Operation Michael - Somme Offensive

Transferring as many troops as possible from the east to the west, Ludendorff selected the British held line from Arras to St Quentin and La Fere for the initial attack, since it was lightly defended. The German aim was to drive the British back into the channel and separate tham from their French allies in the south.

The front south of Arras was held by the Third Army (Byng) and Fifth Army (Gough) with a total of 26 divisions, distributed unevenly - though the Fifth held most of the line, Goughs army had only 12 divisions. Opposing them was the German Seventeenth (Below), Second (Marwitz) and Eighteenth (Hutier) armies, a total of 63 divisions.

On the 21st of March, 1918, the offensive began at dawn in a heavy fog, preceded by a massive artillery barrage from 6000 guns using a new artillery tactic, the firewaltz. An effective and economical artillery bombardment scheme, there would be three phases: a brief attack on the enemy's command and communications, destruction of their artillery, and lastly an attack upon the enemy front-line infantry defences. Bombardment would always be brief so as to retain surprise.

The artillery would be followed up by the Stosstruppen using Hutiers infiltration tactics.

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