20 March 2018

The only lasting memorials to some of the most dramatic fighting of the First World War

In the 16 days of Operation Michael, the German and British armies both suffered terrible losses. The Commission commemorates almost 37,000 service personnel who died in France during the attack. More than 23,000 have no known grave and are commemorated on CWGC memorials to the missing.

 

The cemeteries and memorials where casualties of Operation Michael are commemorated each have a story to tell. Here are nine sites with a significant connection:

Arras Memorial

More than 9,690 servicemen who died during Operation Michael and have no known grave are named on the memorial. Arras saw furious fighting in early 1917 during the Arras Offensive and the town was well defended by British forces in 1918. The German 1918 attacks against the town were driven back with heavy losses, especially on 28 March during the disastrous German Mars Offensive. 

Beaumetz-Les-Cambrai Military Cemetery No.1

This cemetery lies on the Bapaume-Cambrai road, and on 22 March 1918 the area was finally overrun by German units after a tenacious defence by the 51st (Highland) and 25th divisions throughout the previous day. The cemetery was begun by the German Army and was used for the burial of British and German servicemen. Today, it is the final resting place of 75 identified servicemen who died during the attack and many of the unknown buried here are also believed to date from this period.

Chauny Communal Cemetery British Extension

Chauny is in the southernmost area of the Operation Michael battlefields. The town was lost on 25 March 1918, during the German advance. Today, the cemetery is the final resting place of almost 250 identified servicemen who died during Operation Michael, and many of the unknown soldiers buried here are also believed to be from the battle.

Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No.1

Throughout the First World War Doullens was an important Allied headquarters and medical hub. Extension No.1 is the final resting place of more than 540 servicemen who died during Operation Michael. The British burials in Extension No.1 were made by the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital and the 2/1st Northumbrian Casualty Clearing Station.

Ham British Cemetery

The 61st (South Midland) Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) was based at Ham from January 1918, and burials were made in a cemetery begun by the Germans earlier in the war. During Operation Michael a desperate battle was fought at Ham by exhausted elements of retreating British and French units who attempted to hold the Somme River crossings. Today, Ham British Cemetery is the final resting place of almost 200 identified servicemen who died during the attack and many of the unknown soldiers here are also believed to date from the battle.

Noyon New British Cemetery

The town of Noyon lies close to the important junction between the Oise River and the Canal du Nord. The town had already changed hands twice during the war, and on 26 March 1918 the Germans retook the town. Practically every building was destroyed during the fighting. The cemetery was made after the Armistice by the concentration of graves from around Noyon. Today, it is the final resting place of 139 servicemen who died during Operation Michael.

Pargny British Cemetery

From 23-26 March 1918 exhausted elements of the 61st (2nd South Midland) and the 8th divisions fought a desperate delaying action for the Somme River crossing near Pargny. After the Armistice this cemetery was begun when graves were brought here from the surrounding area. Today, more than 120 servicemen who died during Operation Michael are buried here, and many of the unknown soldiers here are believed to be of the 61st and 8th divisions.

Pozieres Memorial

More than 12,740 servicemen who died during the attack and have no known grave are commemorated on the memorial, which is a focal point of commemoration and remembrance for the missing of Operation Michael. The memorial stands at the centre of the 1916 Somme battlefields, and in 1918 the area was still a shell torn wasteland. It was through this desolate landscape that the German Army advanced in 1918. By 25 March the Germans had taken Pozieres and the town of Albert soon followed.

Savy British Cemetery

In spring 1918 the village of Savy was just behind the British front line near Saint-Quentin. On the first day of Operation Michael the British 30th Division fought tenaciously to hold the village against overwhelming odds. This cemetery was begun after the Armistice when isolated burials and smaller cemeteries were brought here. One of these sites was Roupy Road German Cemetery, which was begun by the German Army for the burial of those men of the 30th Division who died in the fighting for Savy.

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