<– Part 209 – July 21, 1918 | Part 210 – July 28, 1918 | Part 211 – August 4, 1918

Gefreiter Hitler seated far right

Fighting ended at Soissons on July 22, with a decisive victory for the Allies on the Western Front. One German soldier, a Gefreiter Hitler, received the Iron Cross First Class, a rare honor for someone of his low rank (the equivalent of a US Private E-2). The Germans suffered 168,000 casualties (57,000 dead), and the Allies 107,000 (32,000 dead).

Elsewhere at the Second Marne, the Germans reached their defensive positions, and the Allies spent the week in costly attacks with minimal success.

<– Part 208 – July 14, 1918 | Part 209 – July 21, 1918 | Part 210 – July 28, 1918

Attack on the Marne

The final phase of Germany’s Spring Offensive, the second battle of Marne, began July 15. 52 German divisions attacked 58 Allied divisions along the Marne River near Paris. The artillery barrage to commence was scheduled for 12:10 am, but French aerial reconnaissance spotted the massing troops and began firing at 11:30pm, disrupting and unsettling the attackers. The eastern part of the front saw the French forward trenches nearly empty, and the German artillery hit no one; the German creeping barrage then outpaced the infantry as they encountered the main French line and were stopped, unable to advance further. To the west, much heavier artillery and poison gas fell for 3 hours before the German stormtroopers swam, waded, and boated across, taking a bridgehead. One US infantry regiment, the 38th, led by Ulysses G. McAlexander, held so strongly that both the commander and unit are now called the “Rock of the Marne,” as they not only held but also counterattacked. Nonetheless, despite the German bridgehead, this flank received nearly 100,000 reinforcements, stalling the German advance by July 17.

The Allies, led by Ferdinand Foch, had planned an attack on the 18th, as Foch had spotted weaknesses in the German lines. False plans were put into a suitcase, handcuffed to a soldier dead of pneumonia, who was placed in a jeep and run off the road near a German-held bridge. The plans were recovered by the Germans who prepared for the attack – leaving their weak points now even weaker when hit by surprise at 0445 that morning, as no artillery barrage preceded the attack, but instead, a rolling barrage began precisely at the Allies went over the top. The Allies took heavy casualties (including the Italian Corps losing 9,300 of 24,000 men), but by July 20 the Germans began to retreat. Floyd Gibbons, an American reporter with the US troops, remarked of the fresh American Expeditionary Force soldiers that “I never saw men charge to their death with finer spirit.” The lines intermingled, leading some American troops to find themselves technically behind enemy lines at Château-Thierry (where the Allies lost 1,900 to the German 5,300), but were able to reunite with other units and push the Germans back. The Allies haved seized the advantage, finally, on the Western front.

On July 17, fearing the nearby Czechoslovak legion and other loyalist troops, former Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, and children were awakened early in the morning and told they were being moved to a new location. They were taken to the basement and told to wait for the truck. Bolsheviks entered and told them that the soviet had ordered their immediate execution. Nicholas, facing his family, turned, saying “What? What?” before the Bolsheviks opened fire, filling the room with such smoke that none could see. The neighbors were awakened, and the commander ordered them to finish the execution with bayonets and clubs. When the smoke cleared, only the Tsar and his wife were dead, and only one child injured. The children were bayonetted, clubbed, and shot at close-range. The entire execution took nearly 20 minutes, as many of the guards were drunk and poor shots. The bodies were disposed of in a mine after being stripped, molested, and disfigured with acid.

On July 19, Honduras declared war on Germany.

