Pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line

14 March – 5 April 1917: German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. During Somme fighting the Germans constructed a formidable new defensive system some miles in their rear. From February 1917 they began to withdraw into it, giving up ground but in carrying out “Operation Alberich” they made the ground as uninhabitable and difficult as possible. British patrols eventually detected the withdrawal and cautiously followed up and advanced, being brought to a standstill at the outer defences of the system.

German retreat to the Hindenburg Line

Third Army (Allenby)
VII Corps (Snow)
14th (Light) Division
21st Division
30th Division
56th (1st London) Division.

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
5th Cavalry Division
III Corps (Pulteney)
1st Division
48th (South Midland) Division, which occupied Peronne on 18 March
59th (2nd North Midland) Division.
IV Corps (Woollcombe)
32nd Division
35th Division
61st (2nd South Midland) Division.
XIV Corps (Cavan)
Guards Division
20th (Light) Division (transferred to XV Corps on 25 March).
XV Corps (Du Cane)
8th Division
20th (Light) Division (transferred from XIV Corps on 25 March)
40th Division.

Fifth Army (Gough)
4th Cavalry Division
II Corps (Jacob)
2nd Division
18th (Eastern) Division.
V Corps (Fanshawe)
7th Division
46th (North Midland) Division
62nd (2nd West Riding) Division.
XVIII Corps (Maxse)
58th (2/1st London) Division.
I ANZAC Corps (Birdwood)
2nd Australian Division, which captured Bapaume on 17 March 1917
4th Australian Division
5th Australian Division.

Trees felled by the German troops across the road at Peronne. March 1917. Imperial War Museum image Q5104

Trees felled by the German troops across the road at Peronne. March 1917. Imperial War Museum image Q5104

The front had now moved several miles, leaving the devastated 1916 Somme battlefield and the razed ground of “Alberich” behind the British front. New place names began to appear in the British news … they would soon assume as sinister an air as the villages and woods of the Somme.

Hindenburg Line 1917

 

Links

Battles of the Western Front in France and Flanders

Sir Douglas Haig’s third despatch (operations on the Ancre, 1916, and pursuit of German retreat to Hindenburg Line)