100 Days to Victory (2018) s01e01 Episode Script

The Spring Offensive

Early 1918.
The German Army launches a mighty offensive in a final bid to win the bloodiest war of all.
SOLDIER: Come on! This was an all-out gamble for the end of the war.
TIM: The shock was astonishing as the Germans unleash a hurricane fire.
It was basically the genesis of Blitzkrieg.
GRUNTING AND SHOUTING NARRATOR: Their ferocious attack stuns the Allied ranks.
The British and the French were overwhelmed.
SHANE: They believe that they are gonna lose the war.
They believe they are gonna be destroyed on the Western Front.
There is very little time before the enemy overwhelms us entirely.
MONASH: They are smashing through our lines.
Bloody nightmare.
NARRATOR: British Field Marshal, Douglas Haig and French Marshal, Ferdinand Foch must come together with colonial outsiders, Australian John Monash and Canadian, Arthur Currie to develop a radical new way to fight.
SHOUTING AND EXPLOSIONS NARRATOR: Can a war, which has ground on for over 1,000 days be won in just 100? NIGHT INSECTS CHIRP SOLDIER 1, IN GERMAN: Hey, did you manage to sleep? SOLDIER 2, IN GERMAN: A little bit.
Besides, the grenades have stopped.
Not much longer, boys.
HE CONTINUES TO MUTTER IN GERMAN NARRATOR: After three and a half years and more than three million lives lost Germany has a bold new plan to win the war.
SOLDIER: Alright lads, place your bets.
SOLDIER 2: That's my last French coin.
SOLDIER: Come on Lady Luck.
Horror raining down on us.
SHELLS WHISTLE - SOLDIERS GRUNT AND SHOU NARRATOR: Three and a half million German shells are fired.
In just five hours.
SIGNALLER: Hello Gordons, hello.
Line cut to Gordons! COMMANDER: Try the Argylls! SIGNALLER Hello Argylls, hello? SHELLS EXPLODE - SOLDIER SCREAMS NARRATOR: Communications on the front line are lost.
Allied artillery struggles to respond.
BRIAN: We tried to go on, without aiming but just firing, it was no good.
Everything seemed lost or buried or blown away.
We returned to the dugouts to wait - for what? NARRATOR: Revolution has taken Russia out of the war releasing one million battle-hardened German soldiers from the east.
The Kaiser's army now outnumbers the Allies on the Western Front but the United States army is about to enter the fight.
For Germany, it's now or never.
WHISTLE BLOWS SCOTTISH SOLDIER: All our lines both forward and back became broken.
Come on! A.
WRENCH: The Highland Division is hanging on to the very last shreds of its reputation.
TIM: The shock of the March offensive especially 21st of March, 1918 as the Germans unleash a hurricane fire of high explosives shrapnel, chemical weapons and then surge forward and around areas of resistance.
The gains were breathtaking, and they broke through and caused the British to fall back in large numbers.
It was unlike anything that had been seen to that point during the war.
NARRATOR: For the Allies, it's the worst crisis of the war.
The front line is shattered.
Their infantry exhausted and in their headquarters the Allied Generals struggle to understand the scale of the disaster.
IN FRENCH: I want updates on our current NARRATOR: British Marshal, Douglas Haig and French Marshal, Ferdinand Foch Lines are cracking all up and down the front.
NARRATOR: Colonial outsiders, Australian, John Monash and Canadian, Arthur Currie The British are falling back fast.
NARRATOR: Four Generals staring at defeat.
BRUCE: For a moment, the Allies think they will lose the war.
There's been a huge hole, ripped in the allied line.
There's been a huge number of Allied casualties a huge number of men taken prisoner a huge amount of ground lost.
All of this is terribly demoralising for the Allies.
NARRATOR: The Canadian motor machine gun brigade is rushed in to try and stem the tide.
FRANK: We would open fire as the enemy was advancing and as the enemy would come on with their artillery support and advance closer Then you'd give it to them again.
NARRATOR: Allied planes take to the air and enter a whirlwind of fire.
