3rd Battle of Aisne

During the 2nd Battle of the Aisne in May 1917, General Charles Mangin, managed to capture a 4km stretch of the Chemin des Dames Ridge from the German Army. A year later, General Erich von Ludendorff, decided to try and win this territory back. On 27th May 1918, a 4,000 gun preliminary bombardment caused heavy casualties in Allied front-line trenches. A gas attack was followed by an infantry advance and by the evening the German Army had gained 15km and were at the River Vesle. The offensive continued and by 30th May, the Germans had captured 50,000 soldiers and 800 guns and were only 90km from Paris. Allied counter-attacks halted the advance by 6th June at the Marne. The French Army suffered 98,000 casualties, and the British Army lost 29,000.

Primary Sources

(1) The Great World War: Volume I (1917)

After crossing the Marne, the British force found itself in the Aisne depart ment. The enemy had to be chased across the Ourcq, and on September 11, when that had been effected, our cavalry approached the Aisne, two brigades being to the direct south of Soissons and three to the south-east, near the villages of Couvrelle and Cerseuil, which stand on high ground sloping down towards the Aisne's tributary, the Vesle. From the opposition offered both to the French and to our 2nd and 3rd Corps on the 12th, it became evident that the Germans had stopped their retreat, and intended to defend the passage of the Aisne.

On the evening of September 13 the enemy's main forces retired to the high ground about 2 miles north of the Aisne, and along the road known as the Chemin des Dames. Here the Germans strongly entrenched themselves, but they left detachments also entrenched in commanding situations on the slopes and spurs of the heights, and these advanced points of defence were well supported by artillery.