Hundred Days Offensive

The Hundred Days or “Advance to Victory” was the final campaign of the First World War on the Western Front. The Allies were able to capitalise on gambles made by German forces in a series of offensives beginning in 1918 and running through to July. German forces focused their attention westwards in an attempt to defeat the Allies before the Americans joined the fighting. However, they suffered heavy losses and their gains extended their line, leaving them with too much to hold with too few men. These offensives in late September attacked the Central Powers from different points of the compass, preventing them from reinforcing one front from another. 



The ‘Hundred Days’ offensive was actually only 95 days long!

Battle of Amiens

© IWM Art 960. wrecked german long range gun which used to shell amiens, 1918, by adrian hill.

On the 24th July 1918, the Allies’ Generalissimo, France’s Marshal Ferdinand Foch, instructed the Allies to take advantage of their numerical strength and superior resources by attacking different parts of the German line little and often, so that Germany would not have time to recover.

The first of these battles was the British-led Allied victory, the Battle of Amiens. Unknown to those at the time, it was the beginning of the end of the First World War. At this stage in the war the Allies were superior in numbers, equipment and morale.

On 8th August 1918 at 4.20am the British attack began. To keep the element of surprise the preparations were conducted as quietly as possible, and at 5.05am the French joined the attack. By 7.30am the Allies had broken through the first German defensive lines. The following day, the Canadian Corps gained another five kilometres!

The newly formed British Royal Air Force were also involved in in this battle; their focus was on attacking the bridges behind the German lines. The battle was closed on 12th August and the Allies began preparing for the next.

The Breaking of the Hindenburg Line.

After the success of the Battle of Amiens, Foch proposed a four-stage offensive. This began with an American attack on the 26th September 1918 in Meuse-Argonne. The next day British Armies attacked towards Cambrai, and the next day another attack was planned for Flanders. Foch’s final stage, on 29th September, was the main assault led by the British and French Armies, which focused on breaking through the Germans’ fall-back defensive position, the Hindenburg line. The Germans could not respond to the quick and aggressive attacks. By 5th October the Allies had breached the Hindenburg Line.

The Allies recaptured towns and cities they had lost throughout the war, and by early November 1918 they recaptured Mons, the city where they had fired the first shots of the War on the Western Front in August 1914.

Battle of Vittorio Veneto 

© IWM q 25995 British and italian troops inspect an abandoned dugout.

One of the final battles of the war was on the Italian front and it was fought between Austria-Hungary and Italy. Italy was part of the Triple Alliance in 1914, but switched alliances and joined the Allies in 1915. The Battle of Vittorio Veneto started on 24th October 1918 and ended on 4th November with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian front. The Italian Government and French Generalissimo Foch had been encouraging Italian general Armando Diaz to take advantage of the struggles that the Austro-Hungarian armies were experiencing.

The Allied armies were able to break through the Austrian lines, but the real turning point came on 27th October when an Italian officer, Enrico Caviglia, saw an opportunity to cut communications between the Austro-Hungarian Armies. The Austro-Hungarian Army could not lead a successful counterattack and Italian armies were advancing fast. On 30th October the Italian Army reached Vittorio Veneto and attacked the Austro-Hungarian Army. By 3rd November the Italian troops reached Trento and Trieste. The armistice was signed at 3.20pm to become effective twenty-four hours later. 

The Battle of Doiran 

The Allies had been fighting in the Salonika region since October 1915. In 1918 the French Allied commander, General Louis Franchet d’Esperey, planned an attack on Bulgarian positions in mountains east of Monastir. French and Serbian troops were successful in their advances. 

On 18th September the British Salonika Force (BSF) began an attack on the Bulgarian forces at Doiran (the Battle of Doiran), supported by the Greek Serres Division and Greek Cretan Division. Although they were not able to capture the Bulgarian front line trenches, on 20th September the Bulgarian forces were forced to retreat and were unable to help other units under attack by French and Serbian forces and the RAF. On 26th September the Bulgarians admitted defeat and the armistice came into effect on 30th September.