Military Review

Viller - Kotre. Part of 2

The front of the German 7 Army stretched out. Since the army command was to pay more and more attention to the southern sector of the front, the July 5 groups of Francois, Staabs and Vatter (7 army, 39 reserve and 13 army corps) located between Oise and Urcom, were isolated from the 7 Army. These three corps formed a new - 9 th army under the command of infantry general J. Eben - with the main task of defending Soissons.

11. infantry general J. von Eben.

A major French offensive, anticipated by the Germans 14 or 15 in July, did not take place, but local attacks continued. J. Eben believed that the defense requires reliable, unresolved troops. In addition, to the south of En, the equipment of the German positions left much to be desired. True, the number of divisions located in the rear of the front was large, but they were exhausted.

The German offensive on both sides of Reims did not lead to the achievement of the goals. The Allies dodged the blow. To the east of Reims, in Champagne, they left the front lines and met the attackers on the second line - little affected by the German artillery preparation. In front of this position, the advance of the Germans was choked. To the west of Reims, the French also defended mainly in second place, but put up stubborn resistance on the front line. The tested shock divisions of the 7 Army managed to break the resistance of their adversary, cross the Marne between Glan and Verney, and break through the front of the French and two Italian divisions in the Reims Forest. By the evening of July 15, the Germans advanced to the south of the Marne by 8 km, and also won considerable space between the river and the Rheim basin. But, despite tactical successes, the offensive was unsuccessful. The operational goal was to cut off the enemy in the Rheim Basin by connecting the 7 and 1 armies in the area east of Epernay — the Germans could not be reached.

Nevertheless, Crown Prince Wilhelm and the High Command hoped that an offensive south of the Marne would make it possible to develop the achieved tactical success. The commander of the army group ordered the 7 Army to continue the offensive and, in order not to allow the Allies to use all their reserves against the 7 Army, it was decided for some time to continue the advance in Champagne.

But on July 16, minor successes were achieved - the 7 Army managed to advance only a few kilometers, as powerful French counterattacks began. The offensive in Champagne was also to no avail. The command of the army group decided to cease active operations east of Reims - the offensive was to continue only between Marna and Reims. But the divisions of the 7 Army tried in vain to advance over the rough terrain of the Reims massif. The Allies understood what the Germans wanted, and instead of exhausted Italians, fresh French troops were thrown into battle.

On July 21, a new operation was to begin - the concentric offensive of the 7 and 1 armies from the west, north, and partly from the east, the Germans planned to seize Reims.

Viller - Kotre. Part of 2

Meanwhile, the situation south of the Marne has escalated.
Franco-American strikes became more powerful - the Allies maximized their actions against crossing the Marne. Along with an almost continuous artillery bombardment, bomber strikes followed at short intervals aviation - over bridges and convoys accumulated there, parks and military units.

In this situation, the 7 Army had no choice but to quickly withdraw its divisions to the north bank of the Marne.

The disposition of the German troops on the front between the Nouvrouc Plateau and Reims on the morning of July 18 was as follows:

a) 9-I army. The 14-i and 6-i infantry divisions were the shock divisions of the Staabs group, and the 28-i (Baden) infantry, the 47-i standby and part of the 3-i reserve division were the strike forces of the Vatter group.

b) 7-I army. The shock divisions were: the XnUMX-I Winkler Reserve Group, the 45-I Guards Infantry Division of the Schöler Group. The 5 Infantry Division made up the reserve of the Vihura group. In the army reserve was 33-I Infantry Division.

c) The 6 divisions were in reserve for the army group. From the 1 and 3 armies, 7 divisions also approached the 3 army.

Most divisions were not replenished enough or were not replenished at all. All divisions located on the southern and southeastern sectors of the front of the 7 Army (with the exception of the Landmark 10) participated in the attack on Reims to ensure the Marne and were seriously injured.

The night of July 18 was sweltering and dark.
A strong storm that broke out 17-th and accelerated the onset of darkness in the dark forests of Viller-Kotre, raged for a long time and by the evening stopped. But the soil had not yet managed to soak up the water from the last rain — the trees and bushes were still dripping, and meandering streams suddenly arising along the edges of dirt and highways flowed into noticeably swollen small rivers that flowed into En or Marne. Heavy soldier's boots squished in the clay of field roads and damp meadow soil. A milky-white mist swirled in the hollows and over the wet meadow areas.

