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French Retreat and German Counter-Attack during World War I

  • The French were pushed back from strategic positions on Hill 145 and Hill 119, while the 28th Division was forced out of their initial position.
  • The German forces planned to counter-attack and regain the lost positions using the remnants of the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division and the 115th Division.
  • Despite some initial success in counter-attacking and retaking ground, the German troops were eventually stopped by intense French artillery-fire.


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  • Nakay702
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>The French were pushed back ~ out of the first position. ⇒フランス軍は午後1時までに145番丘と119番丘(小とんがり)の高台から押し戻された。ロレット山脚の東端で、第28師団が第1陣地から追い出された。 >By afternoon, the left flank ~ too depleted to attack. ⇒午後までに、第XIV軍団の左側面隊がカレンシーの近くで見つかった。ルプレヒトは、第5ババリア予備軍師団と第115師団の生き残りを使って反撃し、失われた陣地を取り戻そうと意図した。その代わりとして第115師団が第Iババリア予備軍団の右翼を守るために派遣されてみると、第5ババリア予備軍師団が、攻撃するにはあまりにも減衰していることが分かった。 >Troops managed to counter-attack ~ to support the attack. ⇒部隊は午後8時ごろにフランス軍の大砲による大規模な砲火で足止めされるが、その前に何とかスーシェで反撃して若干の土地を奪回した。夕方ごろ、ルプレヒトは、フランス軍の12個師団がドイツ軍4個師団を攻撃したことを知ったが、このフランス軍は追い返すことができると信じていた。OHLは第117師団をドゥエーに送り、ルプレヒトはスーシェでの反撃のために第58師団の2個連隊をババリア予備軍団に配属した。攻撃を支援するために、砲兵隊がヴィミー・リッジの東に送られた。 >During the night, a French attack ~ rather than retire. ⇒夜の間に、フランス軍の攻撃はベトゥーン-レンズ道にまたがる前線塹壕を攻略し、フォン・ヘニッシュ中将は第29師団(イスベルト中将)に最後の軍団予備隊を送った。朝の反撃で塹壕が回復された。カレンシーの南西で、スーシェへ向かう塹壕線が失われ、カレンシーはほとんど包囲状態となった。ルプレヒトとヘニッシュは、第Iババリア予備軍団、第58師団および第115師団とをもって、退去するよいうよりはむしろスーシェからノヴィーユまでの反撃を計画していた。 >At 4:00 p.m. French attacks ~ Carency would fall. ⇒午後4時、フランス軍の攻撃がロレット山脚やカレンシーで始まったが、守備隊を押し戻すことはできなかった。午後7時、第115師団の数個小隊を南側に伴って第58師団がドイツ軍の反撃を開始したところ、最初は順調に進んだが、その後フランス軍の防御砲火(への転向)によって停止された。第28師団本部は、アブレンとカレンシーの間の戦線が崩れることを恐れ始めた。 >On 10 May, the I Bavarian Reserve ~ for more reinforcements. ⇒5月10日、第Iババリア予備軍師団はフランス軍の攻撃、特に右側面のノヴィーユでの陣地を維持することができ、第IV軍団と第115師団の一部が支援した数回の反撃では村の小さな部分を回復するにとどまった。翌日、ファスベンダー将軍は、アブレンからカレンシーまでの戦線が掌握されるのではないかと疑い、さらなる補強を求めた。 >Falkenhayn released the 117th Division ~ with many casualties. ⇒ファルケンハインは第117師団(クンツェ将軍)を解放して、第16師団とともに第VIII軍団本部をOHLの予備軍としてドゥエーに派遣した。ロレット山脚の損失につながる退却を避けるために、ルプレヒトは軍団の指揮官に会い、5月11日朝、フランス軍の静寂を見て勇み立ち、確固たる命令を出した。午後のフランス軍の攻撃はうまく調整がとれておらず、多くの犠牲を被って撃退された。






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    A captured order showed that the French were making a maximum effort to break through; a regiment of the 117th Division was made available to the 6th Army as a precaution and part of the 58th Division was moved closer to the 28th Division on the Lorette Spur. On 11 May, Rupprecht was ordered by Falkenhayn not to retire under any circumstances, with the discretion to achieve this by attack or defence and replied that a counter-attack was not feasible. Next day, two regiments of the 117th Division were added to I Bavarian Reserve Corps to protect Neuville and reinforcements arriving to re-establish the OHL reserve behind the 6th Army were taken over; part of the 15th Division was sent to Douai as a new OHL reserve and Falkenhayn suggested that a special headquarters be set up to co-ordinate counter-attacks. On 13 June, Rupprecht repeated his orders to XIV Corps to hold Carency and Haenisch sent pioneers to dig a reserve trench behind the left flank of the 28th Division. French pressure on the Lorette Spur had eased and a regiment of the 58th Division retook trenches on the northern slope. No counter-attack was possible at Carency and the I Bavarian Reserve Corps concentrated on holding the line from Souchez to Neuville and St. Laurent, which was attacked again during the afternoon. Gaps either side of Hill 123 were closed by counter-attacks but a gap between a depression known as Artilleriemulde, north of the Lorette Spur and Souchez could not be closed and Carency was almost surrounded. The defences to the west and south had been lost on 9 May and constant French attacks slowly overwhelmed the defenders. At 9:00 a.m. on 12 May, a French bombardment of 23,000 shells fell on the remaining German positions to the north of the village. The survivors were cut off and the village captured over the next two days. French attacks in the north began to diminish on 13 May, as rain storms turned the battlefield into a swamp but at 2:00 p.m. on 15 May a hurricane bombardment fell on Souchez until 6:00 p.m. but no infantry attack followed the bombardment. Late on 12 May Rupprecht created Armee–Gruppe Fasbender to control the units in the areas of the XIV and I Bavarian Reserve corps, to hold the existing positions and establish a defence line from Carency and Neuville. A counter-attack at the cemetery south of Souchez but failed without support from the Carency area, where a French attack at dusk had captured the village. The defeat threatened the rest of the German line, Haenish ordered an immediate bombardment of the village and the 28th Division to dig a new line, from the Lorette Spur to the Ablain church and Souchez. A battalion of the 117th Division was sent to the 28th Division and a 16th Division regiment was moved to Lens as a replacement. By 13 June, the right flank of the 28th Division still held the northern slope of the Lorette Spur, the line either side of the Lorette Chapel had been lost from the Schlammulde (Muddy Hollow) to the Ablain track.

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    Most of Ablain had been captured but French attempts to advance further, had been repulsed in mutually costly fighting and a lull occurred, except for a small French attack at Neuville during the day. Rupprecht rated the 29th Division as worn out, the condition of the 28th Division as not much better and the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division as exhausted. The 1st Bavarian Reserve Division, 58th and 115th divisions were severely damaged and c. 20,000 casualties had been incurred from 9–13 May. Rupprecht requested more reinforcements to replace all of the worn-out divisions and Falkenhayn began to strip more units from the Western Front. Falkenhayn also appointed General Ewald von Lochow, the III Corps commander to control the units being sent to the 6th Army. The 117th Division began to relieve the 28th Division on the night of 13/14 May and the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division remnants were relieved during the day. General Julius Riemann the VIII Corps commander, took over the 16th, 58th, 115th and part of the 15th divisions from Souchez to Neuville. The reinforcement of the 6th Army had drained the OHL reserve and further claims by Rupprecht were refused, which led him to complain to the Kaiser. North of the Lorette Spur and in the area of the 1st Bavarian Reserve Division, most of the old front line was intact. North of the Carency stream, XIV Corps held parts of the front line in Schlammulde, along Barrikadenweg (Barricade Way) and the east end of Ablain. South of the stream, the line was held by a mixture of the 58th and 115th divisions, the remnants of the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division and a regiment of the 52nd Reserve Infantry Brigade. In reserve, the 16th Division (Lieutenant-General Fuchs) was ready to move into line from Souchez to Hill 123 on a 1.2 mi (2 km) front, the 15th Division and the new 1st Trench Mortar Battalion had arrived in the 6th Army area. Lochow took over from 14 May to 12 June and continued to reorganise mingled units and withdraw tired troops into reserve. Artillery command in each area was centralised for barrage fire, counter-battery bombardments and flanking fire into other areas. The 5th Bavarian Reserve and 58th divisions were relieved by the 16th Division and three corps sectors established, XIV Corps on the right with the 117th Division and 85th Reserve Brigade, VIII Corps with the 115th and 58th divisions from the Carency stream to the Arras–Lens road and the 1st Bavarian Reserve Corps, with the 1st Bavarian Reserve Division and 52nd Infantry Brigade, from the road to the Scarpe river. Lochow planned a counter-attack by XIV Corps to regain the commanding ground of the Lorette Spur, from 15 to 17 May and succeeded only in exhausting the 117th Division, which had to be withdrawn.

