How the Reporter covered the German’s Spring Offensive in 1918
Thursday 8th November 2018 @ 12:26 by Tom Greggan
Tameside

By the close of 1918, the war had come to a close and the Allied forces were victorious.

But at the start of the year, just how the war would end remained uncertain and in the spring, the Germans launched a ‘Spring Offensive’ in 1918 in an effort to break four years of deadlock. 

The aim too was to clinch victory before American forces could be properly deployed in numbers. 

Germany had the added advantage of increased numbers at this point thanks to almost 50 divisions, which could all be diverted from fighting on the Eastern Front following the defeat of Russia. 

Initially, the offensive resulted in the Germans making significant gains and these were uncertain times for the allies. 

Here’s how the Reporter relayed the news from the Spring of 1918, where the headline of ‘The Battle Crisis’ acknowledged the severity of the situation, while attempting to put a brave slant on events and, insightfully, reporting on the huge cost to the Germans in making the gains that had been achieved…

 

“Our line may bend but it will never break.”

That is the confident statement of all our military authorities. All our local soldiers who have come from the front on leave tell us the same story. There is absolute confidence that the Germans will never get through. Therefore let none of us be downhearted.

The Germans had been expected to make a gigantic attack. We have been told for weeks past that the Germans were bringing men and guns from the Russian side, and meant too make a mighty effort to get a decision.

They started a week ago, and for the first day or two had some success. By pouring on nearly one million men on a fifty-mile front, and employing masses of guns of all calibres, they were able to force back our line for a few miles.

But the enemy had to pay a heavy price. His soldiers were mowed down on long swathes, and his losses, by all reliable accounts, must have been appalling.

Our soldiers were prepared for the German onrush, and the stand of our troops everywhere has been splendid beyond description. They have only given ground where the odds have been by three to one or as many as six to one.

The tidal wave of Germans was let loose on a desperate gamble. They hoped to separate the British and French armies, to drive a wedge between them, and to be in Paris by April 1st, as Hindenburg boasted.

The brunt of the attack was upon the British, their most formidable and obstinate antagonists. And the gallant British have more than out-matched them on fighting qualities.

The enemy attack has had to slow down, their timetable has been thrown awry, they have not done what was expected of them, and the brave British soldiers stand undefeated and undaunted, ready to counter-attack at the appropriate time, and to turn the great German offensive into a great defeat.

Since the first setback, the news has continued increasingly good day by day. The German attacks have died down, and their progress has been slower. Reinforcements have been poured onto the battle area by the Germans from all the Western front, which speaks eloquently of their colossal losses and of the inability to get through.

Our losses too, have been heavy, but our army stands firm. British, French, and American troops are now fighting shoulder to shoulder, and French and British reinforcements are rapidly coming up.

The crisis is not yet over, but it may safely be said that the worst of the crisis is over. There are already signs that the German tide is on the ebb.

Meanwhile, the Allies are gathering strength. Not the least interesting news is that the Russians are preparing to fight once again upon the side of the Entente.

It is a mighty conflict, the most terrific which the world has ever known, and when two giants are opposed in deadly combat to secure a decision which shall settle the issue we must expect the battle to fluctuate.

The loss of a few strips of devastated territory can make but little appreciable difference to the ultimate issue.

The news from the front as we go to press is the best we have received since the battle began.

The German onrush has been checked, and we have left the enemy licking the severe wounds we have inflicted upon him. He will come again, but he will find the British soldier even better prepared to receive him next time.

Our men are sustained by the knowledge that they are fighting to save the world from slavery. They are paying a heavy price, but the price would be heavier still if the Germans were to win. That they ever will win is impossible and unthinkable, so long as the British army stands intact.

 

The Battle Crisis

 

The situation in the battle area continues to be very grave. But it is not one to fill us with discouragement.

Despite the most vigorous and persistent assaults the Germans have not yet succeeded on wresting any vital point from the British.

It is true that during the week they had some important successes, in the capture of Bailleul and Wytschaete and Meteren, and in forcing a withdrawal of our troops from the forward position east of Ypres; but we cannot expect the enemy to put forth his maximum effort without making some impression on the war map.

Our line still holds; nowhere has the enemy been able to break through. It may bulge alarmingly at certain points, but it is firmer now than it was at the beginning of the German onrush.

Meanwhile the enemy is paying a heavy price for the successes he attains, and it may well be that he will begin to consider whether on the profit and loss account he is really the gainer.

He had bargained on a quick decision. He is not gaining that decision, but is exhausting his men by pouring them into the fiery furnace in prodigal profusion.

He cannot continue at this terrific pace much longer. He must soon spend himself. Then will come the time for action of the British and French.

 

A Glorious Record

 

There has been comparative quiet on the Western Front during the past few days, but the absence of serious fighting does not mean that the battle is over. It will flame out again.

The Germans last week got a good hammering by the British and French, they were defeated in their objective, and were definitely checked. But they will come again. They are now preparing for the next attack, and it is rumoured that, learning from the experience of the first attack, the next will be even more fierce.

That may be so. Nothing suited our soldiers more than for the Germans to come on in masses. They mowed them down like ripe corn. The British and French have also gained experience, and they will be the better prepared for the next German encounter.

The rear of the German army is said to be “black with troops,” but the Allied Higher Command is full of confidence. So, too, after the magnificent manner in which our gallant armies held up the Kaiser’s hordes in the country.

No grander story of conspicuous courage and heroism in this war of great deeds has been recorded than that of the brave stand of the men of our local regiments.

They have manned their guns to the last, they have refused to surrender in the face of overwhelming odds, they have held the enemy in check at the most critical moments of the great battle, and they stemmed the onrush of thousands of the enemy…

 

Pictured top: Just some of the local men who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Spring Offensive.