Operation Bl├╝cher-Yorck was the third in a series of German offensives in the spring of 1918. By attacking a previously quiet French-held sector, they intended to lure Allied reinforcements from the battlefields to the north. Five British Divisions (8th, 19th, 21st, 25th and 50th) were present, having been sent south to recover after heavy fighting against Michael and Georgette. Now these tired units would be in the frontline again.

The Battle 

At 1am on 27 May 1918, 6,000 German guns opened fire on 24 miles of British and French front. At 3.40 am, with dawn still to break, German infantry advanced. Many Allied units found themselves greatly outnumbered, and by midday the Germans had captured the Chemin de Dames Ridge, taken at great cost by the French in 1917. By sunset, German units had advanced more than 12 miles into Allied territory.

The town of Soissons fell on 28 May, and over the following days the Germans drove further towards Château Thierry and the River Marne, where Allied forces fought to hold back the advance. Allied divisions were rushed into the fight and the Germans were finally stopped at the River Marne. In one of their first major engagements, American troops launched several counter-attacks which threw back German units that had made it across the Marne. Exhausted and at the very limit of their supply lines, the Germans ended Blücher-Yorck on 6 June.

French and British troops awaiting the enemy in the open. North of Courville, 29 May 1918. IWM Q 6656

French and British troops awaiting the enemy in the open, north of Courville, 29 May 1918. © IWM Q 6656

Aftermath

The Germans had hoped to draw in Allied reinforcements, giving German attacks in the north more chance of success. But the Allies were not fooled and did not significantly redeploy their forces. The Allies suffered almost 170,000 casualties wounded, killed and missing. By 6 June the Germans had suffered an estimated 125,000 casualties, but had once again failed to achieve a breakthrough.

On 9 June the Germans launched Operation Gneisenau, in an attempt to force the Allies to commit troops south but the French were better prepared and the offensive ended after just three days of bloody fighting and a further 30,000 German casualties.

The final German offensive of spring 1918 began on 15 July and was optimistically called the ‘Friedenstrum’ or peace offensive, but was known to the Allies as the Second Battle of the Marne. Initial German success turned to disaster when the French Army counter-attacked against exposed and exhausted German forces. By August, the Allies were ready to launch their own offensive, beginning with the Battle of Amiens, and ending with the Armistice of 11 November 1918.

Related Cemeteries and Memorials

The River Aisne gives its name to this sector of the Western Front. During most of the First World War, it was defended by the French Army, which fought several battles here, including the disastrous Nivelle Offensive in 1917. Many French and German military cemeteries can be found in the area. Almost all of the CWGC’s graves date from May 1918 onwards.