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    French artillery bombarded the German lines overnight and then abated until 6:00 a.m. when a bombardment, slowly increasing in intensity began on the fronts of VII, XIV and I Bavarian Reserve corps, which from mid-morning reached the extent of Trommelfeuer. Lulls in the fire were ruses to prompt German infantry to emerge from shelter, only to be caught in more Trommelfeuer; the German artillery reply was sparse. The French infantry assembled unseen and the advance began after several mines were sprung, obtaining a measure of surprise. The main French attack was received at 11:00 a.m. on the left of XIV Corps and against I Bavarian Reserve Corps, from Lens to Arras, as a second attack began against the centre of XIV Corps along the Béthune–Lens road, which was repulsed by a counter-attack. The 28th Division on the Lorette Spur, was forced out of the front trenches, with many losses and in the evening a battalion of Jäger was sent forward. Further south, the villages of Ablain-St. Nazaire (Ablain) and Carency were held against determined French attacks. By noon 2.5 mi (4 km) of the German front defences had fallen and the French had penetrated up to a depth of 1.9 mi (3 km). In the I Bavarian Reserve Corps area (General Karl von Fasbender), the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division (General Kress von Kressenstein) south of Carency, was pushed back to a line from Cabaret Rouge to Neuville-St. Vaast (Neuville) and French troops advanced as far as artillery positions around Givenchy-en-Gohelle (Givenchy), where reinforcements arrived at noon and managed to forestall a new French attack. To the south, the 1st Bavarian Reserve Division (Lieutenant-General Göringer) managed to repulse the French in hand-to-hand fighting and then enfilade the French further north, who had broken through at La Targette. Crown Prince Rupprecht applied to Falkenhayn, for the two divisions in OHL reserve and the 115th Division (Major-General von Kleist) was moved behind the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division. The 58th Division (Lieutenant-General von Gersdorf) went into the 6th Army reserve and closed up to Lens, as artillery also released from the OHL reserve came forward. On the southern flank of the breakthrough, French attacks were also pushing slowly through the network of trenches known as the Labyrnthe. North of Ecurie, Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 12 took over more ground to the north and prevented the French from widening the breakthrough and in Neuville St. Vaast a counter-attack by a battalion of Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 10 retook the east end of the village and many of the field guns which had been lost earlier. A defence line was improvised between Neuville and La Folie to the north and was used to engage the French troops further north with flanking fire. Bavarian Infantry Regiment 7 was rushed up from reserve to counter-attack the French on Vimy Ridge.