EWERT: Everywhere was a mass of smoke and flame and we were welcomed with a bombardment of machine guns flaming onions and field guns.
I have never experienced such a volume of din above the sound of my engine before.
NARRATOR: Enemy aircraft dominate the skies.
And German shells are soon exploding deep behind Allied lines.
ELSIE: Shells were whizzing in, screaming.
We were watching the shrapnel bursting in the air.
NARRATOR: Nurses are under massive pressure as Allied wounded pour into the casualty clearing stations.
ELSIE: We had four operating tables in constant use and poor fellows lying on stretchers on the theatre floor.
NURSE: We're going to change the dressing again at three o'clock.
ELSIE: I gave 20 anaesthetics finishing at 2:30 this morning, then orders came for us to evacuate.
TIM: That first day, on the 21st with almost 40,000 casualties.
The figure that really scares the British High Command is almost 21,000 or so who are prisoners of war because that looks like that this is the rot, that this is the thing they have feared.
NARRATOR: The Germans smash a hole 16 kilometres wide in the Allied lines and advance more than 60 kilometres in just three days.
Paris is now just 120 kilometres away close enough to employ a deadly innovation.
The biggest artillery weapon in the world - the Paris Gun.
Its 106-kilogram shell flies for three minutes before hitting its target.
Over 300 shells rain down on the capital city.
Parisians pack their bags, fearing the worst.
German victory is so close the Kaiser declares March 24th, 1918 a national holiday.
PATRICK: The British and the French were overwhelmed.
The German army was an incredibly formidable force and by the time they launched their offensive in March, they were they were well trained.
They were rested and they were able to attack the British and the French armed forces with an amazing power.
PLANE ENGINES HUM - EXPLOSIONS NARRATOR: Allied leaders gather for a crisis meeting.
A meeting of men who, for years, have struggled to work together.
General Hague.
- Marshal Foch.
ELAINE: Earlier inter-allied relationships had been fraught, there'd been personal rivalries there'd been national rivalries but the severity of the crisis meant there had to be this new concentrated effort.
It wasn't enough to just be Allies.
It had to be a true partnership.
Monsieur, we have suffered a devastating attack.
NARRATOR: The French and British have largely been fighting their own separate wars.
They badly need unified command and one clear leader.
Field Marshal, Douglas Haig, controls the three million strong British and Dominion army.
He sees himself as the natural choice for supreme commander.
Born in Scotland into great wealth Haig is a gallant officer and friend of royalty.
But one million British deaths inflicted as a result of his epic and futile offensives on the Western Front have earned him the nickname Butcher Haig.
BRUCE: He's lost the confidence of many military commanders but more importantly he's lost the confidence of the British Prime Minister.
There's a famous phrase that he uses: "This man doesn't care for the lives of his men.
" The French and the British defences NARRATOR: With Haig's support waning and as the war is being fought largely on French soil there is a push to appoint Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme Allied leader.
Paris is in great danger, gentlemen.
NARRATOR: Foch has been a soldier since 1870 and is one of the French Army's senior leaders.
But, like Haig, the horrific losses of the war have crippled his reputation.
He'd been removed from command after the heavy casualties at the Somme and banished to the Italian Front.
BRUCE: Foch, too, has been a controversial character.
He's weathered a storm of controversies, but he's survived he prevailed, he's a true fighter.
We must dig in and die where we stand.
HEW: The qualities of determination and offensive mindedness which Foch shows, are the right attributes.
He is the right man in the right job in 1918.
MAT: Haig was not overly thrilled with the concept but went along with it in the interests of harmony between the Allies.
PATRICK: Both men did put aside personal national differences and there was this overarching idea that that they should work together and that they could work together in order to overcome.
INDISTINCT SHOUTING NARRATOR: Before the unified command can take effect the Germans launch Operation Georgette a second massive offensive.
Its aim, to push the British army back across the English Channel.
They quickly advance 10 kilometres, to the banks of the River Lawe.
PATRICK: The Scottish troops involved there had a very, difficult task to perform against another huge offensive that's coming their way and it's the second huge offensive that's coming in in such a short period of time.
