After the dramatic surge forward on the 21st of March
1918 and in the dramatic days that had followed, Operation Michael had had its back
broken on the 6th of April, just 13km short of Amiens.
To the North "Operation Georgette" got into gear with the 6. Armee and 4. Armee attacking to the South and North of Armentiers.
For more detailed accounts of the fighting please scroll to the bottom. To call up a general map of the offensive, click HERE
Right: A German soldier in the mud of Flanders
To make the most of the confusion in the allied (especially
the British) dispositives the Germans launched another offensive. The jump off
point was the area to the North of the La Bassee canal. Once again the channel
coast was the goal. The ground to be covered was even more of a challenge than
the Somme wastelands facing the advancing
troops of Operation Michael to the South.
Fields of mud divided by canals and barbed wire. In
the distance the heights that could only be taken if the momentum of the
offensive could be kept up. An added difficulty was transferring troops from
the bogged down Michael offensive to the South and send them into a new
offensive in the North. Huge amounts of ammunition and supplies had to be
transported and many batteries of artillery repositioned. If this had not all
been planned well in advance it would have been an impossible undertaking.
In the second week of April all was ready. Between
Frelinghien and La Bassee General von Quast's 6th Army had 17 divisions under its command
ready for the assault. 468 artillery batteries waited to send their cargoes
roaring through the Flanders skies towards an unsuspecting
Von Quast was to attack to the South of Armentiers
heading for the heights at Cassel and Bethune.
To the North of Armentiers, one day later, General Sixt von Arnim was to attack
the Messines heights.
On the rainy 9th of April morning the artillery on von
Quasts front started its barrage. Four and a half hours later the infantry
started their attack.
The German infantry burst through the allied
frontline, hardest hit were two Portuguese divisions that crumbled under the
force of the assault which swept through their flattened trenches and over
their collapsed bunkers. The success of the first day surprised the Germans as
well as the allies. At Sailly they even managed to gain a foothold on the far
bank of the Lys river.
On the misty morning of the 10th of April Sixt von
Arnims second blow followed to the North of Armentiers, his soldiers advancing
through the mud.
The right wing of von Quasts Southern force reached
Steenwerk, his centre crossed the Lawe. His left wing was held in check by the
Britsh defending at Givenchy and Festhubert.
In the thick fog of the 11th of April the Northern and
Southern offensives met up behind the encircled Armentiers.
3000 prisonners and 40 artillery pieces were captured.
The offensive then made a leap forward taking Doulieu, Merville and Calonne but once
again it was the left wing that was dragging. The British called on the French
to help who promised to send 4 divisions... But would they arrive in time?
An even stronger ally came to the British, Flanders itself! Its mud clung to the boots of the infantry and to the
wheels of the artillery. Its buildings surrounded by hedges formed formidable strong
points that were difficult to take.
Von Quasts offensive began to literally "bog
Over the next few days Mervis, Meteren and the railway
station at Strazeele fell but then it was over. Like dead weights that could
not be shaken off Givenchy and Festhubert clung to the left flank eventually
killing the momentum of the attack.
On the 18th of April von Quast’s offensive came to an
end, only the right wing continued to advance through the swamps, the mud and
the fire spitting villages.... Their goal, Kemmel!
To continue to Sixt von Arnims offensive at Kemmel clickHERE
The 117th Infantry Division arrived to reinforce the Southern Wing of the 6th Army, then, as the offensive ground to a halt to the South of Armentiers, moved north to support the 4th Army. Gefreiter Kappel, a trained Storm Trooper was wounded on the regiments second day in the line. See HERE