Military History Hundred Days Campaign of 1918
by
Nicholas Lloyd
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0173

Introduction

The Hundred Days is the name given to the final phase of the war on the Western Front between the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918 and the signing of the Armistice on the morning of 11 November. Compared to other periods of the Great War, this final campaign has attracted much less attention, with only a limited number of modern, scholarly, and accessible works being written. The main areas of debate concern the relative weight of fighting, tactics and tactical development, and the nature of German defeat. British accounts frequently emphasize the importance of operations conducted by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF)—particularly when compared to the declining French army—although much less is said about the role of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), which played an undoubtedly important role. Because most historians of this period tend to focus on one national contingent, there is little or no examination of other armies or what other contingents were doing. Another key area of study is the nature of tactical development, with a number of historians claiming that Allied forces had achieved tactical mastery over the German army by this point of the war and were able to conduct operations using an impressive combination of air power, armor, infantry, and artillery. The extent to which the German army was defeated in late 1918 has been the subject of considerable speculation. The claim that the German army was “stabbed in the back” has been often repeated, but has generally been regarded with great skepticism by historians. Nevertheless, the German story of the Hundred Days has been neglected, with most attention having been focused on the German Spring Offensive in March and April 1918 when huge gains were made, but which failed to achieve decisive victory. There is little doubt, however, that a combination of poor operational art, the sapping effects of the outbreak of Spanish flu, and the wearing-down effect of combined Allied offensives, eventually brought the German army to the brink of collapse in November 1918, and thus forced the hand of her leaders in seeking peace.

General Overviews

There are a number of good general overviews of this period, including Johnson 1998, Harris and Barr 1998, Terraine 1978, and Hart 2008, but most tend to analyze the events from the perspective of one national contingent—usually the British—while neglecting the roles played by other coalition partners. In the case of a number of British historians, they have been so keen to emphasize British success and tactical effectiveness that there has been little room to say much about the pivotal role played by the Americans. Recent work has begun to rectify this and useful detail on American involvement can be found in Lloyd 2013 and Stevenson 2011. Dennis and Grey 1999 are good on the role of Dominion forces in the fighting. Dallas 2000 provides a very broad and often moving account of the end of the war in 1918 and what followed.

  • Dallas, Gregor. 1918 War and Peace. London: John Murray, 2000.

    E-mail Citation »

    Monumental history of 1918–1919 with the narrative shifting from London to Paris, Berlin, Moscow, and Washington. Lengthy, superbly written, with excellent accounts of the transition from war to peace.

  • Dennis, Peter, and Jeffrey Grey. 1918 Defining Victory. Canberra, Australia: Army History Unit, 1999.

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    Proceedings of the Chief of Army’s History Conference, held at Canberra on 29 September 1998. Contains important chapters on the performance of British, Australian, and Canadian troops in 1918, a portrait of the British Expeditionary Force’s (BEF) generals on 29 September, and the “logistic imperative” of the Hundred Days.

  • Harris, John Paul, and Niall Barr. Amiens to the Armistice. London: Brassey’s, 1998.

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    Detailed operational history of the Hundred Days, focusing on the battles of BEF and arguing that the British and dominion contribution to victory was “without doubt the predominant one.”

  • Hart, Peter. 1918: A Very British Victory. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008.

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    Narrative history covering British operations in 1918 that draws heavily from the collections of the Department of Documents at the Imperial War Museum, London. Argues that the German army had no answer to the “all arms battle” conducted by the BEF.

  • Johnson, J. H. 1918: The Unexpected Victory. London: Arms & Armour, 1998.

    E-mail Citation »

    Explains how the First World War ended, with six chapters on the Hundred Days. Concludes that the Amiens offensive in August demonstrated “how far the British Army had progressed not only in the achievement of surprise but in the combination of all arms. . . in a simultaneous assault.”

  • Lloyd, Nick. Hundred Days: The End of the Great War. London: Penguin, 2013.

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    Wide-ranging narrative history based upon British, Canadian, US, French, and German archive sources. Argues that Allied combat effectiveness had improved enormously by the Hundred Days and explores in some detail the devastating nature of German defeat in November 1918.

  • Stevenson, David. With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918. London: Allen Lane, 2011.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674063198E-mail Citation »

    Extensive study of the final year of the war and how the Germans largely defeated themselves. Chapters examine strategy and tactics, intelligence, technology and logistics, as well as sea power, the war economies, and the politics of the home front.

  • Terraine, John. To Win a War: 1918 The Year of Victory. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1978.

    E-mail Citation »

    Stimulating retelling of the “great feats of arms” that won the war. Although heavily dependent upon a relatively limited set of published sources, Terraine’s account of 1918 remains a compelling and powerful study.

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