CWGC's Chief Historian, Dr Glyn Prysor, at Amiens Cathedral for the Centenary commemorations (Photo: Centenary News)

The Battle of Amiens, and what it meant for ending WW1

Posted on centenarynews.com on 10 August 2018
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Dr Glyn Prysor, Chief Historian at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission - talking to Centenary News - summarises the significance of the Battle of Amiens. He spoke as a congregation of 3,000 people, including descendants of those who fought in 1918, gathered at the city's cathedral for the Centenary commemorations on August 8:

"The eighth of August 1918 was one of the most dramatic days of the First World War. After months of defensive fighting against the German Spring Offensive, it was the turn of the Allies to fight back in a huge, coordinated set piece battle, just outside the city of Amiens with its vital rail link between Paris and the French coast.

"It was a dramatic victory for the Allies - a victory of cooperation, and coordination, between the British Empire, the French, the Americans; of coordination between the arms of the military, in what was called 'All Arms' warfare; the infantry, the artillery, tanks, aircraft, all coming together in a decisive blow. But it was also a victory for planning - meticulous planning - and surprise.

Surprise

"The Allied attack took the Germans completely by surprise. They were unprepared and the results were devastating. Around 30,000 German prisoners-of-war were taken by the Allies - probably the most important reason for Erich Ludendorff’s famous statement later that this was ‘the black day of the German army’ on the Western Front.

"The Germans hadn’t experienced anything like this before. It was the worst defeat they’d suffered since beginning of the war. German soldiers were faced with chaos and confusion behind the lines, and the battle had a decisive impact on morale on both sides.

'The Hundred Days'

Images of CWGC Vis-en-Artois Memorial screened at Amiens Cathedral. The monument, near Arras, bears the names of almost 10,000 troops from Britain, Ireland and South Africa, who fell between 8 August 1918 and the Armistice, in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known grave (Photo: Centenary News)

Dr Prysor stresses that the Battle of Amiens must be seen as the beginning, rather than the end, of a process.

"This was the beginning of what became known as the Hundred Days Offensive, the 'Advance to Victory', in terms of the official British nomenclature.

"This was the beginning of the Allied advance - a coordinated, continued drive, a series of hammer blows against the German forces. And really it was a case of the Allies bringing to bear their superiority, in terms of numbers, in terms of firepower and resources; of continuing that attritional campaign against the Germans, wearing them down until the point at which they were unable to fight on any longer.

"There were many battles still to come, and I think that’s really important to remember today. The Battle of Amiens wasn’t decisive in terms of leading directly to the end of the First World War. It was the beginning of that process, the beginning of that campaign.

"Some of the casualties suffered during that campaign were amongst the heaviest of the war. When you look at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries in this area, and all the way really back to Mons where the fighting came to an end on 11th November, you find the graves of those who lost their lives during this campaign - many of them new recruits, young soldiers as well as the veterans. I think it’s important we remember that, and we reflect on that. While we are commemorating an Allied victory, it wasn’t without cost."

Images: Centenary News

Reporting from Amiens by CN Editor