Nineteen eighteen dawned without any strategic or tactical advantage obvious to either side of this appalling conflict. However, Britain had started to overcome the threat of German submarine warfare by adopting secretive convoy systems while Germany’s supply ports were being heavily blockaded by the Royal Navy, making the prospect of a starvation of Germany an imminent probability.
In the field and on the Western Front in particular, two vast armies still faced one another as Spring of 1918 approached with little having been achieved other than carnage in three and a half years.
Ludendorff ‘s position had become stronger through the release of battle-hardened divisions from the east, while the morale and condition of much of the French Army had led the German High Command to focus its attention on Britain as its primary adversary.
Critically, Britain had established air superiority and on April 1st the Royal Air Force was formed. Production lines for aircraft and all other materiel had been addressed by Lloyd George and had not looked back. On April 3rd General Ferdinand Foch replaced Philippe Petain as overall allied commander, enjoying Lloyd George’s backing of him in preference to his own commander in the field, Douglas Haig.
The main harbinger of Germany’s eventual defeat however was the rising number of American troops in France and the clear indication that the potential resources of the USA would overwhelm a much depleted German war machine. Early diplomatic moves were made by Germany to President Wilson, whom they felt would be more lenient in his attitude to them than the leaders of either France or Britain.
German politicians of the day were secondary in power to the military leaders who, in March 1918, started the most concerted offensive of the whole war along their entire front. American troops were deployed in large numbers for the first time, mainly to fill the gaps left by the departing elements of the French army at this stage. They had become very efficient in their preparation but together with the whole allied line they fell back under the concerted attacks. The British were greatly depleted by the fighting at Ypres, Messines and Arras and fell back well beyond the Somme. The situation seemed to be worse than it had been two years earlier.
At this point fortunes were to change.
to be continued ………
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