Operation Michael was a major German military offensive during the First World War that began the Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918. It was launched from the Hindenburg Line, in the vicinity of Saint-Quentin, France. Its goal was to break through the Allied (Entente) lines and advance in a north-westerly direction to seize the Channel ports, which supplied the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and to drive the BEF into the sea. Two days later General Ludendorff, the Chief of the German General Staff, changed his plan and pushed for an offensive due west, along the whole of the British front north of the River Somme. This was designed to separate the French and British Armies and crush the British forces by pushing them into the sea. The offensive ended at Villers-Bretonneux, to the east of the Allied communications centre at Amiens, where the Allies managed to halt the German advance; the German Armies had suffered many casualties and were unable to maintain supplies to the advancing troops.
Much of the ground fought over was the wilderness left by the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The action was therefore officially named by the British Battles Nomenclature Committee as The First Battles of the Somme, 1918, whilst the French call it the Second Battle of Picardy (2ème Bataille de Picardie). The failure of the offensive marked the beginning of the end of the First World War for Germany. The arrival in France of large reinforcements from the United States replaced Entente casualties but the German Army was unable to recover from its losses before these reinforcements took the field. Operation Michael failed to achieve its objectives and the German advance was reversed during the Second Battle of the Somme, 1918 (21 August – 3 September) in the Allied Hundred Days Offensive.
21st march order received to move at short notice. At about 5.15pm battn marched to Guillaucourt where they entrained. Detrained at Brie at midnight
22nd battn marched for 6 hours to take up position on the “green line” near Hancourt. 4th East Yorks on right 5th DLI on left. The 66th division retired through our line which then became the front line. At 6:30PM the 5th DLI on our left were pressed back and our left company started to retire. Lt Col BH Charlton and the adjutant corporal JS Bainbridge went up to rally them and were both killed.
A new line of defence was established in some old trenches in rear of battn HQ at Hancourt
23rd early in the morning orders were received to retire to a line running from Vraignes to Bouvincourt, where the 4th East Yorks and the 5th yorks were in the line and the 4th yorks were in support.
During the morning orders were received to retire on a prepared line on the river somme. The retirement of the 4th east yorks and the 5th yorks was covered by the 4th yorks who fought a rear enemy action all the way back to le mesnil-bruntel
On the reaching the river somme the BGC ordered one company to hold the high ground east of brie until all british troops were through brie. Afterwards this company covered the retirement of the other troops across the river somme and held the enemy in check until all the bridges except one had been destroyed. They then withdrew across this bridge which was immediately destroyed. The battn, less the company which had covered the retirement, joined the rest of the bde at Villers-carbonnel. The other company went to the transport lines at belloy-en-santere where they rested for the night.
24th in the afternoon the bttn was ordered to report to the 24th bde for duty and marched to Marchelpot, where we spent the night
25th in the morning the bbtn with the 4th east yorks on our left was ordered to attack the enemy who had crossed the river somme by st Christ bridge. This attack was to be supported by some French troops, one tank, some armoured cars and an artillery barrage, but nothing was ever seen of any of these. Zero hour was continually postphoned, until about 10am the enemy attacked. Our line was held until the enemy worked round our flanks. Our line at this time was east of Licourt
25th one company of the battn fought on until they were surrounded. The remainder fell back about half a mile in the direction of Misery where they held an old trench for seven hours. About 6pm as touch could not be obtained with any other unit and as ,S’AA was running short, lt col Wilkinson of the 4th east yorks, who had taken over command of the detachment, ordered a retirement to the railway line NW of Misery, after about half an hour a further retirement was ordered to a line east of fresnes. During the evening touch was obtained with 150th bde and orders were received to join the remainder of the bde at Ablaincourt, which place was reached about midnight.
26th. Early in the afternoon the bde withdrew through Lihons to rosieres-en-s’anterre, which place was reached about 5pm. The bde dug in here facing SE and held this positionthroughout the night and all of the following day. We were in support, with the 4th east yorks on our left. The 5th yorks and the 8th DLI were in the front line
27th throughout the morning the enemy attacked the position taken up on the 26th, but was repulsed. Towards the evening the enemy pushed up on the north of rosieres and we sent two platoons to reinforce the line on the left. These platoons with the exception of 1 officer and 2 OR eventually became casualties