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


In later days the Germans tried to attribute their defeat at Amiens to a massed attack by tanks, but, as readers will have surmised, credit for the victory actually belongs primarily to the infantryman, though he got the best of support from artillery and armour and from the air.

The plan for the Battle of Amiens, incorporating the experience gained at Cambrai in 1917, represents the return to the Western Front of an imaginative conception of strategy and tactics very different from that which had ruled there so long.  The battle plans based on mere weight of bombardment, which had gained so little ground at such heavy cost, were replaced by an intelligent attempt to profit by the potentialities of powerful new weapons employed in combination.  Above all, the Amiens plan is remarkable for its exploitation of the principle of Surprise, that great old winner of battles, which had been so completely neglected by the planners of the Somme and Passchendaele.  An effective deception scheme, in conjunction with the elimination of preliminary bombardment (the tanks, to some extent, replacing the artillery as support for the assaulting infantry), supplies the chief explanation for the victory.

The other Principles of War were not all so completely applied by the Allies in this battle.  It is apparent that there was some lack of clarity in the matter of Selection and Maintenance of the Aim; the higher command had evidently not thought beyond the possibility of a local success, nor-as was natural in view of the whole Western Front background-had it provided for that degree of Flexibility which might possibly have permitted an exploitation that would have increased the victory.  It was the Germans, indeed, whose operations showed most flexibility; in spite of the way they had been surprised, they reacted rapidly and reinforced their front in time to prevent a complete breakthrough. Thanks once more to surprise, the Fourth Army was able to achieve effective Concentration of Force, massing strength superior to that of the Germans at the decisive time and place.  The surprise attained likewise enhanced the effect of the blow dealt by the battle to German Morale, and its favourable effect upon the morale of our own forces results, which were powerfully felt throughout the later stages of the campaign. In spite of the inadequate training of the cavalry for action with tanks, Amiens is an outstanding example of Cooperation - between infantry, tanks and artillery, and between the ground forces and the air.  Finally, the victory rested as, usual-upon a foundation of effective Administration.  The rapid, secret and orderly move of the Canadian Corps across the lines of communication of two Armies, and the speedy accumulation in the forward area of the huge stocks of ammunition and other material required, were vital preliminaries of a battle that marked the turning-point of the war. The use of one new weapon of war-the aeroplane-deserves separate mention.  The close support provided by the R.A.F. for troops on the ground, which has been described, was an important feature of the battle.  Furthermore, as a result of the almost continuous air battles, the German Air Force suffered losses, which it could not make good.  The Allied air forces, however, were unable to prevent the Germans from bringing up sufficient reinforcements to halt the Allied advance.  Could the battlefield have been isolated, the R.A.F. official historian observes, the victory might have been still greater than it was; but not until the later stages of the Second World War were to make a success of what came to be strategic and tactical air forces able known as "interdiction."

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