French attacks could only take place at night or during twilight and snow, rain, low clouds and fog made aircraft observation for the artillery impossible.
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German work on the Siegfriedstellung Hindenburg Line continued but the first line, built along reverse-slopes was complete and from which flanking-fire could be brought to bear on any attack. The British Fourth Army was unable to assist the French with an attack, due to a lack of divisions after transfers north to the British Third Army but was able to assist with artillery-fire from the north and kept a cavalry division in readiness to join a pursuit.
The French artillery had been reduced to c. On 13 April at 5: Casualties in the thirteen attacking battalions were severe. The 25th Division was ordered by the army commander, General Humbert to attack again at 6: French aircraft were active over the attack front but at midday large formations of German fighters arrived and forced the French artillery-observation and reconnaissance aircraft back behind the front line.
German artillery-fire had not been heavy and the defence had been based on machine-gun fire and rapid counter-attacks. The Fifth Army attacked on 16 April at 6: From the beginning German machine-gunners were able to engage the French infantry and inflict many casualties, although German artillery-fire was far less destructive. Courcy on the right flank was captured by the 1st Brigade of the Russian Expeditionary Force in France but the advance was stopped at the Aisne—Marne canal. From Bermericourt to the Aisne the French attack was repulsed and south of the river French infantry were forced back to their start-line.
On the north bank of the Aisne the French attack was more successful, the 42nd and 69th divisions reached the German second position between the Aisne and the Miette, the advance north of Berry penetrating 2. Tanks to accompany the French infantry to the third objective arrived late and the troops were too exhausted and reduced by casualties to follow the tanks.
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Half of the tanks were knocked-out in the German defences and then acted as pillboxes in advance of the French infantry, which helped to defeat a big German counter-attack. German infantry launched hasty counter-attacks along the front, recaptured Bermericourt and conducted organised counter-attacks where the French infantry had advanced the furthest. At Sapigneul in the XXXII Corps area, the 37th Division attack failed, which released German artillery in the area to fire in enfilade into the flanks of the adjacent divisions, which had been able to advance and the guns were also able to engage the French tanks north of the Aisne.
The defeat of the 37th Division restored the German defences between Loivre and Juvincourt. German observers at Craonne, on the east end of the Chemin des Dames, were able to direct artillery-fire against the tanks and 23 were destroyed behind the French front line; few of the tanks reached the German defences and by the evening only ten tanks were operational. The French infantry had suffered many casualties and few of the leading divisions were capable of resuming the attack. The advance had failed to reach objectives which were to have fallen by 9: The XX Corps attack from Vendresse to the Oise—Aisne Canal had more success, the rd Division on the right flank reached the Chemin des Dames south of Courtecon after a second attack, managing an advance of 1.
Laffaux was captured and then lost to a counter-attack before changing hands several times, until finally captured on 19 April. The Sixth Army operations took c. On the second day Nivelle ordered the Fifth Army to attack north-eastwards to reinforce success, believing that the Germans intended to hold the ground in front of the Sixth Army. The German retirement was carried out urgently and many guns were left behind, along with "vast" stocks of munitions.
The "Monts" were held against a German counter-attack on 19 April by the 5th, 6th Eingreif divisions and the 23rd division and one regiment between Nauroy and Moronvilliers. To the north-east of the hill the advance reached a depth of 1. The Fourth Army attacks took 3, prisoners and 27 guns.
An attack on Brimont on 4—5 May , the capture of which would have been of great tactical value, was postponed on the orders of the French government and never took place. Next day another advance was conducted north of the mill.
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German counter-attacks continued in constant attack and counter-attack in the Soissons sector. The offensive continued on the Fourth Army front where Mont Cornillet was captured and by 10 May 28, prisoners and guns had been taken by the French armies. Between Vauxaillon and Reims and on the Moronvilliers heights the French had captured much of the German defensive zone, despite the failure to break through and Army Group German Crown Prince counter-attacked before the French could consolidate, mostly by night towards the summits of the Chemin des Dames and the Moronvilliers massif.
Next day, German counter-attacks on Chevreux, north-east of Craonne at the foot of the east end of the Chemin des Dames were defeated. On 16 May, a German counter-offensive, on a front of 2.
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On 20 May, a counter-offensive to retake the French positions from Craonne to the east of Fort de la Malmaison, was mostly defeated by artillery-fire and where German infantry were able to advance through the French defensive barrages, French infantry easily forced them back; 1, unwounded prisoners were taken. A German counter-attack on the Californie Plateau was smashed by artillery and infantry small-arms fire and prisoners taken. On 25 May, three German columns attacked a salient north-west of Bray-en-Laonnois and gained a footing in the French first trench, before being forced out by a counter-attack.
