Battle of Epéhy
The Battle of Épehy was a World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 battle fought on 18 September 1918, involving the British Fourth Army
British Fourth Army
The Fourth Army was a field army that formed part of the British Expeditionary Force during the First World War. The Fourth Army was formed on 5 February 1916 under the command of General Sir Henry Rawlinson to carry out the main British contribution to the Battle of the Somme.-History:The Fourth...

 (under the command of General Henry Rawlinson
Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson
General Henry Seymour Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson, GCB, GCSI, GCVO, KCMG , known as Sir Henry Rawlinson, Bt between 1895 and 1919, was a British First World War general most famous for his roles in the Battle of the Somme of 1916 and the Battle of Amiens in 1918.-Military career:Rawlinson was...

) against German
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 outpost positions in front of the Hindenburg Line
Hindenburg Line
The Hindenburg Line was a vast system of defences in northeastern France during World War I. It was constructed by the Germans during the winter of 1916–17. The line stretched from Lens to beyond Verdun...



Field Marshal Douglas Haig
Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig
Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC, was a British senior officer during World War I. He commanded the British Expeditionary Force from 1915 to the end of the War...

 was not eager to carry out any offensives until the assault on the Hindenburg Line itself, influenced by mounting British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 losses from previous battles that year – over 600,000 casualties since March, 180,000 of those in the past six weeks. Rawlinson was kept reined in and advised by Haig to ensure his men were well rested for the eventual attack on the Line; however, when news arrived of the British Third Army
British Third Army
-First World War :The Third Army was part of the British Army during World War I and was formed in France on 13 July 1915. The battles it took part in on the Western Front included:*Battle of the Somme*Battle of Cambrai*Second Battle of Arras...

's victory at the Battle of Havrincourt
Battle of Havrincourt
- Notes :# - a mistake on the part either of Byng or of Repington, as it was actually the 62nd Division....

, Haig's mind was changed. On the day following the success at Havrincourt, 13 September, Haig approved Rawlinson's plan to clear German outpost positions on the high ground before the Hindenburg Line, and preparations began.


Very few tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s could be provided for the attack, so artillery would have to be relied upon to prepare the way, but in the interests of surprise they would not be able to provide a preliminary bombardment. The 1,488 guns would instead fire concentration shots at the operation's zero hour and support the infantry with a creeping barrage
Barrage (artillery)
A barrage is a line or barrier of exploding artillery shells, created by the co-ordinated aiming of a large number of guns firing continuously. Its purpose is to deny or hamper enemy passage through the line of the barrage, to attack a linear position such as a line of trenches or to neutralize...

. 300 machine guns were also made available. All three corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 of the Fourth Army were to take part, with V Corps of the Third Army on their left flank and on their right the French First Army
French First Army
The First Army was a field army of France that fought during World War I and World War II. It was also active during the Cold War.-First World War:...

 (under Marie Debeny). The objective consisted of a fortified zone roughly 3 miles (4.8 km) deep and 20 miles (32.2 km) long, supported by subsidiary trenches and strongpoints. The German Second
German Second Army
The 2nd Army was a World War I and World War II field army.-First World War:The 2nd Army during World War I, fought on the Western Front and took part in the Schlieffen Plan offensive against France and Belgium in August 1914...

 and Eighteenth
German Eighteenth Army
The 18th Army was a World War I and World War II field army.-World War I:The 18th Army was formed in 1918 by the German OHL and commanded by General Oskar von Hutier.-World War II:...

 Armies were defending the area.

On 18 September at 5.20am the attack opened and the troops advanced. The promised French assistance did not arrive, resulting in limited success for IX Corps on that flank. On the left flank, III Corps also found difficulty when attacking the fortifications erected at "the Knoll", Quennemont and Guillemont farms, which were held determinedly by German troops. The story was a different one in the centre of the advance, however, where General John Monash
John Monash
General Sir John Monash GCMG, KCB, VD was a civil engineer who became the Australian military commander in the First World War. He commanded the 13th Infantry Brigade before the War and then became commander of the 4th Brigade in Egypt shortly after the outbreak of the War with whom he took part...

's two Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n divisions achieved complete and dramatic success. These two divisions, the 1st
1st Division (Australia)
The 1st Division is the main formation of the Australian Army and contains the majority of the army's regular forces. Its headquarters is in Enoggera, a suburb of Brisbane...

 and 4th, had a strength of some 6,800 men and in the course of the day captured 4,243 prisoners, 76 guns, 300 machine guns and 30 trench mortars. They took all their objectives and advanced to a distance of about three miles (5 km), on a four mile (6 km) front. The Australian casualties were 1,260 officers and men (265 Killed, 1057 Wounded, 2 Captured). It should be pointed out, that this battle also saw the first mutiny
Mutiny is a conspiracy among members of a group of similarly situated individuals to openly oppose, change or overthrow an authority to which they are subject...

 of Australian forces, when 119 men of the Australian 1st Battalion refused to conduct an attack to help the neighbouring British unit. Rather than face charges of desertion
In military terminology, desertion is the abandonment of a "duty" or post without permission and is done with the intention of not returning...

 in the face of the enemy, they were charged with being AWOL (with all bar one soldier having their charges dropped after the armistice
Armistice with Germany (Compiègne)
The armistice between the Allies and Germany was an agreement that ended the fighting in the First World War. It was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest on 11 November 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not technically a surrender...


The attack closed as a Allied victory, with 11,750 prisoners and 100 guns being taken.


Although Épehy was not a massive success, it signalled an unmistakable message that the Germans were weakening and it encouraged the Allies to take further action with haste (with the offensive continuing in the Battle of St. Quentin Canal), before the Germans could consolidate their positions. However, the failure of the British III Corp to take their last objective (the outpost villages) would mean that the American forces involved in the next battle (the Battle of St. Quentin Canal) would face a difficult task due to a hurried attack prior to the battle.

Sometime after this battle, Rawlinson reported to Haig that German officers were saying frankly that "their men no longer wanted to face Australian soldiers", a consequence of their results at Épehy.
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