Western Front 1918: The German Offensives

Albert

The Battle of Albert, 21 - 23 August 1918

The Battle of Albert represented a new phase in the fighting that had begun on 8 August – a northward extension of the British advance to include Third Army so as to support Fourth Army’s eastward and south-eastward progress.

The ruins of Albert, France, 23 August 1918. Australian War Memorial, H15951.With the initial aim of gaining the line of the Arras-Albert railway, Third Army’s battle preparations were undertaken with the utmost secrecy; additional divisions were filtered into the battlezone, new artillery positions concealed, infantry units trained in tank co-operation and air-support co-ordinated.  At 4.55am on the densely foggy morning of Wednesday 21 August, infantry of five divisions, advanced on a seven mile front in the wake of a precise creeping barrage, completely surprising the enemy. VI Corps gained its first objective (the Moyenneville-Ablainzeville spur) by 5.40am; on the right, IV Corps, facing stiffer resistance, took its first objective twenty minutes later. Varying success met the renewed attacks towards the railway. With less ground to cross in the north, Guards units and 3rd Division infantry gained their objectives by 11.30am; but to the south, as the mist cleared, 63rd and 5th Divisions became involved in much exhausting fighting (many supporting tanks were lost) and failed to make headway, though on the extreme right V Corps captured Beaucourt and advanced beyond Baillescourt Farm.

Byng decided to pause the attack on Thursday 22 August to allow his forces to regroup; a series of German counter-attacks were beaten off during that intensely hot summer's day, and to the right, Fourth Army advances, resulted in the occupation of Albert. On 23 August Third and Fourth British Armies participated in a huge general Allied attack which, with French assaults on the right, extended over a battlefront of 33 miles. The day’s fighting saw Third Army edge significantly nearer Bapaume, which would remain its principal objective in the days immediately following.

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