German patrols carefully sneaked behind the line of advanced posts, carefully looking and listening. In the evening of July 17 south of Saint-Pierre-Aigle, in the location of the Allies, there was a lively movement of carts and vehicles, and farther south French troops were seen hiding in a ravine north of Lonpon.

The fog was thickening. And from the location of the 13-Bavarian reserve infantry regiment raised signal rockets - and the artillery opened fire on the village for destruction. It was 3 hours 30 minutes - dawn broke. After a few minutes, everything was quiet, but then the shooting rang out again - north and south. In both points, the German military guard heard the noise of motors.

On the front of the 14 reserve division, between Werth Fay farm and Lonpon, an intensified movement was observed in the French front line. At the site of the 13 Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, a battalion of the first echelon took up combat positions.

About 4 hours 15 minutes in the location of the 3-th Bavarian infantry regiment arrived two defector French. They showed that between 5 and 6 hours the offensive would begin on all fronts. But the regiment headquarters receives this information in 4 hours 50 minutes, the brigade headquarters transmits them further in 5 hours; and in 5 hours, 10 minutes, the division commander begins to raise his compound after an alarm. But before the command of the army and the command of the army group managed to get information about the intentions of the French, thousands of guns had already rumbled at the front, and the attacking allied battalions, following the firing shaft, had already broken through the German outposts and the main resistance line, deeply wedged in the 9 position- th and 7 th armies.

If we trace the events at the front of the Staabs group, they looked as follows.

In the 5 hours of 15 minutes north of En, a very strong artillery fire was launched across the central and left-flank regiment of the 53-th Reserve Division, and after a quarter of an hour along the entire front of the 241 and 11-Bavarian infantry divisions. Observation points were smoked around the 53 reserve divisions to prevent the 53 reserve batteries from operating in the area south of En. In other areas, especially on the front of the 11 Bavarian Infantry Division, smoke bombs were also used by the French. Very soon, the German infantry demanded the opening of barrage fire.

The attack of the French began simultaneously with the discovery of hurricane fire - the infantry followed closely behind the firing shaft. Part of the French artillery opened fire on German batteries - and in some areas the shooting was corrected from numerous aircraft.

In the strip of the 53 reserve division, the 242 reserve infantry regiment, which occupied the central part of the division, was attacked only on its left flank (to the west of Nuvron village), while the 243 reserve infantry regiment located on the left flank division, was hit on its entire front. On the right flank of the 243 regiment, a cluster of French infantry was formed - on a plot in 300 m along the front and 100 m in depth. Attempts by the Germans to knock them out of this wedge failed.

Around 6 hours, thick infantry chains of French infantry wedged into the left flank of the 474 regiment of the 241 division. At the same time, the other chains, overturning the German outposts and running under the German barrage, which was quite rare (one battery had 400 - 500 m along the front), attacked the main resistance line. And it was taken almost without a fight - the French were moving very close behind their fiery rampart and, taking advantage of the high vegetation and morning fog, they captured the German positions. The machine-gun nests, located in the rear of the main resistance line, were also almost all taken aback and destroyed. The reserve battalion (1 Battalion of the 474 Infantry Regiment), standing near the south-western tip of the Pernan Gulch, turned round, but was attacked and overturned.

The commander of the 3 th battalion managed with the only remaining reserve company (11) at his disposal to detain the French for some time at the southern edge of the hollow of Le Soulier. Very successful was the deeply echeloned arrangement of machine guns - in a checkerboard pattern.

In the area of ​​the right-flank battalion (1), there was a struggle for the main line of resistance. In some places the French managed to break into it, but they were knocked out by the German counterattacks. But in the end, the advancement of the French forced the left flank back, and then withdraw the center of the 1 battalion of the 472 infantry regiment.

In the area north of the 473 regiment, the French attacked less vigorously. In this area, the French units, which had taken the initial position in Anblene and to the north of this village, suffered heavy losses from the German barrage, the effect of which was reinforced by artillery fire of the 53-th reserve division. But the French managed to break into the front line, and partly into the main resistance line.

The French units that had broken through on the site of the 474 regiment advanced in a northeastern direction - in the rear of the 472 infantry regiment and along the Pernant ravine. The units advancing in the rear of the 472 regiment stumbled upon Pernant's castle - in the latter there were the headquarters of the 472 and 474 regiments. After a short battle, the castle was taken by storm. Were captured and were in the ravine Pernan battery. In the 9 th battery of the 502 th field artillery regiment and in the 1 th battery of the 102 th heavy artillery regiment, some gun crews managed to disable the gun gates and then make their way to the east. The 8-th battery of the 502-th artillery regiment was surrounded and taken prisoner. The 6-th battery of the 48-th field artillery regiment detained the French for some time with fire - preventing them from moving along the Pernant ravine. Only after it was captured, the French were able to advance on the village of Pernant and on the eastern slope of the ravine.

