Brigade: (Brigadier-General W St G Grogan – VC) Troops of the 25th Division were already moving up to this line in accordance with corps orders. A mist which rose into being with the opening of the bombardment, as though evoked at the will of the German Higher Command and in fact accentuated by the enemy’s gas and smoke shells, grew steadily thicker as the night proceeded and made the task of defence additionally difficult. Within an hour, they had constructed footbridges sufficiently long enough to cross the 40 meter-wide river and canal at this uniquely narrow point. Massey and his men. He sent out Lieutenants E.H. Jacobs-Larkcom and C. Sutton with written orders to blow their bridges as soon as it became evident to them that the enemy was advancing, and that the blowing of the bridges was necessary to prevent him from crossing the river. 110 It was one of a series of desperate offensives, known as the Kaiserschlacht, launched by the Germans in the spring and summer of 1918. en In the remaining two years of the conflict, Brauchitsch took part in the Third Battle of the Aisne, the Aisne-Marne offensive, the Second Battle of the Aisne, the Battle of Armentières, and the Battle of Flanders. It was a remarkable moment in IR 169’s wartime journey. 8 Allied Divisions faced 17 German Divisions and 4,000 guns. This was immediately followed by overwhelming numbers of elite, battle hardened German storm troops (Sturmtruppen) advancing en-masse still under cover of the early dawn light and thick mist. “Gas masks were instantly adjusted and about ten minutes later the rocket sentry reported S.O.S. Lais’ MG wagons also set up near the church’s high walls and occupied a house after feeding and watering their horses. These two brigades do not appear to have been seriously attacked until about 5am. Brigade: (Brigadier-General A A Kennedy) The whole of IX Corps front and many back areas – railheads, ammunition dumps and the like – were drenched with gas shell. Tanks do not appear to have been used on this front, but as the light increased enemy aeroplanes were observed flying low over our forward system and firing into the trenches. The Germans resumed the infantry attacks in such overwhelming numbers that it seemed nearly impossible for the British riflemen to miss a target. Massey. As soon as news of the impending attack had been received, orders were issued that the bridges were to be blown at the discretion of the field company commanders on the spot. 1st Wiltshire, 74th Inf. The enemy marksmanship proved sound, as several others nearby were killed with head shots. At 11 a.m., Major Hillman received word that the Germans were well across the river at Pontavert and were working round behind the Bois de Gernicourt. On the right front, isolated and surrounded, remnants of the 22nd Durham L.I. In the 20 minutes before the attack, engineers placed special bridging over the trenches so that the tanks could pass over. By 6.30am the right of the line rested on the Gernicourt position, but between this and the right of the 24th Infantry Brigade there was a gap. At 4:39 am, storm troop commanders raised their hands as a signal for their men to ready their weapons. Battles of World War I. The attack swept forward, and although our troops resisted stubbornly for a time in the Battle Zone and caused severe losses to the enemy on this line, the defence was overwhelmed by weight of numbers. On the divisional right the forward swell of the hill on the right of Bouffignereux was occupied by the 7th infantry brigade of the 25th Division, on its left at Concevreux was the 74th infantry brigade. The extensive underground network, fortified by both German and French troops over the years, was large enough to protect a brigade headquarters and three infantry battalions. The Devonshire’s sector comprised the Bois des Buttes, a twin crested hillock about thirty meters high and 500 meters across to the immediate south of the La Villa village. Owing to the dense mist and to the fact that nearly all units in the Outpost Zone were cut off to a man, it is difficult to reconstruct precisely the sequence of events. Even as the fighting for the third trench raged, German engineers were already putting up bridging over the first trenches to make passage for the tanks, artillery and support wagons soon to follow. Instead, however, of the expected respite, large numbers of German Infantry and gunners came into view less than 200 yards from the battery position. After some four hours, word was passed along that Germans were massing on the left, and a party of thirty R.E. Thus, the Aisne drive was to be essentially a large diversionary attack. The 1st battery was completely surrounded by 7am. 2nd West Yorkshire Related Reading The reply was to get forward, as the enemy were killing men in the rear. The enemy brought up tanks against these troops, but these were destroyed by the French anti-tank guns. The gun was eventually placed on a small railway truck, and after all the maps, records, kits etc., which could not be moved had been burnt and the other guns had been rendered useless by the removal of the breech blocks and sights, Major Ramsden retired down the Miette valley fighting a rearguard action with his one gun. In addition, four divisions of the British IX Corps, under Lieutenant-General Sir Alexander Hamilton-Gordon, held the Chemin des Dames Ridge; they had been posted there to rest and refit after surviving Operation Michael. Barth entered the position to take them as prisoners. American Monument Chateau Thierry Battle Resume eng.jpg 1,000 × 895; 158 KB. At 5.45am large numbers of Germans were suddenly observed from the 24th Brigade H.Q. With the Bois des Buttes finally taken, the next objective was to cross over the Aisne River and canal, just a mile to the south past the forest. The battle also marked one of the first instances where an appreciable numbers of American troops participated and had proven themselves in combat. Leutnant D.R. It was fought from July 31st to November 6th, 1917. Thus before word had come of the front being assaulted, the enemy had turned both flanks and was closing on the Bois des Buttes.”