The German Spring 1918 Offensive
By the end of 1917 the allies had gained tactical ascendancy on the western front, although the Bolshevik revolution and Lenin’s immediate call for a peace in the east handed the strategic initiative back to Germany. In the war of attrition, Anglo-French forces were feeling the effects. Both allied armies had to reduce the fighting strength of their divisions over the winter, and to disband some divisions entirely to fill up others. Additional weaponry and battalion reorganisation made up for this reduction in manpower with greater tactical flexibility and firepower, making the smaller divisions of 1918 more effective than their larger predecessors in the new ‘combinedarms’ warfare. Nevertheless, until the expanding American army could make its weight of numbers count, the allies chose to follow Pétain’s defensive strategy in the west. The British army was obliged to take over more of the French defensive line, stretching its line dangerously thin. In order not to hand the initiative completely to the Germans, plans were made to create an allied General Reserve under Foch to counter-attack any German offensive.