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    To the south, XX Corps made slow progress at Neuville, where the 39th Division held a front with a right-angle facing the western and northern fringes of the village, with the right-hand brigade attacking the village and the left-hand brigade attempting to capture ferme La Folie. Every attempt to advance was met with massed artillery-fire. IX Corps on the northern flank, X and XVII corps on the southern flank, made limited attacks, which were mostly repulsed. To the south, the French attack on Neuville and the Labyrnthe continued and the cemetery was captured. Pétain reported that machine-gun fire from both flanks and German artillery-fire had increased, which had caused far more casualties. The result of the attack on 11 May, led d'Urbal to order that the German defences on the flanks at Souchez and Neuville were to be captured, before resuming the attack on Vimy Ridge. XXI Corps was to resume the advance along the Lorette Spur, XXXIII Corps was to capture Carency and then attack Souchez, as XX Corps to the south attacked Neuville. Before dawn on 12 May, French Chasseurs attacked the strong point near the Chapel of Notre Dame de Lorette on the Lorette Spur; after hand-to-hand fighting the strong point and the remains of the Chapel were captured. At dawn, under a German artillery bombardment, the French pushed towards the Spur of the White Way, which commanded the valley from Ablain to Souchez. At Carency, French infantry attacked after a bombardment, captured the wooded hillock east of the village and eventually took the stone quarry to the west. The French entered the western block of houses at the same time and at 5.30 p.m. about 1,000 members of the garrison surrendered. Conditions on the plateau were appalling, because bursting shells had disinterred the corpses of hundreds of French and German soldiers killed before the offensive. The French continued the advance from Carency towards Ablain, which suddenly caught fire, as the Germans withdrew to houses at the eastern fringe of the village. The French took 2,000 prisoners, field artillery and machine-guns in the area. On Thursday 13 May, in heavy rain a German counter-attack on the Spur of the White Way was repulsed by machine-gun fire. By the morning of 14 May, the French had captured most of the Lorette Spur and Carency but not the intervening positions, from which flanking fire had stopped the XXXIII Corps from advancing on Souchez. On 15 May, another French attack on the Spur of the White Way failed and until 21 May, the French on the Lorette Spur consolidated, under fire from the German artillery at Angres and Liévin. In the valley, the Germans held on at the east end of Ablain and recaptured the church and cemetery.

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    Air reconnaissance observed huge numbers of French guns and troops arriving at Doullens station, which showed that the French offensive would continue. A counter-attack to capture Ecurie, to disrupt the French artillery effort was considered and rejected due to the shortage of troops. Only at Neuville could troops assemble unseen and have good artillery observation. The 15th Division (Major-General Vollbrecht) at Neuville, was reinforced with troops from the 115th Division and attacked at 8:30 p.m. on 22 May; despite a 1st Trench Mortar Battalion bombardment and flame thrower support, the attack was a costly failure. To the south, the defence of the Labyrnthe continued, with frequent attacks to recover the first position in the centre, to relieve the right flank, which had been enveloped on three sides but without which Neuville could not be held. Bavarian Reserve Infantry Brigade 2 managed to assemble troops for a counter-attack towards the Lossow-Arkaden and advanced for about 160 yd (150 m) before being repulsed. French attacks in the opposite direction up to six times each day also failed, except for some ground on the Thélus road on the evening of 11 May. German reinforcements which had just arrived, were rushed forward to block the French advance on Thélus. The British attacked on the night of 15/16 May, south of Neuve Chapelle and by 20 May, had advanced 1.9 mi (3 km) and drawn in German reinforcements, which were able to defeat British attacks from 20–21 May over the Estaires–La Bassée road. The French offensive had severely eroded the 6th Army, which had used up all the fresh units sent from the OHL reserve in France. The 2nd Guard Reserve Division was diverted to VII Corps opposite the British and units worn out by the French supporting attacks beyond Artois were needed, before they had been rested. Only the tired 111th Division, 123rd Division and 8th Bavarian Reserve Division remained in the OHL reserve. Artillery reinforcements increased the firepower of the 6th Army, from 100 heavy howitzers and 74 heavy guns to 209 heavy howitzers and 98 heavy guns by 22 May, with plenty of ammunition. From 9–19 May, the 6th Army had fired 508,000 field artillery and 105,000 heavy shells. On 19 May, Krafft von Delmensingen, the 6th Army Chief of Staff, was replaced by Colonel von Wenge and sent to Italy with the new Alpenkorps. At the Lorette Spur, the 117th Division was sent forward to relieve the 28th Division on 18 May, from the Schlammulde (Muddy Hollow) to Ablain and the south end of Souchez. Most of the trenches had been demolished and those near the river were 2 ft (0.61 m) deep in water.