. Observations balloons, some tethered to tanks, added to the precision of the artillery fire. IR 169 squads, augmented by machine gun teams, closed in on the last remaining positions. Both sides were in the process of discovering that, in lieu of frontal assaults for which neither had the manpower readily available, the only alternative was to try to… The ploy worked and Spies and his men returned to a jubilant welcome as all explored the four-man tank with great interest. Had the far bank of the Aisne been well defended (ie the bank that the BEF occupied in 1914), as had been proposed by Pétain but refused by Duchêne, then the Germans would have had a MUCH harder time. The Englishman paid for his treacherous act with his life. Find the perfect the third battle of the aisne stock photo. Stragglers and wounded coming along the canal bank reported that the Germans were advancing rapidly. In March 1918, the Germans launched the Spring Offensive (Kaiserschlacht). “Dawn began to break, but no news came of any Infantry attack. Fisher, D.S.O.) Lais, somewhat sympathetically, recorded the plight of these French reservists: “Scared of this red devil, the French landstrum commander could not raise his hands fast enough. Trust in the Feurewalze was absolute, as supporting artillery fire did not lift from the lead trenches until seconds before the storm troopers reached their objectives. 11th Cheshire Kastner, took position along the north bank to join the machine guns in providing covering fires. Colonel J.H. An Historical Presentation Stopmotion about The 3rd Battle of The Aisne. which were in action in this neighbourhood were lost. One killed in action; the other taken as a Prisoner of War. During the afternoon there was a lull in the fighting. It ran: “All Platoon commanders will remain with their platoons and ensure that the trenches are manned immediately the bombardment lifts. With his heart pounding furiously, Spies ordered one of his men take off his shirt and wave it wildly above the tank hatch. A pioneer squad then maneuvered behind the bunker and destroyed it with an explosive charge. Ludendorff, encouraged by the gains of Blücher-Yorck, launched further offensives culminating in the Second Battle of the Marne. Despite British protests, Duchene insisted that the British defensive positions be North of the Aisne because he was unwilling to cede any ground to the Germans due to the heavy French losses incurred to win the ground during the Nivelle Offensive of 1917. On each preceding night spent on the new front the weather had been clear and when, for the third time, the troops of the division found their defence hampered by a dense blanket of fog, men and officers began firmly to believe that the enemy had discovered means to put down a mist whenever it was wanted. They then retired past Brigade headquarters and reached Le Cholera farm. The strain on all concerned was terrific, but at last at about 6.45am the enemy’s barrage lifted clear of the position. This article is about the 1918 battle. From the German side it was a third phase in the series of battles launched against the Allies and code-named “Operation Blücher-Yorck”. They gladly took whatever blankets they could carry, leaving stacks of bed posts and frames alone, but noted for future use. This had never been the intention of the operation, and having come within 56 kilometres (35 mi) of Paris on 3 June, the German armies were beset by numerous problems, including heavy casualties, a lack of reserves, fatigue and supply shortages.. (Lieut-Col J.A. Lieut. Once the gas had lifted, the main infantry assault by 17 German Sturmtruppen divisions commenced, part of an Army Group nominally commanded by Crown Prince Wilhelm, the eldest son of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Pascoe, M.C., Rifle Brigade, was killed while making a gallant stand. The British repelled three separate attacks, leaving many dead and wounded on both sides. , The bombardment was followed by a poison gas drop. Nearby, a group of supply wagons tried to make an escape from the woods. Large and 2nd Lieut. The German storm units wasted no time to fully clear the trenches, as this was the job for the follow-on waves of conventional infantry. A large graveyard, filled with dead from the past three years of combat, covered much of the grounds. They threw bombs, but the sappers had none to throw back. All the French 75’s and the guns of the VX brigade, R.F.A. The pioneers quickly got work, lashing together the posts with wires and using wooden planks for the bridging. You can contact me via e-mail at webmaster.grandadswar.org at gmail dot com. Hennessy