HEW: So if there is a moment when Haig has to think about evacuating from the channel ports, this is it.
But Douglas Haig is a fighter through and through, and that's when he says.
HAIG: Every position must be held to the last man.
There must be no retirement.
With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end.
HEW: For some soldiers, this is inspirational stuff.
This is the Commander speaking directly to his soldiers.
It was uncharacteristically, very emotional.
And it was outlining how severe the position was.
It said the British army now, we have our backs to the wall.
JAMES: In effect, it meant fight to the finish and that it certainly was.
NARRATOR: The Scots, under their commander General Henry Horne, manage to stand firm.
Ammo, ammo.
Let's go.
Let's go.
NARRATOR: Their fighting spirit is well known to the Germans who have given the kilt-wearing Scots the nickname, "Ladies from Hell".
Fix bayonets! PATRICK: By 1918, the Highland Division is considered to be, certainly by themselves by other people, as well to be an elite formation.
HENRY: I am proud to be a Scotsman at any time but more than ever now.
- BAGPIPE MUSIC PLAYS It is your determination to stick it out that makes all the difference and will win this war.
NARRATOR: To survive the latest onslaught Foch and Haig will need all the help they can get.
Which means calling on Britain's former colonies, Australia and Canada.
Since the beginning, their armies, and their leaders have been left out of the key decisions of the war.
The Germans are on the move.
There's no telling which way this will go.
NARRATOR: Now, at this moment of supreme crisis they are about to take centre stage with new energy and new ideas.
Currie NARRATOR: For the first time, the 166,000-strong Australian Force is placed under a single, Australian, command.
After weeks of lobbying and debate an unlikely but brilliant and resourceful civil engineer takes charge of the Australian Corps, General John Monash.
MAT: There was a whole group of people that didn't like Monash and they didn't want him in command of the AIF.
So throughout 1918, even earlier in his career he was always battling against this concept that he wasn't a full-time soldier before the war that he was of German heritage so his motives could be questioned and that he was a Jew so he was a shameless self-promoter who would get ahead at any expense like those others of his race.
MONASH: To be the first native-born Australian corps commander is something to have lived for.
Considering my disabilities of ancestry and religion it is grounds for pardonable pride to have achieved such a status.
NARRATOR: The son of German Jewish immigrants Monash has lived his whole life as an outsider and he's seen this war at its worst.
In 1915 at Gallipoli, his brigade lost half of its men and he reproached himself bitterly for the failures of tactics and intelligence that led to their deaths.
PETER: Witnesses describe him in a complete panic.
"I thought I could command men", he says.
He fell to pieces, arguably.
And that hangs over him.
It is a question mark about his fitness as a commander in battle.
MONASH: The great essential is to entirely suppress all personal considerations.
If you stop to count the cost, you simply couldn't carry on for an hour.
NARRATOR: Monash considered resigning, he was almost forced out but he stood up to his critics, and survived.
SOLDIER 1: Keep your head down, mate.
Snipers are out tonight.
SOLDIER 2: Fritz doesn't know when to let up.
NARRATOR: In 1917, Monash commanded an Australian division as it fought with distinction in one of the most brutal battles on the Western Front: Passchendaele.
BRUCE: Men and guns are sinking into the mud.
So Monash sees here men advancing beyond the support of concerted artillery fire he sees men being exposed to danger he thinks there's got to be a better way to fight this war.
NARRATOR: It's also at Passchendaele that Monash and the Australians get their first taste of fighting alongside another of Britain's former colonies Canada.
EXPLOSIONS - SOLDIERS GROAN IN PAIN SOLDIER: Come on, mate, you'll be right.
MARGARET: This act of fighting together helps to build a sense of nationhood and they begin to realise they're not just people of British decent who happened to be living in other parts of the world - they are somehow different.
The dominion troops demonstrated from the start that they were very aggressive fighters.
I think a big part of it was that they thought of themselves as special they felt that they were going to show the poms, how to win the war.
NARRATOR: There are 275,000 Allied causalities at Passchendaele.
Have this sent to Haig's office at once.
