The Final 100 Days - September 18, 1918

52 Days Until Armistice

The Canadian Corps’ continued their period of rest, while the remainder of the Allies continued the fight.

The village of Epehy stood as a strongpoint on the Hindenburg Line, in a similar fashion to St. Quentin and other fortress towns. 

The task fell to the British Third and Fourth Armies, under Julien Byng and Henry Rawlinson, to capture the town and bleed the Germans out of the line. 

The Australian Corps fell under the same command as the Canadian Corps, and were often used to the same effect. The Aussies were regarded as “shock troops”, with an indomitable will to win. Moreover, the commanders of both Corps (Arthur Currie and John Monash, respectively) had a penchant for thorough planning in order to save as many of their troops’ lives as possible. 

These same principles were applied at Epehy, and garnered the same success. Through extremely inclement weather and strong German defences, the Australian 1st and 4th Divisions advanced 5,000 yards, securing the town.

The Australians captured far more than the town. Through their victory, over 11,750 prisoners and 100 guns of varying sizes were secured as well. 

The Final 100 Days - September 17, 1918

53 Days Until Armistice

From their positions at Maissemy, British forces continued their slow, steady advance into German territory, advancing north-west of St. Quentin, and moving towards the village of Ploegsteert. 

The American 1st Army consolidated their positions between the Moselle River and the Meuse Heights. From their vantage point, they could see where they would be attacking in the upcoming Meuse-Argonne Offensive. 

In Macedonia, the rapid advance of the combined Franco-Serbian force continued, as the Bulgarian Army fell apart. Mass desertions and non-existent morale made for an easy task for the Allies, and by the day’s end, they had reached the Cherna River. 

Although their combat effectiveness had been diminishing, the German Imperial Army proved they were far from beaten following their victory at Moeuvres - which had only fallen to the British a week prior.

The Final 100 Days - September 15, 1918

A quiet day on the Western Front.

A British victory at Havrincourt was followed by the swift capture of Maissemy, a small hamlet just 5 km north of the French positions at St. Quentin. 

American forces continued to “mop up” around Saint-Mihiel. Their rapid advance had brought them within range of the guns defending Metz, though no attempts to capture the city would be made. Troops originally assigned to capture the city would be used in the forthcoming Meuse-Argonne offensive instead. 

As plans for offensive actions on the Western Front were being drawn, the Vardar Offensive began in Bulgaria. The offensive had two aims; firstly, forcing Bulgaria out of the war, and secondly, recapturing territory which had previously belonged to Greece and Serbia. 

Bulgaria had joined the war late in 1915, and though they only compromised a fraction of the Central Powers’ forces, it played an important role in facilitating transportation and communication between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. 

The opening day of the Vardar Offensive saw a combined Franco-Serbian-Greek force break through the Bulgarian front line, and inspired a huge wave of desertions in the Bulgarian Army. The artillery barrage preceding the attack had shattered the morale of many Bulgarians, and the Allies captured over 800 prisoners. 

To the Central Powers, it was clear the war was over. So clear, in fact, that the Austrian government opened communications with American President Woodrow Wilson, suggesting talks of peace. Though Wilson would reject their proposal, the action spoke for itself. The Central Powers were collapsing, and the War would soon be over. 

The Final 100 Days - September 14, 1918

56 Days Until Armistice

Two resoundingly successful operations had taken place the day before, 

The capture of Havrincourt had been difficult, but less difficult than General Julian Byng had expected. Although the Germans’ 4 Divisions had outnumbered Byng’s 3, the diminished size and morale of the German Army had certainly made the British victory an easier one. Moreover, the subsequent occupation of the town stood as the first Allied victory beyond the Hindenburg Line. 

The 14th of September saw relatively weak counterattacks by German forces at Havrincourt repelled. The town remained in British hands. 

Similarity, the first American offensive at St. Mihiel was by no measure “easy”, but a number of factors - such as the Americans launching an assault in the middle of a German retreat - played into the assault, and removed obstacles in the way of the Americans. 

The offensive moved with such haste that by the morning of the 13th, the American 1st Division (advancing from the east) had met with the 26th Division (advancing from the west). By nightfall, each and every objective based on the salient had been secured. Although a push to the city of Metz had originally been planned, A.E.F Commander John J. Pershing reconsidered the idea and nixed it. The units originally intended for this push would be used for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive instead. 

The Final 100 Days - September 13, 1918

57 Days Until Armistice

St. Michel

One of the greatest tests, and ultimately triumphs, of the First World War.

The Americans were a recent addition to the Allied Forces. Through the late 19th and early 20th century, the United States had pursued an isolationist policy similar to that of the British Empire - and while Britain’s proximity to other European Powers forced their involvement in European politics, the United States’ could maintain their impartiality. 

Reactions to American involvement in the First World War were mixed. Jubilation for the Allies, dread for the Axis, and apprehension for most Americans. The prospect of engagement in what was a horrific war horrified some.

Established on July 5th, 1917, the American Expeditionary Force was an imposing force. Pershings’ insistence on good training for American soldiers delayed their arrival in Europe until early 1918 - but their arrival came as a huge wave. Over a million A.E.F troops had arrived in France by May 1918, and would soon be put to use. 

Initially used as supplementary forces for their first few months in combat, often assisting in small scale engagements in quiet sectors of the line. Their first victory came at Cantigny, on May 28, 1918, followed by another hard fought victory at Belleau Wood on June 6th. Although casualties were high (for both the Americans and the Germans) their combat effectiveness was growing exponentially - and they would soon be ready to engage in solo operations.

Saint-Michel would offer a perfect testing ground. The town had been occupied by German forces since early 1914, their presence creating a large bulge (or, salient) in the Allied lines. This salient disrupted communications between the French strongholds of Verdun and Nancy, and stood as a strong position for German forces in the region. 

By the time the American First Army had taken responsibility for this section of the Allied line, the German Army was severely depleted. Recognizing this, the decision was made to withdraw German forces to a more defensible line a few kilometres behind St. Michel - a move that prove fortuitous for the Americans. They would attack during the retreat. 

The offensive began on September 12th, 1918. With 2 American “super corps”, comprised of 3 attacking divisions and 1 supporting division each, and two supporting French corps on the western edge of the salient, the first day of attack was a resounding success. Though held up by muddy roads and generally inclement weather, the sheer determination of the Americans pushed them through.

Victory was secured early on September 13th. The retreating German forces were caught in disarray, and by the close of the campaign, over 13,000 prisoners had been taken, with another 4,500 killed or wounded on the German end. While the Americans suffered 7,000 casualties themselves, they had proven their combat effectiveness, and would be called upon many more times during the Last 100 Days.