and were handed over to General Kennedy at 10pm. How that evening dragged. The 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment was practically annihilated, with 552 members killed or captured and less than 80 survivors left to regroup with the retreating British forces. However, they did not have time destroy the main stone bridge at Pontavert. Ballard), covered the zone of the 23rd Infantry Brigade. Directly ahead was the ominously silent Gernicourt Woods. The main assault on Bouffignereux line took place at 5:30. Lais reflected: “The Gernicourt Woods was a great cemetery. The ground between Bouffignereux and the Gernicourt Woods were open fields. The front line battalion of the 24th Infantry Brigade (2nd Northamptonshire) was then gradually driven back to the Battle Zone. The battalion in divisional reserve (1st Sherwood Foresters) was ordered to move forward and fill it, and succeeded in preventing the enemy crossing the river on its front in the vicinity of la Pecherie bridge. Massey, realizing this, organised a system of reliefs, two gunners and one N.C.O. Even such a message only serves to emphasize the assistance which the lack of visibility and the exposed position of our troops in the salient gave to the enemy in his attack. I spoke to him and he told me that nothing could be done. The defense of the Aisne area was in the hands of General Denis Auguste Duchêne, commander of the French Sixth Army. Massey controlling the fire of the battery, while Lieut. Our line, often out of touch with adjacent formations, continued to fall back and, before midnight, Ventelay and Bouvancourt were in the hands of the enemy. The Germans ended the retirement on 14 September, on high ground on the north bank of the Aisne and began to dig in, which reduced the French advance from 15–16 September to a few local gains. The faces of the POWs reflected amazement as endless formations of Germans infantry and artillery followed behind the storm troop units. Aware that American troops would soon be arriving in Europe, the Germans saw this as their last chance to win the war. Of this later feature observed the 8th Division historian “This was at once a tactical and a social convenience – not only were we in close touch with our guns but we never lacked a fourth at bridge o `nights!” The Devonshires, under the command of Lt Col Anderson-Morshead, only rotated into the forest the evening of the attack, having just spent the past week in reserve status training new replacements. At 6 a.m., 2nd Lieutenant Strong was sent out to his bridges. They were there to rest, refit and properly assimilate the new recruits into their battalions before going back to the front lines. For other battles of the Aisne see |Bat... World Heritage Encyclopedia, the aggregation of the largest online encyclopedias available, and the most definitive collection ever assembled. Taken completely by surprise and with their defences spread thin, the Allies were unable to stop the attack and the German army advanced through a 40 kilometres (25 mi) gap in the Allied lines. The Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was fought by the British and their allies, including New Zealand, against the Germans in Ypres, Belgium. Nothing more has been heard of Capt. The first Infantry attack, assisted by tanks which flattened out the wire, was delivered, it is probable, at about 4 o’clock in the morning, against the angle of the salient in our right sub-sector (25th Infantry Brigade). To continue to serve the guns indefinitely during such a terrific bombardment was a physical impossibility for any one man, and Capt. There they found that the yellow cross gas indeed functioned as billed. For the first time since September 1914, the regiment was attacking on a front with no enemy trenches, entanglements of barbed wire obstacles or clouds of poisonous gases immediately before them. One of the 9th Company NCOs, Vice Master Sergeant Howe, was severely wounded but still stayed in line to fire his light machine gun. The sun started to burn off the early fog, exposing arriving German formations to Lewis machine gun fire at longer ranges. The Third Battle of the Aisne (French: 3e Bataille de L'Aisne) was a battle of the German Spring Offensive during World War I that focused on capturing the Chemin des Dames Ridge before the American Expeditionary Force could arrive completely in France. It was near here that the brigade major, Captain B.C. Battles - The Third Battle of the Aisne, 1918 Whilst the first two battles of the Aisne were conducted by Allied forces, predominantly French, against the German army in France, the Third Battle of Aisne, from 27 May-6 June 1918, comprised the final large-scale German attempt to win the war before the arrival of the U.S. Army in France, and followed the Lys Offensive in Flanders. The protection of the quarries enabled the battalion to withstand the German bombardment relatively intact, but with little awareness of the situation outside. 6th South Wales Borderers. A section of the hidden artillery battery, with caissons, limbers and guns colliding together, dashed out to the road only to run in to the advancing German infantry. 