Breaking the Hindenburg Line, September 1918
By the middle of September 1918 the allies had forced the German army back to the defensive line which it had occupied at the start of the year, before their spring offensive. Although the German army’s attempt to win a decisive military victory on the western front had failed, both armies had fought themselves to a standstill, suffering the heaviest rate of casualties since 1914. The German defensive position, the carefully cited and heavily fortified Siegfriedstellung and its supporting systems (known to the allies as the ‘Hindenburg line’), represented a formidable obstacle. The allies debated whether to attack the German position immediately, to try to force victory in 1918, or to wait until 1919 when allied productive capacity and the further increase of American manpower would give them overwhelming military superiority in the west. It was Foch’s intention to follow up the victories of the summer to deny the German army any breathing space in which to recover from their earlier defeats. To do so meant an immediate assault on the Hindenburg line, which was mounted by three British and one French armies at the end of September.