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    The 6th Army deployed in the XXI and XVI corps areas from the Vosges north to Metz, the III Corps arriving from 8–12 August and moving to the border from Beux to Béchy and Rémilly, the II Bavarian Corps deployed from 7–10 August from Lucy to Château Salins and Moerchingen and the XXI Corps mobilised around Dieuze on 10 August and moved a brigade of the 42nd Division to Igney, as a flank guard for the I Bavarian Corps. On 11 August a French night attack was repulsed but events in the Vosges led to the I Bavarian Corps moving quickly to Eyweiler and Sieweiler.

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    The 3rd Bavarian, 1st Bavarian and 5th Bavarian Reserve divisions held the southern area and the 15th and 16th divisions were to be withdrawn. French attacks on 18 June, were smaller and optimism rose that the offensive was ending. OHL ordered that the defences were to be thinned quickly, to provide a new strategic reserve. The 6th Army headquarters and Lochow protested that the troop reductions were premature and on 24 June, Lochow predicted more attacks, emphasised the need for a flow of fresh divisions and that the number of casualties required consideration of a retirement to the new defence line behind Vimy Ridge. Until the end of June, the Germans tried to restore their front positions but failed to regain the Lorette Spur and the French artillery maintained a bombardment from Angres to Souchez. The 12th Division was brought forward to reinforce the area and French attacks on 25 July and 27 June were repulsed by counter-attacks. In the old 16th Division area south of Souchez, the 11th Division gradually recaptured the area lost on 16 June. Fighting at the Labyrnthe continued until 24 June, when the 3rd Bavarian Division restored the old front line. The exhausted 52nd Reserve Infantry Brigade was relieved on 25 June and on 28 June Armee-Gruppe Lochow was dissolved and replaced by the VI Corps headquarters (General von Pritzelwitz). The Arras front remained the most important area on the German Western Front and Falkenhayn planned to send divisions from the Eastern Front to protect against another Franco-British offensive. Rupprecht claimed that the 6th Army could hold its ground without reinforcement and the redeployments were cancelled. During July skirmishing took place around Souchez but the French offensive was not resumed. In August, the Western Army was reorganised, more units moved into reserve and a programme of trench digging was begun along all of the Western Front. On 11 March, Major Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen was appointed Chef des Feldflugwesens (Chief of Field Air Forces) and began to increase the size of Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches (Imperial German Flying Corps), with the formation of five new air units in Germany to provide replacements and expedite the introduction of the new Fokker E.I aircraft.New links between air units and the army were created, by the appointment of a staff officer for aviation to each army and in April, armed C-class aircraft began to reach front-line units. Reconnaissance aircraft detected increased movement behind the French Tenth Army front and more C-class aircraft were sent to the 6th Army, from the armies in quiet areas of the Western Front.

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    After a modest British advance, German counter-attacks recovered most of the ground lost opposite Passchendaele. There were 13,000 Allied casualties, including 2,735 New Zealanders, 845 of whom had been killed or lay wounded and stranded in the mud of no-man's-land. In lives lost in a day, this was the worst day in New Zealand history. At a conference on 13 October, Haig and the army commanders agreed that attacks would stop until the weather improved and roads could be extended, to carry more artillery and ammunition forward for better fire support. Action of 22 October 1917 On 22 October the 18th (Eastern) Division of XVIII Corps attacked the east end of Polecappelle as XIV Corps to the north attacked with the 34th Division between the Watervlietbeek and Broenbeek streams and the 35th Division northwards into Houthulst Forest. The attack was supported by a regiment of the French 1st Division on the left flank of the 35th Division and was intended to obstruct a possible German counter-attack on the left flank of the Canadian Corps as it attacked Passchendaele and the ridge. The artillery of the Second and Fifth armies conducted a bombardment to simulate a general attack as a deception. Poelcappelle was captured but the attack at the junction between the 34th and 35th divisions was repulsed. German counter-attacks pushed back the 35th Division in the centre but the French attack captured all its objectives. Attacking on ground cut up by bombardments and soaked by rain, the British had struggled to advance in places and lost the ability to move quickly to outflank pillboxes. The 35th Division infantry reached the fringes of Houthulst Forest but were pushed back in places after being outflanked. German counter-attacks made after 22 October were at an equal disadvantage and were costly failures. The German 4th Army was prevented from transferring troops away from the Fifth Army and from concentrating its artillery-fire on the Canadians as they prepared for the Second Battle of Passchendaele (26 October – 10 November 1917).

