice that brought an end to the First World War. By the war’s end 61,512 Australians had been killed or died of wounds or disease, and 152,000 had been wounded.
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