On July 21SM U-156 surfaced near Orleans, Massachusetts, and opened fire on a nearby tug boat, damaging it and sinking 4 barges. It then began to shell the town, though most landed on the beach and nearby (empty) land. A boat with the United States Life-Saving Service rowed out under fire and rescued 32 sailors from the tug boat, before 9 seaplanes flew out and began to dive-bomb the sub, forcing it to withdraw. Additional counter-fire was provided by an angry civilian who fired on the sub from shore with a double-barrel shotgun. No casualties were reported. This marks the first time that US soil was attacked by foreign artillery since the siege of Fort Texas in 1846, and to-date is the only area to be attacked at all by the Central Powers. Additionally, this is the only time in US history [including to now, 2018] that US planes engaged an enemy ship in the western Atlantic.

In Persia, the British Army has captured large amounts of Mesopotamia and are preparing refugee camps for the Assyrians and Armenians. In Africa, members of the Zaian tribe killed a French translator, prompting public calls for retaliaion.

<– Part 207 – July 7, 1918 | Part 208 – July 14, 1918 | Part 209 – July 21, 1918

On July 12, Haiti declared war on the German Empire.

British Empire forces on the Jordan came under attack Sunday, July 14, at Abu Tellu. British observation posts along the front are spread very thin, yet strongly-held; British commanders view them as able to hold out for quite a while, even if surrounded, but unlikely to stop a concentrated assault. Temperatures have been increasing all week, with shade temperatures recorded at 115 Fahrenheit. Since 1am, troop movements have been heard. The first attack came at 03:30 on the western part of the front at Abu Tellu. The regimental commander in that sector had just moved his headquarters back, barely escaping capture. He observed large numbers of soldiers approaching him and assumed they were from the British outer posts pulling back until they began cutting the wire, prompting his 12 men to open fire. The German attacks on the eastern area have cut off many posts from all communication, yet the posts have held, even when surrounded, except for two that pulled back, and one that had all defenders killed. Yet the Ottomans on the German flanks have been unable to provide support, and the Germans find themselves in a crossfire from all directions, including the posts they had bypassed earlier. On the right flank of the German attack, one Ottoman force scaled a cliff to attack a British post, but the officer, holding incendiary bombs, was shot, “burst into flames,” and provided light for the British to see and shoot his men.

British reinforcements arrived, and, coupled with pinpoint British artillery, prompted the Germans to surrender to smaller units; one Australian advancing force of 9 men captured 40 Germans, put them into the custody of 2 of their force, and then captured another 80 Germans with the remaining 7. By 0800, the majority of the front had been retaken, though some front posts suffered nearly 85% casualties, losing 17 of their 20 men. At the Wadi Mellaha, large enemy forces seen at dawn were attacked twice by elements of an Australian Light Horse regiment troop; an officer led 14 men with bombs to within 20 yards of 150 Germans, and each Australian took a prisoner. 2 hours later, the same officer led 20 men against Ottoman forces, attacking with bayonets and bombs. 3 of them were wounded, while they killed 25 Ottomans, wounded 30, captured 45, and forced the rest to retreat 1,000 yards. All told, the western bank of the Jordan saw 6.5 hours of heavy hand-to-hand fighting, and took 450 prisoners, while the Australians suffered 108 casualties.

On the eastern bank of the Jordan, large Ottoman cavalry movements were attacked by elements of the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade several times, spoiling the movements, killing many Ottomans with their lances, and taking many horses, while suffering 28 casualties over the course of the morning. Emboldened, other cavalry elements began crossing the Jordan and attacking in the early afternoon, pushing the Ottomans back and providing cover for machine guns to advance and force the Ottomans farther back.

All told, the Germans and Ottomans suffered 540 prisoners and 1,000 casualties, while the British suffered 189. Also on display is the German-Ottoman relations’ serious deterioration following Ensha Pasha’s attack on Russia in May, violating the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The Germans and Ottomans in field hospitals have to be separated on both sides to prevent fighting. The German see the Ottomans as sub-par and having let them down, while the Ottomans see the Germans as arrogant, and are envious of their being well-supplied. The Germans have good uniforms, boots, water, and medical supplies, while the Ottoman uniforms are falling apart, many have rags on their feet, and they are forced to forage for food and water. Also on display is the Australian cavalry’s abilities here; while British forces from other nations have proven themselves elsewhere, this victory by Australian cavalry, facing German stormtroopers for the first time on this front, has cemented their reputation as more than convicts and would-be soldiers.