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    A new attack was planned against Thiepval for 2 July by the 32nd and 49th divisions of X Corps and the 48th Division of VIII Corps was cancelled and replaced by an attack by the 32nd Division, on the east end of the Leipzig Redoubt and the Wonderwork (Wundtwerk) on a front of 800 yards (730 m), by the 14th Brigade and the 75th Brigade attached from the 25th Division. Information about the changed plan reached X Corps late and only reached the 32nd Division commander at 10:45 p.m. along with an increase in the attack frontage to 1,400 yards (1,300 m) north to Thiepval Chateau. With most telephone lines cut the artillery were not told of the postponement, until half of the bombardment for the original 3:15 a.m. zero hour had been fired.

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    Late on 16 June, the French attacked in a smoke-screen and reached the forward German positions, where several footholds was gained and protected by box-barrages. German counter-attacks later in the evening eliminated one foothold and took 205 prisoners but further to the left a French foothold was maintained by the weight of covering artillery-fire. By night, the French had consolidated in the 7th Division trenches at Liévin and Angres. The German survivors in the Schlammulde, between Angres and the chapel at Notre Dame de Lorette, were forced back. House-to-house fighting continued in Souchez and in the 16th Division area, where the front line for 0.62 mi (1 km) had been lost. Some French troops reached German artillery positions, beyond which were no trench defences. Against the 5th Division in the south, the French attacks collapsed but the 58th Division at the Labyrnthe and areas just to the south were broken through. In counter-attacks during the night by Armee-Gruppe Lochow, the 7th Division recaptured trenches at Liévin and Angres but failed to the south-west and at Schlammulde. The 8th Division regained the second Lorette switch line and the 16th Division cleared a few isolated penetrations but not the area south of Souchez; artillery-fire prevented the digging of a switch trench. A continuous barrage (Dauerfeur) was maintained on the breakthrough, which prevented the French advancing further, except at the churchyard at Souchez and by dawn the Labyrnthe had been recaptured. About 700 French prisoners were taken. The 6th Army was reduced to a desperate position and OHL sent VI Corps units forward as they arrived. On 17 June the French attack resumed and broke into the 5th Division defences and was then pushed out from there and either side by counter-attacks. A French advance to the north along the Aix-Noulette–Souchez road made Schlammulde untenable and it was abandoned overnight; Marokkanerwäldchen (Moroccan Copse) on the Arras–Béthune road was lost. There were many German casualties and the 16th Division was relieved by the 11th Division of VI Corps; the 58th Division was kept in line for lack of a replacement. OHL provided the 15th Division, which had had only a few days' rest and the 123rd Division in an emergency. The 12th Division of VI Corps could not hasten its arrival before 19 June and the 187th Infantry Brigade was hurried north, the 53rd Reserve Division relieved the 3rd Bavarian Division which then replaced the 58th Division and another thirteen heavy batteries were sent to the 6th Army. Armee-Gruppe Lochow held the north with the IV Corps headquarters, the 117th and 123rd Saxon divisions on the right, the 7th and 8th divisions on the left and the 3rd Ersatz Brigade in reserve. VIII Corps held the central area with the 11th and 5th divisions, the 12th Division (Lieutenant-General Chales de Beaulieu) to join on the northern flank and the 6th Division in 6th Army reserve when it arrived.