The counterattack of the two companies of the 1 th battalion of the 473 th regiment, located in the brigade reserve on the slope to the west of the church in Pernan, was overdue: the companies were driven back to Pernant and moved to the height to the east of this village. Due to this fact, the French managed to capture the 4 and 5 of the 48 battery of the field artillery regiment - part of the gun crews of these batteries, pulling the gun gates, made its way to the east. But the further advance of the French into En valley was delayed by the fire of the 3 th battery of the 48 th artillery regiment located at the Pernan station, the 1 th battery of the 48 th and 7 th battery of the 502 th artillery regiment operating from the north coast of En.

To be continued
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  1. XII Legion
    XII Legion 24 January 2018 06: 40
    July 18, 1918 was a crucial day for both German and allied forces on the French front of World War I. Having felt and shaken the German defense, the Allies went on the offensive ...
  2. Rotmistr
    Rotmistr 24 January 2018 07: 02
    The Germans put on high-quality tactics, but the Allies did not disappoint either - wisely using the fire shaft and the specifics of the area (fog, high vegetation), they penetrated deeply into the German defense, which immediately began to assume a focal character.
    Plus tactical surprise - too late the information received from the defectors did not allow taking countermeasures, and the scouts behind the usual bustle did not make out preparations for the offensive.
    1. soldier
      soldier 24 January 2018 14: 36
      But the machine guns in a staggered manner allowed at least somehow to slow down the advance of the Allies deep into the line of the main resistance
  3. soldier
    soldier 24 January 2018 07: 20
    The cavalier of the order of Pur Le Merit J. von Eben was an experienced and honored general.
    He started the war as the head of the 30th Infantry Division of the 7th Army, and then headed the 10th Reserve Corps of the 2nd Army and the 1st Army Corps of the 8th Army.
    A participant in the battles in Galicia - when the forces of Eben, in collaboration with the Austrian 2nd Army, tried to counteract the development of the Brusilovsky offensive. He fought near Zborov. August 7, 1916 - commander of the Eben army group.
    He met the campaign in 1918 as a commander - taking the 9th army from E. Falkenhayn.
    1. Streletskos
      Streletskos 24 January 2018 09: 02
      Honored Generals
      Yes no luck to them
      1. soldier
        soldier 24 January 2018 13: 45
        At least they died in their beds)
        But their empires - yes, they did not save
  4. parusnik
    parusnik 24 January 2018 07: 31
    World War was coming to an end .....
    1. Streletskos
      Streletskos 24 January 2018 09: 03
      If only ...
      World War
      This is ours)
      In the sense of Russian))
      Permanent condition
  5. Blue cop
    Blue cop 24 January 2018 07: 58
    Thanks to the author for more than a detailed analysis of the critical operation.
    I am waiting for the continuation
    1. Streletskos
      Streletskos 24 January 2018 09: 04
      With both hands behind
  6. antivirus
    antivirus 24 January 2018 08: 30
    after 100 years we don’t know ..
    but it would be necessary --- in the cathedral of Reims, the Frenchman of the kings was crowned, and for those Frenchmen the “locality” had a different, not tactical
  7. Streletskos
    Streletskos 24 January 2018 09: 05
    In the photo, by the way, I noticed
    Well done
  8. Albatroz
    Albatroz 24 January 2018 11: 41
    part of the gun crews of these batteries, having taken out the gun locks, made its way to the east.

    This bowl touched the artillerymen of all countries
    Fire to the last
    Thank you interesting
    1. soldier
      soldier 24 January 2018 13: 47
      Yes, gunners are the elite of the armed forces
      Held on to the last
      After all, throwing guns is a great dishonor, only in the most extreme case. And it is desirable to disable
  9. Some kind of compote
    Some kind of compote 24 January 2018 13: 11
    One cycle of offensives (Germans) ended
    Another offensive cycle (Anglo-Franco-Americans) began
    An armory of powerful equipment and weary (except for the Yankees) soldiers.
    Fine good
  10. soldier
    soldier 24 January 2018 14: 32
    the soil had not yet had time to absorb the water from the past rainfall - it was still dripping from trees and bushes, and the winding streams that suddenly appeared along the edges of dirt and highway roads flowed down into noticeably swollen rivers flowing into En or Marne. Heavy soldier boots squished in the clay of field roads and wet meadow soil.