112 Operation Blücher-Yorck was planned primarily by Erich Ludendorff, wh… The great natural strength of the position, which must have made it a most serious obstacle to a direct assault, was thus of no avail. In addition to the battery, the confused British retreat left a collection of supply, medical and munitions wagons becoming tangled in the small forested pathways. Once again, however, the gallant frontal defence was of no avail. This was immediately followed by overwhelming numbers of elite, battle hardened German storm troops (Sturmtruppen) advancing en-masse still under cover of the early dawn light and thick mist. With great delight, Lais’ orderly, Dirksen, filled any extra space in the wagon limbers with such delicacies’ as white bread, butter, peach jam and corned beef. Download this stock image: Third Battle of the Aisne 1918 - DR9N6P from Alamy's library of millions of high resolution stock photos, illustrations and vectors. The crews of an entire British artillery battery lay dead. Black gave orders to retire to 25th Brigade headquarters. It was one of a series of offensives, known as the Kaiserschlacht, launched by the Germans in the spring and summer of 1918. It was one of a series of offensives, known as the Kaiserschlacht, launched by the Germans in the spring and summer of 1918. Gas is a cruel weapon and does not distinguish commands or victims. If gas could not enter, neither could air. and had area shoots carried out upon them, with the result that by 6am most of our guns North of the river were out of action. The three guns at the main position of the 57th battery (Major B.W. The 24th Infantry Brigade, in the centre, was covered by the XXXIII Brigade, R.F.A. 2nd Northants Copyright © 2018-2020 www.grandadswar.org. The next line of British resistance stood at the small village of Bouffignereux, one mile further south of Gernicourt Woods. By 9:30 am, the Bois des Buttes was fully in German possession and the path to the Aisne River was clear of organized resistance. The 9th Company, commanded by Leutnant D.R. Heavily attacked in front and on both flanks, the battalion slowly fell backwards towards Pontavert. Outpost lines were assailed in addition by trench mortars of every calibre, and the Battle Zone received the terrible bombardment from artillery of all natures which has just been so graphically described. Bax which in turn acknowledges that most of the information supplied to the regimental historians for this account (below) came from Captain Sidney Rogerson of the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment. Subsequent to this battle was > the actions on the Aisne Heights, 20 September 1914 I Corps: (Haig): 1st and 2nd Divisions plus 18th Brigade attached from 6th Division II Corps: (Smith-Dorrien): 3rd Division > the action of Chivy, 26 September 1914 I Corps: (Haig): 1st Division. Colonel Buckle, whose conduct and example had been an inspiration to his men, was killed outside his Battalion HQ, but his battalion fought on and in the Battle Zone in this sector the enemy’s advance was definitely checked. add example. List of the 34 Bridges across the Aisne and Miette allocated to Royal Engineers. Pritchard. In concert with other German units, IR 169 squads accompanied the tanks in the final series of assaults that wiped out the Devonshires. Lais arrived at the front leading 2nd MG Company’s gun and ammunition wagons. 2nd Lt. A. E. Downing with the 9th Loyal North Lancashires (9/LNLs) was not caught up in the initial onslaught as the 9/LNLs were in Divisional reserve at Muscourt. The popular Spies recounted his tale with great relish. Bruchmüller developed and perfected a system of centralised command so that the batteries could fire, solely off map references, using a program which co-ordinated with movements on the battlefield instead of merely supporting limited troop movements. The dug outs rocked… filled with the acrid fumes of cordite, the sickly sweet tang of gas. Many guns, however, were early put out of action by direct hits. The command of such troops as were left was entrusted to Capt. For the commander and staff at the British 8th Division’s Headquarters, the indications of the disaster at the front unfolded with terrible speed: “The 24th Brigade on the right reported “Enemy advancing up the Miette stream close to Brigade headquarters. 2nd Royal Berkshire One of the German leaders was the red-haired Leutnant Ries, described by Lais as being completely unflappable. At 10 a.m., he was visited by Brigadier-General R.H. Husey, commanding the 25th Brigade, and ordered to take his men back across the canal and endeavour to hold the front edge of the Bois de Gernicourt. F.C. “The day was extremely hot, the sunshine brilliant and, but for the deep drone of heavy shells winging their way rearwards, all sounds of battle were temporarily stilled. Once the shelling lifted, the troops raced to positions in trenches and bunkers with Companies B, C and D forward, with Company A in the reserve. The offensive's focus was the Chemin des Dames Ridge which was once held by the Germans in 1914 in their retreat after the '1st Battle of Marne'. American … The Third Battle of the Aisne (French: 3e Bataille de l'Aisne) was a battle of the German Spring Offensive during World War I that focused on capturing the Chemin des Dames Ridge before the American Expeditionary Forces arrived completely in France. The Germans had held the Chemin des Dames Ridge from the First Battle of the Aisne in September 1914 to 1917, when General Mangin captured it during the Second Battle of the Aisne (in the Nivelle Offensive). This they