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[Illustrated with 19 maps]
On March 21st, 1918, Ludendorff launched the massive offensive that had been feared by the Allies for some time. The target for their attack was the Fifth Army commanded by General Sir Hubert Gough; weak in numbers and even weaker in the lack of entrenchments and fortifications in the front line which they had only just taken over from French divisions. The effect was shattering, the ‘hurricane bombardment’ was murderous the Germans fired one million artillery shells at the British lines held by the Fifth Army - over 3000 shells fired every minute. The famous Stormtroopers, specially trained and equipped, attacked with skill and determination, bypassing islands of resistance, sowing terror with flame-throwers rushing towards their objectives.
The Fifth army fought valiantly and suffered greatly and no less than 21,000 British soldiers had been captured, many still stupefied by the bombardment, and, much ground that had been bought at huge human cost during the Battle of the Somme, lost. However, the shell-holed ground of the Somme battlefield proved to be the best ally of the British as it slowed the German advance; starving German troops stopped to loot abandoned British supplies. As the Germans slowed the remaining troops of Fifth and the other British Armies stiffened their resistance and eventually the front was knitted back together with the aid of the French and American forces.
It was to be the last roll of the dice for the German Army in the First World War, the last real chance of victory, almost a quarter of a million of their best soldiers fell on their side during March and April 1918. The Gamble had failed however and the Allies would turn back the tide a few months later hounding the Germans back to their own borders and final capitulation.