Tuesday 21 February 2017

Rumours of a German Retreat

Wednesday 21st February 1917 from our correspondent in the field

The 4th Bedfords are once more in the front line north of the River Ancre. They are in similar positions to last time.

Strange rumours are circulating around the army that the Germans may be on the cusp of retreating, or actually in retreat. Apparently enemy radio messages have been intercepted instructing wireless stations in the villages of Grévillers and Achiet-le-Petit as well as the town of Bapaume to close down and prepare to move back.

If so this is seen as vindication of the Battle of the Somme, begun in July last year, suspended in November and recommenced at the end of last month. Readers may remember that the town of Bapaume, which lies north-east of Albert along the old Roman road, was the main objective of the Somme offensive. If the enemy is now abandoning Bapaume and other ground the feeling is that they may at last be on the run and that brings the end of the war much closer(1)

Source: X550/5/3

(1) In fact the Germans were moving back to pre-prepared positions which they called the Siegfriedstellung and which the British christened the Hindenburg Line. This new line more or less directly south-east from a point just south of Arras to a spot south-east of Juvigny. By giving up ground, including the towns of Bapaume, Peronne, Roye and Ham and the cathedral city of Noyon, the Germans straightened their line meaning they had a shorter line to defend, thus using their man-power more effectively.

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