Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig’s British Expeditionary Force spearheads what becomes known as the Amiens Offensive. The attack has been planned to clear parts of the railroad running from Amiens to Paris that have been held by the Germans since their Operation Michael in March.
The offensive is led by General Sir Henry Rawlinson’s British Fourth Army, which stages a methodical advance along a 15-mile (24-km) front. The attack is preceded by a short bombardment and more than 400 tanks lead the way forward for the 11 British divisions earmarked for the first phase of the onslaught. Support is offered by the left wing of General Eugène Debeney’s French First Army.
There is no disguising the scale of their defeat. German losses are 40,000 men killed or wounded and 33,000 taken prisoner.
The German defences are manned by General Georg von der Maritz’s Second Army and the Eighteenth Army under General Oskar von Hutier. The two generals have 14 divisions in the front line and nine in reserve.
The Anglo-French attack is overwhelmingly successful with the Germans being forced back some 10 miles (16 km). There are also more worrying signs for the future of the Germany Army: some front-line units have simply fled the fighting without putting up much resistance. Others, some 15,000 men, have quickly surrendered.
When news of this reaches General Erich Ludendorff, the deputy chief of General Staff, he calls August 8 the “Black Day of the German Army”.
Matters do not improve. The following day many more German troops are made prisoner. On August 10 the focus of the Amiens Offensive shifts to the south of the German-held salient. Here, General Georges Humbert’s French Third Army moves toward Montdidier, forcing the Germans to abandon the town and thus permitting the reopening of the Amiens to Paris railroad. The first stage of the offensive is brought to a close in the face of increasing German resistance on the 12th.
However, there is no disguising the scale of their defeat. German losses are 40,000 men killed or wounded and 33,000 taken prisoner. Anglo-French losses total some 46,000 troops.