NARRATOR: But despite the horror and futility the battle forges a strong bond between the Canadians and the Australians.
To Monash.
I'm sure I speak on behalf of all Canadians when I say that we would like to finish the war fighting side by side with you.
NARRATOR: General Arthur Currie was a pre-war Militia officer and a real estate developer.
And like Monash, he's a lifelong outsider he has even broken the law.
Faced with crippling debts from bad real estate deals in 1914 he stole $10,000 from his own regiment worth over $200,000 today.
TIM: At the time, he was the commander of a regiment of Scottish highlanders and money was sent to that unit to really buy new uniforms and kilts and he embezzled that money.
And in the end he had to rely on two junior officers to borrow money from them to pay back this money.
But he was never taken to task over the embezzlement it was pushed aside both by politicians of the day and by the soldiers who knew and very few people knew about this.
It seems to me that he was focussed on the war he had left that life behind him he worked 18-hour days, he was known for this profound work ethic.
NARRATOR: Like Monash, his early experience of war is horrific.
In 1915 at Ypres, Currie's men faced a terrifying new weapon chlorine gas.
With no gas protection, the Canadians somehow held on suffering over 6,000 casualties.
Currie was among the last to withdraw, after days of continuous combat.
TIM: Currie had been recognised before the war as a fine leader of men, he had studied warfare and he would carry that into the war.
He's recognised immediately as probably the finest Canadian commander and he was desperate to ration the lives of his soldiers and so he demanded more guns, more material, more shells more time to prepare for operations and he was open to new ways of war.
NARRATOR: Two months into their devastating Spring offensive the German Army continues to press forward.
They advance all the way to the Marne River less than 80 kilometres from Paris.
CROWD CHEERS But by the summer of 1918, a new army is gathering in France.
After declaring war on Germany in April 1917 and supplying raw materials and money to the Allied war effort the United States is now ready to commit much more.
MARGARET: What the United States brought was, in a horrible way, fresh blood.
But it also brought all these resources and the German high command knew that the clock was running out.
NARRATOR: With no time to lose on 15th July the Germans cross the River Marne and launch yet another offensive.
As four and a half million artillery shells pound the French army storm troopers quickly advance five kilometres.
FOCH, IN FRENCH: Là, nous sommes exposés.
NARRATOR: But the Allies are learning.
Our line must shift to cover the French flank! NARRATOR: The new spirit of cooperation between the French and the British has created a tightly meshed front line that is harder to penetrate.
Despite this, the German advance is relentless.
PATRICK: There is then this idea that there needs to be a counter attack in order to retake this ground particularly driven by the French.
This is French soil.
We need to take this back.
And as the French are controlling the Allied armies at this point that is exactly what they try and do.
NARRATOR: And this time, the Americans will be fighting, too.
JOHN: The American people would consider it a great honour to have our troops engaged in the present battle.
Our infantry, artillery, flying men all that we have is at your disposal.
NARRA TOR: The French, Americans and the 51st Highland Division spearhead the counter-attack.
PATRICK: You have Scottish soldiers who have been sent from the British forces alongside Americans and they attack in the Marne Valley.
And they see immediately see some very important and very influential successes.
And they push back the Germans.
NARRATOR: In spite of great losses over 100,000 men are killed or wounded at the Marne the Allies finally halt the four month long German advance.
But reclaiming the huge swathes of territory they have lost will require a bolder move.
Tanks, aircraft, artillery, infantry - these are NARRATOR: July 1918, Flixicourt, France.
Currie, Monash and members of Haig's general staff gather for a top-secret meeting to discuss a new, daring plan of attack.
I want new ideas, smart, bold, aggressive understood? Yes sir.
- Understood.
PETER: One of the things that this war does is it throws up new talent.
So, although the senior Generals are all basically British regulars the dominion divisions come with citizen soldiers Arthur Currie, John Monash and they bring completely new skills a completely new atmosphere.
So they're bringing fresh ideas, they're bringing a fresh perspective.
And they are approaching the problems of warfare on the Western Front from a completely different angle.
