Thursday 8 August 1918 We Lost 2,507
The Battle of Amiens begins in a dense fog at 04:20. Under General Rawlinson’s Fourth Army, the British III Corps attacks north of the Somme, the Australian Corps to the south of the river in the center of Fourth Army’s front, and the Canadian Corps to the south of the Australians. The French 1st Army opens its preliminary bombardment at the same time and begins its advance 45 minutes later, supported by a battalion of 72 Whippet tanks. The attack is so unexpected that German forces only begin to return fire after five minutes. In the first phase, seven divisions attacked: the British 18th (Eastern) and 58th (2/1st London), the Australian 2nd and 3rd and the Canadian 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The Canadian and Australian attackers are supported by eight battalions of the Royal Tank Corps, with a paper strength of 216 Mark V and 72 Mark V tanks, with 48 unarmed tanks used as supply-carrying tractors. Parts of the American 33rd Division support the British attackers north of the Somme.
The attackers capture the first German position, advancing about 4,000 yards by about 07:30. In the center, supporting units following the leading divisions attack the second objective a further two miles on. Australian units reach their first objectives by 07:10 and by 08:20 the Australian 4th and 5th and the Canadian 4th divisions pass through the initial hole in the German line. The third phase of the attack is assigned to infantry-carrying Mark V tanks. However, the infantry is able to carry out this final step unaided. The Allies penetrate well to the rear of the German defenses and cavalry now continue the advance, one brigade in the Australian sector and two cavalry divisions in the Canadian sector. Royal Air Force and armoured car fire keeps the retreating Germans from rallying.
The Canadian and Australian forces in the center advance quickly, pushing the line 3 miles forward from its starting point by 11:00. The speed of their advance is such that a party of German officers and some divisional staff are captured while eating breakfast. A gap 15 miles long is punched in the German line south of the Somme by the end of the day. There is less success north of the river, where the British III Corps has only a single tank battalion in support, the terrain is rougher and a German incursion on two earlier disrupted some of the preparations. Although the attackers gain their first objectives, they are held up short of the Chipilly spur, a steep wooded ridge. The British Fourth Army takes 13,000 prisoners while the French capture a further 3,000. Total German losses are estimated to be 30,000 today. The Fourth Army’s casualties are approximately 8,800, exclusive of tank and air losses and their French allies.
German general Erich Ludendorff described the first day of Amiens as the “Schwarzer Tag des deutschen Heeres” (“the black day of the German Army”), not because of the ground lost to the advancing Allies, but because the morale of the German troops had sunk to the point where large numbers of troops began to capitulate. He recounted instances of retreating troops shouting “You’re prolonging the war” at officers who tried to rally them. Five German divisions have effectively been engulfed. Allied forces pushed, on average, 7 miles into enemy territory by the end of today. The Canadians gain 8 miles, Australians 7 miles, British 2 miles, and the French 5 miles.
Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) Conway Macalister Farrell attacks enemy troops and transport with machine gun fire and bombs. Having silenced a machine gun, he attacks some transport, driving off the personnel. Later he attacks a dump and carries out a reconnaissance in an area where our cavalry is reported to be held up, rendering a most valuable report of the situation. Eventually, in a combat with about forty scouts, he is shot down near Warfusee at 15:05.
Today’s losses include:
- A Victoria Cross winner
- Multiple battalion commanders
- Multiple families that will lose two, three and four sons in the Great War
- A man who has two brothers killed serving the United States Army
- A man whose brother in killed in the same battle and family receives notification within hours of each death
- 5 and 6 victory aces
- Multiple sons of members of the clergy
- A nephew of Baron Estcourt
- A son of the Marquis de Roussy de Sales
- A member of the Royal North West Mounted Police
- The son of a Justice of the Peace
- An Australian Rules Footballer
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Temporary Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Bushell VC DSO (commanding 7th Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment) is killed in action at age 29 south of Morlencourt, Somme. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions west of St Quentin Canal on 23 March 1918.
- Lieutenant Colonel Elmer Watson Jones DSO (commanding 21st Eastern Ontario Regiment) is killed in action at age 44.
- Captain Norman MacLeod MacLean (Quebec Regiment) is killed in action at age 27. Two brothers are also killed in the Great War one Lieutenant Donald was killed in July 1917.
- Captain Alexander Watson Baird MC (Canadian Infantry) is killed in action. He is the son of the late James Baird KC.
- Captain Michael Edward Gonne MC (Royal Air Force) is killed at ag e19. He is a five victory ace.
- Lieutenant Arthur Charles Sotheron Estcourt MC (Royal Air Force) is killed at age 26. He is the son of the Reverend E W Sotheron Estcourt and nephew of George Sotheron-Estcourt 1st Baron Estcourt.
- Captain Eric Guy Brookes (Worcestershire Regiment attached Royal Air Force) is killed in action at age 24. He is a six victory ace.
- Lieutenant Frederick George Brian Cobham (Cambridgeshire Regiment) is killed at age 21. He is the son of the Reverend George Henry Cobham Rector of Guisborough.
- Lieutenant Thomas Stuart Nash (Royal Air Force) dies of wounds received during a combat with five Fokkers at age 29. He is the son of the Reverend Cecil William Nash.
- Lieutenant Arthur Hackforth-Jones (Gloucestershire Regiment attached Royal West Kent Regiment) is killed at age 23. He is the son of F W Hacakworth-Jones JP.
- Lieutenant Robert M Finlayson (Cameron Highlanders) is killed. One brother was killed last month serving in the Seaforth Highlanders while two more will be killed this year serving in the U S Army.
- Lance Sergeant Count Antoine de Roussy de Sales (Lord Strathcona’s Horse and the Royal North West Mounted Police) is killed in action at age 24. His is the son of the Marquis de Roussy de Sales.
- Sergeant Charles Henry Smith DCM (Worcestershire Regiment) is killed in action at age 28. His brother died of wounds received in action less than six weeks before him.
- Corporal Patrick Calder (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed in action at age 20. His two brothers have previously died in the Great War.
- Lance Corporal John Buridge Murray (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 33. His brother was killed in September 1915.
- Lance Corporal William Lang (Dublin Fusiliers) is killed in action at age 34 one week after his brother in law was killed. Another brother in law was killed in July 1917 and a third will die in the Auchengeich Pit mine disaster on the 17 September 1959.
- Private Robert Savage (Dublin Fusiliers) is killed in action at age 31. His brother was killed in March1917.
- Gunner Charles Hills (Canadian Field Artillery) is killed at Hangard Wood at age 29. His brother was killed last March.
- Private Frank Parsons age 24 (Western Ontario Regiment) is killed on the same day his brother Private Wallace Parsons age 22 is killed in the same battle. Official notification of the two losses reaches their parents a few hours apart.
- Private Fred Fielding (Australian Infantry) is killed at Bretonneux at age 28. He is an Australian rules footballer who scored 10 goals while playing in 18 games for South Melbourne and Collingwood.
- Private Edmund Wallace Allen (Central Ontario Regiment) is killed at age 23 during the capture of Marcelcave. His brother was killed in August 1917.
- Private Albert Ballard (Quebec Regiment) is killed at age 19. His brother was killed three years and two days ago.
- Air Mechanic C W S Robertson (Royal Air Force) dies of injuries received in a flying accident at age 22. His brother was killed in May 1917.
- Private Frederick Samuel Jones (Western Ontario Regiment) is killed at age 21. His brother was killed in September 1916.
- Private Frederick Key (Suffolk Regiment) is killed at age 24. He is the last of three brothers who lost their lives in the Great War.