The German Offensive and Second Battle of the Somme (1918)

The collapse of Russia and the release of masses of men and artillery meant Germany now had numerical supremacy over the Allies. This would not last though, as the submarine campaign no longer restricted the crossing of American reinforcements, so Germany was presented with a "golden opportunity" to make a decisive blow.

The German plan, however, was more ambitious than their opponents believed. Its aim was final and decisive success by complete defeat of the Allied Armies. The attack was designed first to separate them by an overwhelming blow at this very point of junction in the, which in February 1918 was 30 miles further south of Cambrai than in December, then to roll the British Army right back on the coast and immobilise it there, and finally to turn on the French. Before America could put her levies in the field the Germans hoped that the catastrophes of the Armies and the demoralisation of the civil populations would compel the Allied Governments to accept a strong peace.

The German March Offensive – ‘Operation Michael’ and the first Battles of the Somme occurred between 21 March – 5 April 1918 and after a major rebuff at Arras on 28 March, was redirected towards the secondary goal of Amiens. 

The New Zealand Division was to close the gap of about three miles between the right of the 62nd Division and the left of the 12th Division on the line from Hamel, a small hamlet on the Ancre due south of Beaumont Hamel, to Serre north of the latter about 1½ miles. The centre of the New Zealand line would be Beaumont Hamel with Hamel to the south and Serre to the north of our front, which was to face almost due east on high ground overlooking the Ancre Valley.


In barring the German advance the Division had paid an inevitable price, but by no means an unduly heavy one, 30 officers and 500 men had given their lives, 100 officers and 1,700 men had been wounded, and some 60 were missing; 127 machine guns, 5 trench mortars and much other booty had been taken, and 429 prisoners had been captured.

After the pointer of the German offensive had swung northwards to the Lys, on 25 April the Division side-stepped northwards from near Serre, occupying now a somewhat longer front from One Tree Hill to the east of Hebuterne and onward to capture a wider observation over the Puisieux valley.