Our plan has to rely on speed and surprise.
And no preliminary bombardment.
We won't show our hand.
NARRATOR: Using tactics developed earlier in the war and their own fresh ideas Monash and Currie combine infantry tanks, artillery and aircraft as never before.
We'll do what we tested at Hamel.
MONASH: The infantry won't have to fight their way forward.
They'll get the protection from tanks, artillery.
NARRATOR: Their objective now: to push the Germans back from the vital rail junction at Amiens.
This full scale attack will be spearheaded by the Canadians and the Australians.
Get to work on the maps, see to the roads, the railways the movement plans, accommodation, food, water, medical supplies and personnel.
NARRATOR: It's a revolutionary battle plan using new weapons and tactics called "all-arms warfare".
TIM: There was an evolution in tactics throughout the First World War.
I think most people thinking about the war have a vision of the battle of Somme.
There was 120,000 British soldiers rising from their trenches and being marching forward through the barbed wire and being gunned down.
In fact, there was a continual learning process.
You can term this 3D warfare.
You have tanks.
You have aeroplanes.
You have a huge artillery bombardment and a creeping barrage which comes in here.
And you've got all of these things working in tandem with different armies different formations all thinking off the same page.
NARRATOR: And the Allies also have new 20th century technology.
Sound ranging, developed by Australian scientist Laurence Bragg is designed to pinpoint a hostile battery by recording the sound of enemy guns using an array of microphones.
If a gun fires, it makes a sound.
And if you have microphones out you can triangulate where that gun precisely, or almost exactly, is.
Once you know where the gun is you can hit it with highly accurate artillery.
NARRATOR: And to help the Allies' own batteries a newly expanded meteorological division provides gunners with instant updates on wind strength and direction.
SHANE: What that allowed you to do was, under different conditions without actually having to fire an adjusting round, to test the gun.
NARRATOR: To increase accuracy even more each artillery piece is now electrically calibrated.
Technicians set up wire screens 100 metres apart and feed a current through them.
The gun fires a shell through the screens breaking the electrical current calculating the exact muzzle velocity.
You could be very, very accurate on the first round because you knew exactly how fast the round was going to leave and exactly the trajectory so you could be pinpoint accurate.
NARRATOR: Monash and Currie hope these combined systems will allow their artillery to destroy the huge German batteries before they could fire a shot.
They present Haig with their new plan for the battle of Amiens.
Damn it all.
This is it.
The new way forward.
Yes sir, and we are well prepared for it.
BRUCE: This must be a remarkable moment when Monash and Currie meet to finalise the plan for the offensive.
Here these two outsiders are and they're suddenly the centre of all the action.
I hope so.
I expect you gentlemen to perform.
And your men, too.
BRUCE: And here we have these colonials these misfits actually, literally, calling the shots at the advance of Amiens.
This is tipping the old imperial world upside down.
NARRATOR: It's now up to these maverick generals to do something the Allied command has failed to do for nearly four years - find a way to win the war.
NARRATOR: In these darkest of hours after four years of bloodshed each General finds their own way to settle their nerves as they wait to strike a counter blow against the German army.
GENTLE PIANO MUSIC PLAYS NARRATOR: The stage is set for the most crucial battle of the war.
The colonial Generals' vision for a new kind of mobile multi-faceted warfare combining tanks, artillery, aeroplanes and infantry is for Monash almost musical.
MONASH: The perfect modern battle plan is like nothing so much as a score from an orchestral composition.
Where the various arms and units are the instruments and the tasks they perform are their respective musical phrases.
Each unit must make its entry precisely at the proper moment and play its phrase in the general harmony.
NARRATOR: And part of that harmony includes an audacious deception he has devised for Currie exploiting their enemy's fear of Canadian troops.
TIM: The Canadian's had a reputation as shock troops, troops that were thrown into the line to deliver victory.
And the Germans were on the lookout for them.
Their intelligence staff were always tracking the Canadians as they were other combat formations.
The secrecy plan.
For Amiens to be a success the Germans had to think the Canadians were elsewhere.
NARRATOR: July 27th, 1918.