    Ernst Junger conveyed his impressions of the everyday life of the positional war of the French Front:
    "The fighting position ... surrounded the village in a semicircle, connecting with it a number of trenches. It was divided into two sections - Monshi-South and Monshi-West. These sections, in turn, were divided into six companies from A to F. The arched form of the position gave the British a good opportunity for flanking, and using it dexterously, they brought us great losses, they were helped by the cannon hidden right behind their line, firing with fine shrapnel, the flight and falling of which merged into a single sound. lead bullets, which required special watchfulness.
    Let us now go through the position itself, as it was at that time, in order to learn some common expressions.
    In order to penetrate the front line, for brevity called the trench, we must first step on one of the many approaches, the purpose of which is to cover the approach to the fighting position. Thus, these trenches, often many kilometers long, lead to an enemy camp, but in order not to be shelled along their entire length, they were digged in a zigzag or slightly curved manner.
    It is immediately clear that the military trench itself is different from the primitive structures that arose at the beginning of the war. This is no longer just a trench; its sole stretches at a depth of two or three human growths in untouched soil. Defenders, therefore, walk along it, as at the base of a mine; in order to inspect the area and open fire on it, they must climb stairs or wide wooden stairs to the fasting entrance, which looks like a long parapet that is dug into the ground so that standing on it rises above the ground to the height of its head. Each shooter stands at his post in a more or less fortified niche, hiding his head behind a packet of sand or a steel shield. Actually, the review is carried out through tiny embrasures, where the gun barrel will be inserted. Large masses of land, extracted from the trench, are folded behind the line in the form of a shaft, which serves simultaneously as a rear cover; machine-gun platforms towering above it are embedded in this earthen rampart. On the front side of the trench, on the other hand, the land is carefully cleared to make room for firing.
    In front of and along the trench, a fence is often broken, a network of tightly woven barbed wire that allows you to calmly shoot an invader from guard niches.
    The fence is entangled in tall grass, which has already populated the empty fields with new and foreign growth. Wild flowers, usually scattered alone among cereals, have now taken over the whole space; everywhere low bushes grew wildly. The trails dragged along the grass, but they are still clearly distinguished by the round leaves of the plantain spreading over them. In this more often the birds are free - be partridges, whose strange calling cry is often heard at night, or larks, whose polyphonic singing proclaims the space along with the first rays of the sun.
    To protect the trench from flanking, it was held meanderly, that is, as if bouncing back with uniform bends. These backward-bouncing sections form the cross members that take on the projectiles coming from the side. Thus, the fighter from the back is covered by the rear traverse, from the sides by the cross members, and the outer wall of the trench is called the parapet.
    Dugouts are intended for recreation, from simple earthen pits gradually grown into real, enclosed living quarters with beam ceilings and boardwalks. The dugouts are tall in human height and are so built into the ground that their floor lies flush with the sole of the trench. Thus, above the girder ceiling there is another, quite massive, earthen layer that can withstand light and medium hits. But with heavy shelling, this earthen tire easily takes on the same role as a brick plays in a mousetrap, and it’s better to hide somewhere deeper into the adit.
    The adits are reinforced with reliable wooden frames: the first is inserted at the height of the sole into the front wall of the trench and forms the entrance to the adit; each subsequent one is located thirty centimeters lower, so it soon reaches cover. This forms the staircase leading to the adit; thus, at the level of the thirtieth step, already nine, and taking into account the depth of the trench - even twelve meters of land above your head. Frames of a slightly larger size are attached to the stairs at a right angle; they form a living space. Cross connections create underpasses; Branches leading towards the enemy position are used for listening and demolition work.
    All together, one can imagine how a powerful, seemingly extinct earthen fortress outside, inside of which there is a regular guard and labor service and where in a matter of seconds after the military alert everyone is in place. However, one should not draw the local mood too romantic; rather, drowsiness and inertia reign there, a consequence of the close proximity of the earth.
    Section C, where the company was located, stood out more than others. Our company commander, Lieutenant Brecht, who hastily arrived from America at the beginning of the war, was the man who was most suitable for such a defense. His reckless nature was constantly looking for danger and eventually led him to a heroic death.
