10th to 29th of April 1918: Attack on the Kemmelberg The second blow in Operation Georgette For detailed accounts of actions in this battle, please scroll to the bottom. For a map of the Operation Georgette please click HERE
Right: part of a painting detailing Sturmtrupps attacking the Kemmelberg.
On the morning of the 10th of April, one day after von
Quasts divisions had overrun the British and Portuguese to the South of
Armentiers Sixt von Arnims 4. Armee attacked to the North of Armentiers.
148 Batteries opened up on the British lines and
heavily barbed wired bunkers between Hollebeke and Ploegsteert to clear the way
for eight divisions of assault troops.
After the bombardment the divisions threw themselves
into the fog covered wasteland. The artillery had not managed to wipe away all
resistance and there was bitter fighting for the strong points and bunkers. By
evening the men of Lubeck were in Meesen, the Hamburg Reserve Regiments in the
hotly contested castle gardens at Hollebeke and General Eberhardt's men had
reached Ploegsteert forest. The next day the forest fell to the German while
left wing of the 4. Armee met up with the right wing of the 6. Armee behind the
burning town of Armentiers. 3000 men and 40 artillery pieces were captured.
From this point on the advance was more cumbersome.
The muddy battlefield crisscrossed with canals and
covered in woods and hedge surrounded farmhouses were the ally of the British
who fought for every meter.
With great effort the Germans took the Nachtigall
heights, Neuve Eglise, Wulverghem and the heights to the east of Bailleul...
but all at great cost.
In front of the Germans the Kemmelbeg loomed.
It was impossible to continue the attack.
A major offensive was needed to take the mountain.
After von Quast's 6th Army to the South had stopped its advance the full force
of the offensive was channelled to the North.
The mountain was a fortress. the French had prepared
it for defence "at all costs".
On the 26th of April the Kemmelbeg was attacked by the
elite Alpenkorps in one of the most spectacular actions of the war.
It hit the mountain at full force smoking out the
posts of resistance that held on to the last second.
They made their way up the twin peaks and placed their
flags on the top.
The 4th Bavarian division attacked to the South of the
hill taking the Morlen and Dranoeter. To the North of the hill (up to the
Yser-Ypern canal) the advance reached the village of Kemmel, St Eloi and Groote
Here the enemy strengthened his front from hour to
hour while on the Kemmelberg and Neighbouring Scherpenberg they seemed to have
The Scherpenberg was now the goal. If this was taken
the battle was won, from there the way to the channel would be open.
The German artillery was turning the heights into an
Inferno. On the slopes the only thing that moved were isolated French forward
positions caught in the bombardment. The Goslar Jägers succeeded in climbing
the heights at de Kleit, the Bavarian Infantry Leib Regiment took Brulooze.
They then took a moment to assemble their men and manhandle some field
artillery across the Douvre plateau to support the last push.
It was too late. That evening the newly arrived
British troops had taken up position on the heights and there was no moving
them. The fate of the offensive had been decided in those fateful few hours.
To Return to the first page on Operation Georgette please click HERE
More detailed accounts of the fighting :
The 3rd Bavarian Infantry Regiment, 11. b.I.D., helped clear the way to the foot of the Kemmelberg for the final assault. An account and the Iron Cross document to a machine gunner can be found HERE