Canadian troops are shifted north to Ypres, Belgium in broad daylight and in full view of German spotter planes.
Then over the course of several nights, Currie moves them all the way back to the woods near Amiens.
WILL: The only thing audible was the soft sound of men jostling in the dark the swish of feet in grass.
Pass it down the line.
If anyone so much as lights a match they'll face a court martial.
NARRATOR: In all, 100,000 men of the Canadian Corps travel 150 kilometres completely undetected by German reconnaissance.
SHANE: Part of the brilliance of it is that Currie doesn't even tell his own subordinates.
So, for instance, he doesn't even tell his own logistics commanders until like a week before the attack.
WILL: There was something in the night that seemed pregnant with sudden violence as if at any time some crashing chaos might envelop the entire landscape.
TIM: They were ready for battle the tanks were brought in, there was a preponderance of air power and this would be the counter strike.
TENSE MUSIC JAMES: Oh, how I waited for the barrage to open up.
It's awful the suspense, just waiting and waiting and listening to the whit whit of a few stray machine gun bullets about.
Listen up.
Oi! Listen up you blokes.
We are here to take part in the biggest offensive of the war.
We'll have the Canadians on our right and the railway line dividing us.
MARGARET: You don't get a sense that they're frightened you simply get a sense that they know this has to be done.
I'm not going to lie to you boys.
It's going to be bloody rough.
MARGARET: I mean, what is extraordinary to me is how people know that they've got to go and they might die.
They don't talk about dying.
If we give it our best we might just get a little closer to going home.
MARGARET: They just have ordinary conversations.
They have a quiet drink with their friends and of course friendships on the front lines are often intense because these are the people you rely on these are the people you trust literally with your life.
Enjoy that fresh air while you can lads.
NARRATOR: Tactics and weapons have evolved.
The new Mark 5 tank has a more powerful engine.
Two six-pounder cannons, one on either side of the tank and four machine guns enveloped in 16 millimetre armour plating.
TANK COMMANDER: Make sure those tracks fit well.
I want this tank going all the way across no man's land.
We'll show the Huns what our tanks can do, eh? NARRATOR: So far, tanks have had mixed success.
Alright lads, it's time to saddle up.
NARRATOR: But Monash and Currie want to try them in a new way working closely together with the infantry, artillery and aircraft.
Tank crews will have to traverse shell holes, ditches and barbed wire dodging bursting artillery shells before they can train their guns on German pillboxes bristling with machine guns.
And their noisy engines threaten the secrecy of the attack as they move up to the start line.
But the new Allied cooperative approach to battle has a solution using something even noisier.
BRUCE: The sound of the tanks has been concealed by low flying aircraft another great technological innovation of war.
DAVID: Watches were synchronised and a final inspection of the tank was made to make sure everything was ready for the attack.
It seems certain from reports of prisoners that the enemy have no knowledge of our presence.
METAL CLICKING WILLIAM: An air of subdued excitement prevailed.
The rumble of distant gunfire broke the silence only to be submerged by the sound of our engines starting up on the aerodrome.
I want that engine humming.
These German flyboys know what they're doing.
WILLIAM: Busy mechanics with torches were warming up the engines, which this day would never cool.
Our job was to bomb and shoot up aerodromes, dumps, roads and railways from dawn to dusk.
Alright gentlemen.
And mark.
Good luck gentlemen.
WILLIAM: On much of our good work depended the fate of the infantry.
PLANE'S ENGINE HUMS NARRATOR: By 7th August, the Allies have secretly assembled 200,000 men on the outskirts of Amiens spearheaded by the Canadian and Australian Corps backed by 500 tanks, 800 planes and over 2,000 artillery guns.
In the HQs, telegraph operators sit by their instruments bracing themselves for the rush of signal traffic.
And in the casualty clearing stations, nurses and doctors prepare for the rush of wounded.
MONASH: For the first time in our history all five Australian divisions will tomorrow engage in the largest and most important battle operation ever undertaken by the army.
I am confident every man will carry on to the utmost of his powers until his goal is won; for the sake of Australia, the Empire and our cause.
