Winston Churchill said of the victory in the North African desert at El Alamein in October 1942 that it was not the ‘beginning of the end’ but it was perhaps the end of the beginning.
In August 1918 an event took place that was indeed the beginning of the end for the Allies on the Western front in France and Belgium. The British Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig was able to launch a combined arms offensive on a 15-mile front east of Amiens.
The attack demonstrated the lessons learned over many years and brought into play the new weapon of the tank, as well as making effective use of the value of air power to dominate the field of battle.
In his war memoirs Erich Ludendorff, the German Commander-in Chief, would describe the day as ‘the black day of the German Army’. The British Fourth Army under Sir Henry Rawlinson began a period of advance that would last for 100 days up to the Armistice on November 11, 1918. Rawlinson’s troops were joined that day by the Canadian, Australian and Third British Corps, with the French army operating across the River Somme to the south.
The Germans would come to describe Haig’s assault as ‘the Tank battle’. Four hundred and thirty tanks advanced on the first day. They would be employed in lesser numbers on the following days as the new weapon was prone to regular breakdowns. Nonetheless, their impact was made on day one of the offensive.
The British, French and United States forces would, with some short reverses, move forward until the Hindenburg Line, the defensive line constructed by the German army after the Battle of the Somme, was breached on the October 4 and the objective of bringing the war to a close was becoming a realistic aim. In fact, Germany would soon reach exhaustion as internal domestic unrest and a breakdown of morale in the German army would hasten the end that came in less than 40 days.
To mark the ‘100’ days the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has supported the Northumbria and previous Tynemouth projects with substantial grants, is posting stories and links to show the work of many of the hundreds of projects across the country which it has supported. It will be posting daily to Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram,Twitter and other social media sites.
The Memorial Hall, Wallsend will host a concert at 7pm on Friday, November 9, to mark the end of the war and the second phase of the project. It is titled Our Journey’s End after the famous dramatic work of R C Sherriff. Tickets, £7, are available from now from the Memorial Hall, Frank Street, Wallsend and the Project workroom at Room B9 – Linskill Community Centre from 10am to 4pm each weekday.