Canada History



Canada History   timelines 
AskAHistorian    blog 
     
 
Membership

 

         
 
wwi

Canadahistory.com

 

Canadahistory.com

         


New France | 7 Years War | 13 Colonies | 1812 | Rebellions | South Africa | World War I | World War II | Korea | Modern Wars | Peace Keepers | Medals

August 1914 | Recruitment | Sam Hughs | To England | To France | 2nd Battle of Ypres | Battle of St Julien |The Naval War | Festabert | Givenchy | Canadian Corps  | The Air War | Newfoundland | St Eloi Crater | The Somme | Mount Sorrel | Hill 70 | Passchendaele | Vimy | Amiens | Cambrai | Mons | Flanders Fields | Victory  

Amiens | 1st day | Background | Comments | Donald Fraser | Later Phrase | Map | The Plan



A few minutes before zero hour, 4:20 AM on August 8th, 430 British tanks started from their assembly areas and at zero hour, behind a lifting barrage, they rumbled ahead, guided through a mist which hid them from the enemy by a leading wave of infantrymen. Behind them, in extended order, came the assault battalions, followed by the units of the reserve brigades in close formation. Very few casualties were suffered in the early stages as the enemy artillery was not effective and soon was silenced by counter-battery fire.

The advance was a departure from the methodical plodding of earlier battles and taking a leaf from the German infiltration tactics, introduced in the proceeding March, troops and tanks pushed ahead regardless of what lay on their immediate flanks, by passing strong opposition where it could be pinched out by a flanking movement. In less than an hour and one half the Canadians had secured their first objective and, after a pause while field guns were brought forward and reserve brigades of infantry took over the assault role, the advance was resumed at a somewhat slower pace.

By ten o'clock in the morning the mist had cleared sufficiently for German machine-gun nests to bring down withering fire on the advancing troops. Mopping up such strong points took time, even when tanks were available. There had been little real co-operation between infantry and tanks previously, but the errors apparent at Camrai had been corrected and, generally speaking, the infantry now followed closely enough behind the tanks to prevent the enemy reorganizing.

Towards 11 AM the Canadian Corps was on its second objective and, while the 4th Division and the still fresh reserve brigades of the 1st and 2nd Division were forming on the last start line, the 3rd Cavalry Division and a battalion of whippet tanks passed through to attack across what was now open country. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade  got through the village of Beaucourt but the wood beyond was strongly held by infantry and guns and the troopers were unable to approach. On the whole the Cavalry's work did not come up to expectations; it had never before co-operated with light tanks, which were too slow to keep up with horsemen across open country but got ahead too quickly when machine-gun fire was encountered. There was no lack of gallantry but horses and men proved to be too easy targets fro machine-gun bullets. Thus the hoped for  breakthrough of the Cavalry Corps never materialized.

Undismayed by the sight or many empty saddles coming back through their advancing waves, the infantry mopped up the remaining enemy posts and relieved the few hard pressed squadrons who were on the final objective. Except on their right the Canadians had taken all their objectives and the Australian Corps had managed to do the same after considerable hard fighting, The French were about a mile behind on the extreme right while the British 3rd Corps had only been able to take the first of its two objective.

The same mist which had aided the infantry and tanks to advance had kept the Air Force grounded until late forenoon. Once visibility was restored, however, aircraft began close support sorties, flying at tree top level; German reserves were strafed and their forward movement harnessed by bullets and bombs. Smoke screens were laid on both corps fronts and flares also were dropped  by reconnaissance planes to guide infantry and tanks on to enemy strongpoints. Unfortunately however, although 205 bombing flights were made and 12 tons of small (25lb) bombs were dropped, concerted efforts to destroy the Somme bridges an prevent fresh enemy divisions being rushed up proved unsuccessful. Owning to the inability to bomb enemy airfields earlier these could now be used for refuelling by the inferior force of German planes hurriedly transferred from neighbouring army fronts. For example, the notorious Richthofen Circus, now commanded by Hauptmann Herman Goring, was able to remain in action almost continuously until reduced from 50 to 11 aircraft. The R.F.C. lost 97 aircraft out of abut 700 serviceable (day flying) planes in action and still was faced with the problem of destroying the bridges over the Somme.

Success had been sweeping and the penetrations of six to eight miles had eliminated the enemy salient and with it more than 27,000 Germans, or almost the whole of the garrison of the sector - nearly 16,000 being prisoners. More than 440 guns and masses of material were captured, and all this was accomplished with the lightest causalities yet sustained in a major attack on the British front. More important, however, the morale of the German Supreme Command suffered a shock from which it did not recover. Ludendorff afterwards referred to August 8th as "the black day" of the German Army. 




Article/Document/Material Source:
Reference: www.canadahistory.com/sections/war/war.html