On 26 May German attacks on salients east and west of Cerny were repulsed and from 26—27 May, German attacks between Vauxaillon and Laffaux Mill broke down. Two attacks on 28 May at Hurtebise were defeated by French artillery-fire and on the night of 31 May — 1 June and attacks by the Germans west of Cerny also failed. On the morning of 1 June, after a heavy bombardment, German troops captured several trenches north of Laffaux Mill and lost them to counter-attacks in the afternoon.
On 2 June a bigger German attack began, after an intensive bombardment of the French front, from the north of Laffaux to the east of Berry-au-Bac. The Germans attacked in waves, at certain points advancing shoulder-to-shoulder, supported by flame-thrower detachments and gained some ground on the Vauclerc Plateau, until French counter-attacks recovered the ground.
Despite the French holding improvised defences and the huge volumes of German artillery-fire used to prepare attacks, the German organised counter-attacks Gegenangriffe met with little success and at Chevreux north-east of Craonne, the French had even pushed further into the Laon Plain. In , Uffindell wrote that retrospective naming and dating of events can affect the way in which the past is understood. The Second Battle of the Aisne began on 16 April but the duration and extent of the battle have been interpreted differently.
The ending of the battle is usually given as mid-May. Uffindell called this politically convenient, since this excluded the Battle of La Malmaison in October, making it easier to blame Nivelle.
Uffindel wrote that the exclusion of La Malmaison was artificial, since the attack was begun from the ground taken from April to May. Casualties had reached 20 percent in the French armies by 10 May and some divisions suffered more than 60 percent losses. On 3 May, the French 2nd Division refused orders, similar refusals and mutiny spread through the armies; the Nivelle Offensive was abandoned in confusion on 9 May.
The operations in Champagne on 20 May ended the Nivelle Offensive; most of the Chemin-des-Dames plateau, particularly the east end, which dominated the plain north of the Aisne had been captured. Bois-des-Buttes, Ville-aux-Bois, Bois-des-Boches and the German first and second positions from there to the Aisne had also been captured.
South of the river, the Fifth and Tenth armies on the plain near Loivre, had managed to advance west of the Brimont Heights. East of Reims the Fourth Army had captured most of the Moronvilliers massif and Auberive, then advanced along the Suippe, which provided good jumping-off positions for a new offensive. The cost of the Nivelle Offensive in casualties and loss of morale were great but German losses were also high and the tactical success of the French in capturing elaborately fortified positions and defeating counter-attacks, reduced German morale.
The Germans had been forced out of three of the most elaborately fortified positions on the Western Front and failed to recapture them. Vimy Ridge , the Scarpe Heights, the caverns, spurs and plateau of the Chemin des Dames and the Moronvilliers massif had been occupied for more than two years, carefully surveyed by German engineers and fortified to make them impregnable.
In six weeks all were lost and the Germans were left clinging to the eastern or northern edges of the ridges of the summits. The French tactic of assault brutal et continu suited the German defensive dispositions, since much of the new construction had taken place on reverse slopes.
The speed of attack and the depth of the French objectives meant that there was no time to establish artillery observation posts overlooking the Ailette valley, in the areas where French infantry had reached the ridge.
The failed offensive of the French Army on Chemin des Dames Ridge
The tunnels and caves under the ridge nullified the destructive effect of the French artillery, which was also reduced by poor weather and by German air superiority, which made French artillery-observation aircraft even less effective. The rear edge of the German battle zone along the ridge had been reinforced with machine-gun posts and the German divisional commanders decided to hold the front line, rather than giving ground elastically; few of the Eingreif Divisions were needed to intervene in the battle.
In Wynne wrote that the French lost , casualties including 32, killed in the first few days but that the effect on military and civilian morale was worse than the casualties. Nicholson the Canadian Official Historian, recorded German losses of c. The advance of the Sixth Army was one of the largest made by a French army since trench warfare began.
The German artillery was outnumbered about 3: Much of the German artillery was silenced before the French attack. Gas bombardments in the Ailette valley became so dense that the carriage of ammunition and supplies to the front was made impossible. The French took 11, prisoners, guns and heavy mortars. French losses were 2, men killed, 8, wounded and 1, missing from 23—26 October, 10 percent of the casualties of the attacks during the Nivelle Offensive.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the battle. For other battles of the Aisne, see Battle of the Aisne. Western Front, April Schneider CA1 and Saint-Chamond tank. Battle of the Hills. Fifth and Tenth army areas, Craonne and the eastern Chemin des Dames, The ruined village of Soupir , See the newest novels, discuss with other book lovers, buy romance books online.
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