WATCH TICKS SOLDIER: Our father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
SOLDIER, IN GERMAN: NARRA TOR: Among the troops facing them is a crack German division, the 117th just returned from four months' leave.
One of the freshest, most battle-ready divisions on the Front.
TIM: Currie and Monash both knew that this would likely be a successful operation the secret element the marshalling of artillery guns, of air power of tanks, something unique about Amiens.
But they also knew that under their command, thousands of their countrymen would be killed.
That tremendous weight of responsibility of command I think is difficult to understand 100 years later.
Even when you were winning, you were always losing soldiers and I think it must have weighed heavily on them.
JAMES: Each crew's world centred around his gun but we could feel that hundreds of groups of men were doing the same thing preparing for the heaviest barrage ever launched.
At 4:19am, silence reigned everywhere.
Gerry appeared to be sleeping peacefully unaware that hundreds of men had their fingers on hundreds of triggers.
Fire! BERTIE: Every gun shot together and the thing was off.
I never heard anything like it in my life, neither has anyone else as it was about the biggest show that has ever been staged on the Western Front.
NARRATOR: The Allies launched their great counter offensive and the 100 Days to Victory begins.
ALBERT: Fear rises to the saturating point and then you resign yourself to the apparent inevitable.
WHISTLE BLOWS JAMES: Overhead, the air was full of the singing sounds of shells intermingled with the squeals of tanks' odd loose driving bands like a river rushing down onto his line.
Behind was a continuous low crashing rumble like a forest falling up and in front, one could hear the plug and burst of the shells.
It was beyond imagination.
I never thought there were so many shells in the world.
The tanks moved forward and we followed.
MORRISON: Bang! Clang! Blatter! No words can describe it.
Just the whole world heaves, rocks, tumbles, turns upside-down ricochets, and runs off at a tangent.
I depress the pedal, and she roars magnificently, like the great man-eater that she is.
GEORGES: The advance was unprecedented.
The Huns were no match for our men who went into battle with perfect coolness as if they were on the parade ground.
IN FRENCH: En avant camerades! GEORGES: Their indifference before death was little short of sublime.
Push on! WILLIAM: It was weird, mystic, wonderful.
The landscape was a mass of flame, the stabs of fire from guns and shells only lighting up a haze of smoke.
SCOTTISH PILOT: It was an inspiring sight and many were the shells that swept unseen past our planes.
NARRATOR: The sound rangers have done their job.
The opening barrage is more accurate than ever before.
BRUCE: Something like 95 per cent of the German guns are taken out before the Allies advance into the field.
Hold it there, lads.
Take cover and wait for my signal.
NARRATOR: Now the artillery launches a creeping barrage designed to provide a moving curtain of steel to protect the advancing infantry.
SHANE: If you're a German soldier in the front line and you can hear the creeping barrage coming towards you you think "OK where are my guns?" You know, "Where's my artillery support?" And it's not there.
Alright lads, once more on your feet.
Quick fire! PATRICK: The artillery should be firing on targets that goes backwards in the same way as the infantry advances.
So that you have the infantry advancing very close on the heels of artillery bombardment.
SHANE: You have artillery falling on the enemy's head until you can literally leap on top of them.
Currie used to say, you know, the advancing infantry you must follow the barrage as closely as a horse follows its feedbag.
So you could stay behind that cloak that shield of steel as it moved forward.
And it would get you right into the enemy's trenches.
It would get you right into the hand-to-hand combat.
GEORGE: Our guns opened up to the very minute.
With our own shells falling but a very short distance ahead so close indeed that we had to be careful we did not advance into our own barrage.
Away we went.
Fritz immediately let loose a hail of machine gun bullets and a few shells.
We reached one of his trenches just in time to see him getting out the other side.
NARRATOR: The creeping barrage is one of many Allied battlefield innovations.
Aircraft fly low over the ground getting a close look at the battle's progress.
PATRICK: Artillery spotters go up into planes and then view what's happening on the battlefield.
With the developments in radio communications you are then able to communicate those things back to the ground.
