HINDENBURG LINE

HINDENBURG LINE
12 SEPTEMBRE - 12 OCTOBRE 1918 / SEPTEMBER 12TH - OCTOBER 12TH 1918

 

 

 

 

 

La ligne Hindenburg est un vaste système de défenses et de fortifications au nord-est de la France pendant la Première Guerre mondiale. Il est construit par les forces arméesallemandes pendant l'hiver 1916-1917. La ligne s'étend sur près de 160 km de Lens, près d'Arras (Pas-de-Calais), à l'Aisne, près de Soissons.

The Hindenburg Line (Siegfriedstellung) was a German defensive position of World War I, built during the winter of 1916–1917 on the Western Front, from Arras to Laffaux, near Soissons on the Aisne. In 1916, the Brusilov Offensive had inflicted huge losses on the Austro-Hungarian armies in Russia and forced the German eastern armies to take over more of the Eastern Front. The declaration of war by Romania had placed additional strain on the German war economy and army. The German offensive at the Battle of Verdunhad been a costly failure and Anglo-French attacks on the Western Front had inflicted serious losses on the German army, during the French counter-offensive at Verdun and the joint offensive on the Somme. Construction of the Hindenburg Line had begun in September 1916 and was intended to counter an anticipated increase in the power of Anglo-French attacks in 1917.

The shorter defensive position behind the Noyon Salient was built to contain an Allied breakthrough and make possible a deliberate withdrawal to prepared positions, which would also economise on manpower. By destroying the infrastructure and demolishing civilian buildings in the salient before a withdrawal, the Germans would dislocate Allied offensive preparations, by forcing them to advance into a "desert". The Anglo-French armies would have to rebuild roads, bridges and railways in the abandoned area, which would take about eight weeks. A shorter Western Front could be held with fewer troops and by incorporating the lessons of the defence of the Somme, troop dispersal, reverse-slope positions, defence in depth and camouflage, German infantry casualties could be reduced in 1917. While the German army recuperated from the losses of 1916, protected by the Hindenburg Line and similar defensive positions on the rest of the western front, a return to unrestricted submarine warfare and a strategic bombing offensive against Britain were planned.

The Hindenburg Line was built as a precaution, rather than as part of a policy of withdrawal but by the beginning of 1917, the strategic situation made a retirement inevitable. The German manpower shortage on the Western Front was acute, despite the transfer of divisions from Russia, which increased the number of divisions on the Western Front to 133 on 25 January 1917. Greater production of explosives, ammunition and weapons by the German war economy, to provide the means by which the Allied materialschlacht (battle of equipment) could be countered, had been ordered in the Hindenburg Programme of August 1916. Production had not sufficiently increased over the winter, with only 60% of the programme expected to be fulfilled by the summer of 1917. The Germanfriedensangebot (peace initiative) of December 1916, had been rejected by the Entente and the Auxiliary Service Law of December 1916, intended to further mobilise the civilian economy, had failed to supply the expected additional labour for war production. The retirement took place as part of the Alberich Bewegung (Operation Alberich or Alberich Manoeuvre) from February–March 1917, after local withdrawals on the Somme front, had been forced on the 1st Army by British attacks up the Ancre valley, in January and February.

35-day Alberich timetable was prepared, for the plan to abandon the Noyon Salient. Infrastructure in the salient was destroyed and buildings demolished from 9 February – 15 March. The Anglo-French armies were not able seriously to interfere with the German retirement, which began on 16 March but construction of the Hindenburg Line was incomplete and parts were poorly sited, having been built according to the obsolete principle of a long field of fire, which forced the Germans to fight delaying actions in outpost villages for longer than anticipated.[Note 1] News of the demolitions and condition of the French civilians left behind, were serious blows to the prestige of the German empire in neutral countries. Labour was transferred south in February 1917, to work on the Hundingstellung, from La Fère to Rethel and on the forward positions on the Aisne front, which the Germans knew were due to be attacked by the French armies. Divisions released by Operation Alberich and other reinforcements, increased the German armies on the Aisne front to38 divisions by early April. The Hindenburg Line was attacked several times in 1917, notably at St. Quentin, Bullecourt, the Aisne and Cambrai and was broken in September 1918, during the Hundred Days Offensive.

TUÉ AU COMBAT / KILLED IN ACTION
BLESSÉ / WOUNDED IN ACTION

 

MÉDAILLÉS / AWARD A MEDAL
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