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With the general position for the Germans looking weak, The German Commander, Erich von Ludendorff, decided to go on the offensive. On 21 March 1918, "Operation Michelle" was launched, and the attack was aimed at the weakest part of the British lines, along the Somme River. By 5 April 1918 the Germans had gained 60 kilometres of British held territory. Two other operation were launched against the British forces, one at the British lines near Armentieres, one near Reims. All three operations were halted by the British.[1]

The first battle of Villers-Bretonneux, 30 March-5 April 1918, was part of the wider First Battle of the Somme (1918). The capture of Villers-Bretonneux, being close to the strategic centre of Amiens, would have meant that the Germans could have used artillery there to shell the city.

The German army advanced towards Amiens in late March, and pushing the British line back towards the town of Villers-Bretonneux.

Part of the German attack fell on the centre and left of the French First Army under Blah debeny. The French line fell back, but a counterattack regained much of the ground.

From north to south the line was held by British and Commonwealth troops, specifically the 14th Division, 35th Australian Battalion and 18th Division. However, by 4 April the 14th Division fell back under attack from the German 228th Division. The Australians held off the 9th Bavarian Reserve Division and the British 18th Division held off the German Guards Ersatz Division and 19th Divisions. The allied forces were forced to pull back by the retreat of the British 14th Division. An attack that afternoon pushed the 18th Division even further back.

The Germans were now within 440 yards of Villers-Bretonneux, and the fall of the town was a distinct threat. A counterattack by Colonel J Milne’s 36th Australian Battalion pushed the Germans back and forced two German divisions to retreat away from Villers-Bretonneux.

The attack on Villers-Bretonneux was the last significant German attack of the entire First Battle of the Somme(1918). After the general failure of the Germans to get their objectives, Ludendorff brought the entire offensive to a halt.

See also

External links

  1. ^ "Villers Bretonneux (3rd Battle of the Somme) (Battle of Amiens)". Digger History. Retrieved on 14 October 2008.

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