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RETREAT AND REARGUARD Somme 1918: The Fifth Army Retreat

RETREAT AND REARGUARD
Somme 1918: The Fifth Army Retreat  

RRP: £25.00
OUR PRICE: £7.50  Easter Sale Price: £6.00

In the mass and pace of the German advance against Fifth Army, many units and posts were simply annihilated. It is unsurprising that there are few documentary or even verbal accounts of what took place. Jerry Murland had wisely decided to focus on those where there is a body of evidence. The stories make for grim reading. He covers, amongst others, the fights for the posts, keeps and redoubts from Le Fere up as far as Ronssoy and Epehy; the retreat to the Crozat Canal and the defence of the Somme crossings; battles for Rosieres and Moreuil. In comparison with the well-trodden paths of the Somme and Ypres, these places are little heard-of today but they deserve attention and respect. This book does a good job in bringing them alive again.
The German Spring offensive - or Kaiserschlacht - was a period of great danger for the Allies. This book concentrates on a number of incidents during the defensive fight carried out by Hubert Gough's Fifth Army against the immense German Operation “Michael” offensive which began on 21 March 1918. For Gough's men, it was a “perfect storm”. They had recently taken over a long stretch of front line from the French, thanks to a political decision that flew in the face of military advice, and found it almost without defences. They had also been forced to reorganise the infantry brigades from four battalions to three, due to a critical shortage of manpower. The Machine Gun Corps companies had also only just reorganised. And to cap it all the British had recently begun to adopt a “defence in depth” tactical approach which placed the infantry in isolated posts, with the theory that their guns would halt any enemy incursion in the gaps between them and safe in the knowledge that the British artillery was present in mass and well on top of its game. Sadly for the Fifth Army, the Germans had developed tactics that were tailor-made for defeating this approach: a pulverising artillery bombardment that would cut off and neutralise the British artillery, and rapid “storm trooper” units that would penetrate into gaps in the British defence and fan out behind the posts. They also had, for a while, an overwhelming advantage in terms of sheer numbers of men, for they had been recently able to transfer many divisions from the now-silent Eastern Front. For many British infantrymen in the thick fog of 21 March 1918, the first they knew that enemy infantry had attacked was when they were behind them. Units in the forward posts were surrounded: they faced the appalling choice of surrender or to fight to the last. The German attack advanced rapidly through the gaps, forcing Fifth Army into a general retreat. As this took place, units were ordered forward to hold a position as long as possible – and they too often found themselves cut off and surrounded. Gough, in many quarters an unpopular General who might well have faced the sack for earlier battles, was removed as a scapegoat – for a battle in which his army had little chance of success.



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Product Code: 25559
Author: Jerry Murland
Format: A good hardback edition with dust-jacket and a page count of 239 + plate section
Shipping Time: This item is usually dispatched Next Day
Retail Price: £25.00
Our Price: £7.50 save 70% Easter Sale Price: £6.00

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