did, but the enemy coming in from the east along the river finally got into Pontavert itself and thus surrounded them and cut them off. Squad-by-squad, enough Germans made it across the river and canal so that they could maneuver against the French troops immediately before them. Location and Timeline. Cannot hold out without reinforcements”. The Germans, however, were seen shortly afterwards to have worked round behind Capt. The tanks lumbered forward, firing machine guns and cannons to dislodge the British at the edge of the forest. As a result of this double thrust the unfortunate West Yorkshire and Middlesex were taken in rear from both flanks and cut off. French troops had begun to move westwards from Lorraine on 2 September, using the undamaged railways behind the French front, which were able to move a corps to the left flank in 5–6 days. At the Aisne, the thousands of artillery pieces fired from their maps, in darkness, allowing the infantry to advance at first light into a battered and disoriented defence. The battery was carrying out its counter preparation work when the deluge from the enemy’s guns broke over it. Massey, realizing the situation a little earlier, had called for volunteers and pushed off with 4 gunners and a Lewis gun to a small eminence to the eastward in an endeavour to protect the flank. Holding out in hopes of relief. The Brigade intelligence officer reported that a heavy ground mist rendered observation impossible, but shortly afterwards sent the amazing message: “Enemy balloons rising from our front line.” Hot upon this message came another from the 24th Brigade: “Enemy advancing up Miette Stream. The Germans hurried to improvise ways to cross over the river and canal before the enemy could regroup. By this time, Major Hillman, O.C. Capt. Hand grenade squads pulled out their grenades and communications wiremen prepared their bulky cargos of rolled field phone wires. Eventually being related via marriage when Arthur Slater‘s son married Alfred Edward Downing‘s niece 36 years later. The 15th Field Company (Major E.C. Ludendorff, who saw the British Expeditionary Force as the main threat, believed that this, in turn, would cause the Allies to move forces from Flanders to help defend the French capital, allowing the Germans to continue their planned Flanders offensive (Hagen) with greater ease. The Gernicourt Woods was still shrouded with traces of the deadly light-green poisonous gas that the Germans used to target the British rear positions. This page was last edited on 26 December 2020, at 04:48. The remainder of the battery fought to the last with their rifles till overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers.”. All were evacuated with an audible breath of air from their lungs.”. It was indeed, almost uncanny how in this spring of 1918 the luck of the weather favoured the Germans in attack. It was a descent into hell. He found one of the rooms being used as a dressing station, still staffed by captured British medical personnel: Lais wrote: “English doctors and medics treat friends and foes. Button commanded their sections. Pioneers: After being presented, he addressed Knapp in perfect German: “Herr Hauptmann, ich begluckwunsche sie zu einer solchen Leistung Ihrer Truppe” (“Captain, I congratulate you for the performance of your troops.”). 2nd Rifle Brigade Elsewhere in IR 169’s advance that day, infantry companies reached the high ground near Bouvancourt, two miles further south. Operation Blücher-Yorck was planned primarily by General Erich Ludendorff, the First Quartermaster-General of the German Army, who was certain that success at the Aisne would lead the German armies to within striking distance of Paris. Although Lt. Col. Anderson-Morshead’s command was reduced to a handful of troops, he organized A Company and the battalion headquarters into a last stand defense on the reverse slope of the hill. Robert Nivelle’s plan was for a huge attack on the German forces along the River Aisne, which would, he stated, be successful in 48 hours with the loss of just 10,000 men. The Aisne River was now fully under German control. C.G.Buckle, Lieut-Col”. To meet the former demand, General Heneker sent out officers to collect all the stragglers they could find and these, supplemented by his HQ guard and the personnel of his HQ – a total force of some 500 men – were sent forward under his ADC, Major G.R. Viewed from the hills above Roucy the battle area presented a vivid spectacle. If an internal link incorrectly led you here, you may wish to change the link to point directly to the intended article. Meanwhile General Grogan, GOC 23rd infantry brigade was ordered at 6am, to assume command of all troops in the vicinity of Jonchery and to hold a front on the river Vesle extending 1 mile on either side of that town. Posted by The Times Report in European theatre, Western Front ≈ Leave a comment. For his poor handling of the British and French troops, Duchene was sacked by French Commander-in-Chief Philippe Petain and replaced as commander of the Sixth Army by Jean Degoutte. approaching along the line of the Miette Stream which they had crossed south of the Battle Zone. Of these gourmet items were the ruins of Berry-au-Bac one N.C.O April 1917 areas railheads. Both flanks, the bombardment blew in trenches, collapsed bunkers and destroyed obstacle! 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