The Germans are being pushed back in the Somme sector. Bapaume fell a few days ago but German troops are still holding out in the town of Péronne, where Marwitz, the local German commander, hopes to halt the Allied advance. The western approaches to Péronne run through marshy ground, with this whole area a death trap for Australian troops attempting to advance here, as the marshes can only be crossed on narrow duckboards, on which they are extremely vulnerable to German gunfire.
Monash, the Australian commander, decides against a direct assault on Péronne. Instead he attempts to outflank it from the north. The way here is barred by Mont St. Quentin. This strongly defended position ought to be impregnable, but somehow the Australians manage to storm it in the early hours of the morning. The way is now clear for them to take Péronne from behind, forcing the Germans to begin a retreat from their stronghold. Marwitz’s plan to hold the Allies here has come to naught.
Allied successes in the Somme are leaving German positions to the north exposed. They now begin to withdraw from the territory captured in the second phase of their spring offensives, signalling the final death of Ludendorff‘s pipe dream of a war-winning Flanders offensive.
The success of the recent battles is causing Foch‘s ambitions to grow. Initially the Allied generalissimo was thinking of just pushing the Germans back from key rail hubs like Amiens and Hazebrouck. Now he is more firmly thinking of launching a series of offensives that will definitively smash the enemy. While the British advance towards Cambrai, the French can attack in the Aisne. And what of the Americans, continuously arriving in ever greater numbers? Pershing, their commander, is insistent that they must operate as a single force and not be used as piecemeal reinforcements elsewhere. Foch now accedes to his wishes, proposing that the Americans firstly attack the enemy’s St. Mihiel salient and then, together with the French, attack in the Meuse-Argonne sector. Foch hopes that these battles will so shatter the Germans that they will be unable to continue resistance for long into 1919.
Australian soldiers prepare to attack (The Western Front: Australians on the Western Front – Mont St Quentin and the 2nd Division AIF)
Capture of Mont Saint Quentin, by Fred Leist (Wikipedia: Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin)