Taking the Chemin des Dames, crossing the Aisne canal and the fall of Cormicy.
The third blow of the 1918 German Offensives took
place by Reims and Soissons.
It’s initial objective was to draw reserves away from the Flanders sector where the second blow was already taking place. The Germans hoped that by attacking on the Aisne they could assure that Foch would not be able to send reinforcements North to aid the British in Flanders.
unexpected success near Soissons/ Reims came as pleasant surprise for the Germans who
decided that, due to setbacks in the other sectors, that the sector to the West of Reims would be just right for "the big
General von Boehn’s 7th Army was to strike the main
blow. From their positions behind the Ailette river they were to storm the
heights of the Chemin des Dames then to cross the Aisne
and Vesle rivers.
On the left flank the Gruppe Brimont belonging to the
1st Army stood ready to attack over the Aisne and the Marne
The Germans were aware that the heights were probably
manned by worn out French units, sent to the sector to recuperate. They were
sure however that the French would fight hard, defending their positions behind
fields of barbed wire.
Surprise alone could carry the day and it was the
Germans luck that they were able to achieve this surprise. It was also a
masterpiece of General staff work that the Germans managed to bring up 1158
artillery batteries and 30 infantry divisions without the enemy being alerted.
The troops stood ready to carry out operation Blücher.
On the morning of the 27th of May the German artillery
fired a tremendous bombardment that lasted just 160 minutes. Explosive rounds
destroyed the French positions and gas shells suppressed the French artillery
batteries. At the given moment the German infantry attacked.
It seemed like August 1914 all over again as the
troops crossed the Ailette valley, clambered up the heights and the men of
Generals Wichura, Winkler and Conta raced to reach the summit. Regiments of
Garde, regular and reserve infantry were accompanied by the older men of the
Landwehr units who in turn attacked with the youthful exuberance of their
Assault columns swept away resistance and crossed the
Chemin des Dames and the Winterberg, poured down the southern slope overwhelming
the French second line of defence. By the middle of the day they had crossed
the Aisne, swallowed six French divisions that
had arrived haphazardly on the battlefield and by nightfall had reached, and in
some places crossed the Vesle.
The Garde Regiment "Elisabeth" crossed the
river to take Fismes and the neighbouring heights. The French artillery was
wasting its valuable ammunition by firing on sectors that the Germans had long
since passed through.
On the flanks a certain level of success was achieved
as well although here the French defences were stronger. In the west the
Laffaux Ecke, lost the October before, fell to the Germans. The 241. I.D.
managed to force a bridgehead at Leuilly. The attackers did however fail to
take the essential goal of Soissons
on the otherwise successful day.
On the Eastern flank the Viller-berg fell to the
Gruppe Schmettow who then bogged down on their way to the Vesle. The divisions
of General von Ilse stormed Cormicy and the surrounding heights in spite of a
dogged French defence.
It was a great achievement. If the flanks could break
through it seemed that victory was assured.