Western Front 1918: The German Offensives

St Quentin: '23 March' note

23 March was a day of great crisis for Fifth Army. British forces south of Ham were ordered to withdraw across the Somme and to the north the prepared defences around Péronne were abandoned with far The citadel at Ham, captured by the Germans 23 March 1918  PO2882.003 Australian War Memorial/Deutsche Reichsarchivreaching disadvantageous consequences. Later, British defenders were forced from the Crozat Canal and the Germans crossed the Somme near Ham. Further north, due to confusion and misunderstandings a gap was forced by the enemy between the junctions of the British Fifth and Third Armies near Ytres. At the extreme left (northern end) of the line the British in the face of a powerful German advance evacuated Monchy and Guemappe. It was on this day that Ludendorff formally modified his plans for the ‘Michael’ offensive. In an attempt to exploit the unintended success of his left wing in the south (von Hutier's 18th Army) he chose to strengthen this broad and lengthening thrust and significantly modified the directions of his 2nd and 17th Armies – placing his forces now on disparate and divergent lines of attack. The German infantry, having incurred very heavy casualties in their resolve to get forward, were now also beginning to show the first signs of battle weariness as they started to extend their lines of supply at the same time as outdistancing their heavy artillery support.

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