Battle Of Noyon - Encyclopedia




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"BATTLE OF. NOYON - The battle of Noyon, in the course of the last German offensive on the western front, was fought on June 9-13 1918.

The operative situation of the Germans between the Oise and the Marne was at that time as follows. The new wedge-like German positions, won in the battle of Soissons-Reims, and pushed southwards, afforded favourable targets for hostile attacks with their deep flanks at Reims and opposite the wooded heights of Reims, and also S.W. of Soissons and opposite the wooded district of Villers-Cotterets. Strategically, therefore, it was desirable to bring the German positions on both sides of the Oise into the general line Montdidier-Chateau-Thierry, at least on the right wing, by the capture of the wooded heights between the Oise and the Aisne and N. of Villers-Cotterets, thus improving the strategic situation on the front between the Marne and the Oise. The capture of Reims and its wooded heights also became a more pressing operative necessity on account of the difficulties of bringing up supplies to the troops standing on the Marne.

From the operative point of view it would have been desirable for the XVIII. Army to have advanced to the attack simultaneously with the VII. Army, but this had not been possible on account of the want of sufficient material for the attack. The attack of the XVIII. Army could be carried out only in succession to that made by the VII. Army; it was to be delivered from the front Montdidier-Noyon with the right wing against Mery, with the middle and left wing against the very strong positions on the heights W. of the Oise, and to be supported by a simultaneous attack by the VII. Army from the country S.W. .of Soissons, and in this way to compel the French to give up their positions between the Oise and the Aisne. The attack, commencement of which was originally fixed for June 7, had to be put off to June 9, as the artillery preparations could not be finished in time. This was the more disadvantageous as the French (to whom, as appeared later, the whole undertaking in all its details had been betrayed some days earlier by deserters) gained time, by bringing up and placing sufficient reserves, to prepare themselves for the attack and to disturb the German preparations by systematic artillery fire.

Of the XVIII. Army the IX., XVII. and VIII. Army Corps and the XXXVIII. Res. Corps, with a total of 18 attacking divisions, were to take part in the attack. The IX. Corps, standing on the right wing of the attacking troops, was on its part to maintain the connexion with the III. Army Corps and its own old positions, while the XXXVIII. Res. Corps advancing on the left wing was to advance first along the Oise and later to attempt to cross the river in an easterly direction. The fighting task of the centre corps, the XVII. and VIII. Army Corps, was a determined push straight against the enemy. In spite of the hindrance caused by the French artillery fire the preparations for the attack were successfully completed on the evening of the 8th. The attack itself began in the early morning of the 9th.

The German artillery preparation was on this occasion also fixed for the night hours. The French response, in consequence of their expectation of the German attack, was considerable over the whole front, stronger than at the attack on the Chemin des Dames. At 4:20 A.M. the infantry advanced to the attack. They met with stiff resistance, especially on the right German wing, where the French had brought up strong reserves. In spite of the prevailing thick mist and the impossibility of observation in the forest country, which made the disposition and leading of the infantry very much more difficult, the whole French system was successfully penetrated in the course of the day and progress made beyond it. On the right wing the IX. Corps on the evening of the 9th retained the village of Rubecourt, temporarily lost, in spite of the most violent French counter-attacks. The two centre corps had reached the line Courcelles-Cuvilly-Mareuil, while the XXXVIII. Res. Corps had established itself in possession of the woods S. of Orval. June 10 saw a remarkable success on the left German wing, due to the wheeling-in of sections of the VIII. Corps against the flank of the French troops standing opposite the XVIII. Corps, which opened up for this corps the advance to Cambronne and Ribecourt. Weak sections of this corps pushed forward from here eastwards over the Oise, while the two centre corps, after the capture of Marqueglise, pushed forward to both sides of Antheuil. Under the pressure of the attack of the left wing of the XVIII. Army, the French in the night of June 10-11 evacuated the woods of Carlepont before the right wing of the VII. Army.

The right wing of the XVIII. Army fought fiercely on June 10 at Courcelles and Mery without being able to make further progress, as the French had more and more made this front the centre of their resistance.

The course of the German attack up to this point, and the information of airmen and prisoners, had shown that the opposing army had placed very strong reserves in readiness before the German right wing, and that further advance was to be achieved only with extreme loss of life and by the throwingin of strong reserves. The German Supreme Command, therefore, determined to content itself with the successes achieved, and to break off further fighting, especially as on the morning of the 11th on the right wing, heavy French counter-attacks, with the support of strong artillery and numerous tanks, had begun against the front Courcelles-Mery-Belloy. In front of Courcelles they were shattered indeed; but between Mery and Belloy the French had scored transient successes; both places were lost and the French had pressed forward in the direction of Cuvilly; a German counter-thrust undertaken with fresh reserves repulsed them towards evening as far as the eastern edge of Mery.

The Supreme Army Command on the 11th ordered _the German right wing to suspend the attack and to restrict itself to the defensive. On the next day this order was extended to the whole front of the XVIII. Army. All the repeated French attacks, made with great masses and supported by strong artillery preparations and tanks, were repulsed before the front of the XVIII. Army with heavy losses. The Germans retained the positions captured during the engagements of the 9th and 10th on the general line of the heights S.W. of MontdidierCourcelles - Antheuil - northern bank of the Matzbrook.

The German attack undertaken from the district S.W. of Soissons by the VII. Army to relieve the pressure on the XVIII. Army had led to no substantial successes. The flanking artillery fire falling behind the lines and on the French forces fighting E. of the Oise had indeed inflicted severe losses; but the French had placed such strong reserves in readiness on this front that the German attack undertaken between the southern slopes of the Aisne and the forest of Villers-Cotterets had been able to make substantial progress only in the centre and to penetrate into the north-eastern section of the forest of Villers-Cotterets. It was, however, clear on the 12th that the attack begun here would not penetrate farther; very violent Franco-American counter-attacks began on this day, especially opposite the VII. Army and particularly at Chateau-Thierry and W. of the wooded heights of Reims.

In the battle of Noyon the Germans took 15,000 prisoners and 150 guns; but the engagements between June 9 and 13 had not substantially altered the German strategic situation on this section of the front between Soissons and the woods of Vi p ers-Cotterets. (H. v. H.)

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