<– Part 206 – June 30, 1918 | Part 207 – July 7, 1918 | Part 208 – July 14, 1918

American, Australian, and British troops the day before the battle

The concentrated artillery barrage, with German flares going up.

Following extensive planning and preparation by the commander of the Australian Corps, Lieutenant General John Monash, fighting at Hamel village began. The planning included two weeks of artillery barrages at the same time before dawn, getting the Germans “conditioned” to it, plans for medical supplies and ammunition to be dropped by planes, and tanks to be used for resupply. Other tanks, for the attack, have been painted colors for each battalion to help the infantry know which tank to follow. The plan calls for combined battalions of Australian, English, and American infantry, and the battle will begin July 4 out of deference to the Americans.

June 3, at 22:30, the British tanks began rolling to the front; engineers cut the wire for them while infantry marked tracks for the tank advance. At 3:02 a.m. on the 4th, the artillery opened fire with gas and artillery shells, as usual, prompting the Germans to enter the routine of putting on gas masks – limiting their visibility, maneuverability, and ability to communicate. The artillery also served to mask the sound of 60 tanks moving the last half mile to the front. The guns gradually shortened their range for the next 8 minutes to reach the start line, dropped smoke screens on the flanks, and pounded an area covering 200-600 yards from the infantry. The infantry rose en masse at 3:10 and advanced to within 75 yards of the artillery (some killed by shortfalls of shells), after which both began advancing together.

The Pear Trench, with dead German machinegunner in the center. The Allies advanced up, over, and down the hill to the right.

British RE8 plane plummeting to the ground after its engine was hit by a faulty shell

The center of the line was the “Pear Trench,” a German strong point. Artillery problems had failed to cut the wire, so the Australian troops were forced to do so while under fire from the German Maxim machine guns. High crops forced the Allied Lewis gunners to fire from the hip, suppressing German fire while sacrificing accuracy and suffering heavy casualties. The Australians were finally able to rush two German positions; another opened up on the flank, when Private Henry Dalziel charged with a revolver, killing the 2-man German crew and capturing another. Fighting became chaotic; some Germans attempted to surrender while others attack, so the call for no-quarter was given.


To the south, at the “Kidney Trench” (also named for its shape), the Australian commander and sergeant-major were killed. Lance-Corporal Thomas Axford led the attack with multiple grenades thrown, then stormed the German trench at bayonet point, killing 10 Germans and capturing 6 others, before the trench was finally taken. At the actual village of Hamel, the combined infantry/armor/artillery/planes proved effective as well. To the north, a feint attack succeeded in pulling German forces away from the main battle; it also captured parts of the German trench. The advance ended after 93 minutes, only 3 minutes longer than Monash’s calculations. Mopping-up operations had ended by 7am; British planes had taken pictures of the new front lines by 4:45am. The German counter-attack came the evening of July 5 at 10pm, forcing a gap of 200-yards between the Allies; an Allied counterattack four hours later with grenades and trench clubs pushed the shocked German troops back out. Altogether, the 7,000 Allies suffered 1,400 casualties, while the 5,600 German lost 2,000 killed, 1,600 captured.

“Jack” Axford, 1918


Henry Dalziel, with bandage visible under his hat, 1918

On July 6, US President Woodrow Wilson agreed to send 5,000 US troops to Siberia to assist the Russian Imperial government and provide relief to the Czechoslovak Legion. The US Navy is also conducting mining operations in the North Sea to hinder German submarine movements.


View west from the German trench towards Hamel and beyond. The German front line had originally been at the crest of the hill in the mid-distance; the trench in the foreground became 200-yards BEHIND the new front line after the battle (the front line is now behind the photographer)