    Our trench life was measured. This was the routine of the day, unchanged for eighteen months, if only a regular skirmish did not develop into an attack from the air.
    The trench day begins at dusk. At seven o’clock, the man in my unit lifts me up from an afternoon nap that goes into my reserve on the eve of the night vigil. I fasten the belt, shove the rocket launcher and hand grenades into the sword belt and leave the relatively comfortable dugout. During the first passage of a well-known site, I check whether all sentries are in place. In a whisper we exchange passwords. Meanwhile, night falls; silver, the first illuminating rockets rise up, and tense eyes peer into the neutral band. A rat runs between cans lined up for shelter, another joins with a whistle, and soon snooping shadows crawling everywhere from the ruined village cellars or shot through adits. Hunting for them is a favorite pastime during a lonely guard. As a bait, you put a piece of bread and aim a gun at it, or you pour powder from unexploded ordnance into burrows and set it on fire. Squealing, scorched rats sneak out from there. These are disgusting creatures, I always have before their eyes their lascivious looting in the village cellars. Once, when on a warm night I walked around the ruins of Monsha, they erupted in such an incredibly powerful stream from their ambushes that the land looked like a living carpet, on which white albino skin was dotted. Cats shelled here from the ruined villages are also sheltered in the trenches - they enjoy the human proximity. "A large white cat with a shot front paw, like a ghost, snoops on nobody's land and, apparently, leads friendships with both of them."
    1. soldier
      soldier 24 January 2018 14: 34
      The passage is too big, but conveys the specifics of a positional war — through the eyes of a front-line soldier.
  11. Blue cop
    Blue cop 24 January 2018 15: 37
    That is why, on the French front, increased attention was paid to barrage and fire shaft, and these issues were carefully studied.
    By the 4th year of the war, infantry in the west forgot how to fight without artillery support
    1. Rotmistr
      Rotmistr 24 January 2018 15: 56
      You are right Blue Cop.
      Unlike fighting on the Eastern Front
      Here is what is written in the work of the German front-line officer V. Beckmann:
      "Until the revolutionary collapse of the front, the Russian infantry did not lose the ability to march
      to attack a fortified position, provided that the fire defense system of this position was not only not suppressed, but was not even significantly weakened. This phenomenon deserves to be noted, since there is reason to argue that at that time the infantry in the armies of the allies of Russia, as a rule, forgot how to attack and could only occupy those sections of the enemy’s position in which all resistance was suppressed by artillery training. The evidence of Russian war veterans who were at
      Western and Thessaloniki fronts. So, the head of our 2nd Special Brigade (Thessaloniki Front), General Diterichs in his report to the head of the Main Directorate, Gen. The Staff (November 10/23, 1916, No. 1066) on the reasons for the failure of the operation of the Franco-Russian units in late October and early November, as one of the main reasons for this failure, indicates "the loss by the French infantry and its chiefs of real activity, the desire to rely on when attacking exclusively on their suppressing fire. "This was the norm on the main French front
      with his powerful technique, but was unattainable on the Thessaloniki front, where the Allied firepower was comparatively weak.
      On the Russian-German front, both opponents to the end retained the ability to attack, despite the fire. "
      And examples of 2 such attacks (Russian and German) in December 1916 - January 1917 are given. on the Northern Front: at Kalnetsomsky Bridge and Machine Gun Hill
      1. Blue cop
        Blue cop 24 January 2018 16: 22
        Probably because our Special brigades in France during the Nivelles Massacre and achieved the greatest success - having exceeded all tasks, perleted forward like tanks
        1. Rotmistr
          Rotmistr 24 January 2018 16: 33
          Including yes
  12. Rotmistr
    Rotmistr 24 January 2018 19: 05
    The operation is notable for active fights in the air - including oncoming fights between fighters of the parties.
    For example, the French used aviation, which went in 3 echelons: the lower carried out assault operations, and the other two, respectively, covered the attack and struck at German attack aircraft and bombers.
    Of the 225 Allied tanks on the first day (for various reasons) 120 went out of order (more than 50%, and crew losses amounted to 25%) - and this despite the tactical surprise.
    In general, a very interesting and instructive operation.
    1. Blue cop
      Blue cop 24 January 2018 21: 42
      That's right.
      I read somewhere that the operations of 1918 greatly influenced the subsequent development of operational art - including for the construction of the Red Army.
  13. Head Physician
    Head Physician 26 January 2018 16: 38
    The concept of the shock army was developed.
    Brilliant minds
    Based on the experience of the 18th campaign