Today, Duncan looks at another blast from the past; Flames of War Great War – the Germans.
Hi Duncan here and today I’m going to look at the other side to my latest side project – The Great War and specifically the Germans.
Last time I looked at the new boys to the Western Front in 1918 with the Doughboys of the Americans – 10,000 of them arriving a week boosting the morale of the Entente – this time I’m going to look at their foes across the trenches and the last enormous effort of the German army to break the French and British decisively in the great Kaiserschlacht (Kaiser’s Battle), of spring 1918.
The collapse of the Russia Empire and the subsequent Treaty of Brest-Litovsk – possibly one of the most lopsided agreements ever signed – freed up nearly 50 battle hardened divisions which could arrive on the Western Front before the Americans could decisively tip the balance in terms of man power and matériel. The commander of the German forces – Field Marshal Eric Ludendorff – knew it!
The 1918 Spring Offensive or Kaiserschlacht also known as the Ludendorff Offensive, was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during the First World War, beginning on 21 March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914. It is generally seen as the turning point from Trench Warfare back to Open Warfare and the casualty rates on all sides reflect this.
There were four German offensives, codenamed Michael, Georgette (originally George but was scaled back hence Georgette), Gneisenau and Blücher-Yorck.
Michael was the biggest attack, which was intended to break through the Allied lines, outflank the British forces which held the front from the Somme River to the English Channel and defeat the British Army. Once this was achieved, it was hoped that the French would seek armistice terms. The other offensives were subsidiary to Michael and were designed to divert Allied forces from the main offensive on the Somme. Michael was the last great roll of the dice for the German – they put everything they possibly could into this offensive including new weapons, tactics and training. The German army of 1918 could be considered a proto-WW2 army; the basic infantryman looks almost identical, the fire and move tactics of the German troops are in essence the same as those adopted by every army in the Second World War – it is the high water mark for the German forces in WW1 and they will come desperately close to winning the Great War.
These German offences pushed the Allies to the very brink of shattering only to peter out at the critical moment – they needed a strong exploitation arm to replace the now obsolescent horse mounted cavalry divisions but the weapon system that was to provide that arm was woefully short of being ready to fulfil that role; that system was the Tank.
There were however some stunning, by the benchmark of the time, successes during Operation Michael. The foggy conditions led the new Stormtrooper tactics of the Germans to penetrate deep into the British positions undetected, flame throwers made a mockery of the trench systems that had proved such an obstacle since 1915 and the horrific effect of Colonel Georg Bruchmüller’s artillery tactic of the “fire-waltz” delivering a deadly cocktail of high explosives, smoke, tear gas, and poison gas to maximise disruption and minimise the grounds destruction.
Ultimately Michael and the offences that followed it served only to starve the German army of its final reserves of experienced, motivated manpower and fatefully the very speed of the advance became its undoing, as supply lines became stretched and vulnerable leading ultimately to the 100 Days Campaign that followed and the capitulation of the German war effort.
In practical terms for Flames of War I managed to pick up the German Starter set “Blitz Battlegroup” from eBay for a very reasonable £30. The set includes:
- Infanterie Kompanie HQ with 2 x Command Teams, 3 x Anti-Tank Rifle Teams, 3 x Flamethrower Teams and 2 x Granatenwerfer mortar teams and a single sniper team.
- 2 Infanterie Platoons comprising of 1 x Command Team, 6 x Rifle Teams and 2 x MG Teams.
- 1 Infanterie Machine-gun Platoon comprising of 1 x Command Team and 4 x Maxim Machine-gun Teams
- 1 Infantry Gun Platoon comprising of 1 x Command Team and 2 x 7.62cm Krupp IG Teams
- Panzer Platoon comprising of 2 x AV7 Tanks
Now there were only 20 AV7s ever produced – which is a tiny number! By comparison the French manufactured over 3,500 Renault FT tanks and the British 2,500 Mk I – V tanks so I think that the AV7s will only make limited appearances in my forces (even though they are beautiful models!)
Unfortunately real life has taken its toll on my gaming time at the minute and painting is a luxury that has fallen by the wayside but my enthusiasm for this project meant I couldn’t just leave it alone! I decided to do the only thing that I felt I could and I outsourced the painting of the Germans and the coming US troops to Paul at Inside Out Terrain. He’s done a smashing job and all the figures in this article are the product of his very talented brush.
I’m hoping to play a game with the US and Germans and compile an AAR very soon and I will probably pop a short post up with some images of the US as they are equally as pretty as the Germans.