FERDINAND: All personal fear vanished in the tremendous thrill and fascination of the task.
The lines of moving troops were spotted and the map locations determined.
NARRATOR: Improvements in air-to-ground radio mean that vital messages can reach the generals in minutes.
We're on the move.
The brigade has already advanced two kilometres.
The creeping barrage is effective.
Carry on.
- Don't let up.
SOLDIER, IN GERMAN: NARRATOR: As well as modern technology and tactics Monash has another conjurer's trick up his sleeve - flavoured smoke.
SOLDIER, IN GERMAN: NARRATOR: Smoke shells laced with harmless chemicals to give it a strong odour and even a taste.
German troops are sure it's some kind of poison gas and it creates panic in their lines.
MAT: Once you put on a gas mask you can't see, you can't hear, you can't breathe.
It's a really terrible thing to have to wear in the battlefield.
And then you're expected to fight against troops who emerge out of the smoke and the dust.
So it was a really clever way of giving a huge advantage to the attacking infantry.
DEWARD: We got to the front line and dozens of Germans put their hands up and said "Mercy comrade".
We let some go but not all.
We shot them down like dogs.
MARGARET: They become something other at least briefly, and they are prepared to kill.
They are out there, that is their job to kill and so if someone surrenders, you may not be able to pull back and turn into your other person as quickly.
It's like Jekyll and Hyde.
It's a war of no mercy, it's a war of brutality and it dehumanises men on both sides.
GEORGE: The battle was raging at its height.
Batches of Germans could be seen being sorted out of their trenches as our tanks mercilessly rode over their strong points dealing death and destruction on every side.
The boys rushed them for their souvenirs watches, medals, field glasses, helmets caps, cigars and other souvenirs were soon changing hands.
This incident took but a few minutes and we pushed on.
TIM: The Germans were completely surprised at the battle of Amiens.
SHANE: There are German General officers captured at their breakfast table that tell the Canadians "It's impossible, you can't be Canadians.
The Canadians are in the North".
For several hours the Germans were overwhelmed but then they began and they recovered, and then of course we saw really terrifically difficult hard, pounding warfare beyond that.
JOHN: It had developed into the kind of war that I'd always dreamt about.
Open country with no trenches or barbed wire.
NARRATOR: The surprise is over and the Germans get their fearsome Air Force into action.
PILOT, IN GERMAN: MALCOM: How we avoided collisions, I do not know.
You would get your sights on a Hun for a second and have to pull out to avoid being rammed by another SE 5 converging on the same target.
I fired at several, but could only be sure of one chap.
He was only about 30 yards in front, firing at one of our machines and by some lucky chance I managed to get 40 rounds right into his cockpit.
WILLIAM: All day long we kept it up.
Flight succeeded flight as each arrived and left.
As soon as a flight landed, mechanics swarmed over the machines filling with petrol, bombs and ammunition.
The day was one of excitement, such as I never knew in France enhanced greatly about midday when reports came in of the success of the Australians and Canadians.
NARRATOR: Of all the battlefield innovations none is more important than the tank.
At Amiens, they are used in mass numbers for the first time and in close cooperation with the infantry.
SHANE: The tanks lead the infantry through the wire through the obstacles and right on top of the enemy.
And then the infantry can deal with the close combat the hand-to-hand stuff in the trenches.
It's like cavalry used to be, only about ten times as powerful.
Because you've got this large powerful thing coming at you, inexorably.
You can't stop it and it's going to kill you.
INDISTINCT CHATTER DAVID: We had taken the enemy completely by surprise.
Whenever a tank was sighted they ran forward with their hands well up and we allowed the infantry to deal with them.
NARRATOR: For the infantry tanks are a godsend but for the crews inside them they can be hell on earth.
SHANE: They're literally trapped in this tin can.
This iron coffin that's smoky, that's loud that's dangerous.
BRUCE: It's also of course a physical and a psychological ordeal in that you know you're exposed to fire.
NARRATOR: Allied tank crews suffer from cuts and grazes caused by shrapnel from bullet fragments burns from the engines and exhausts and confusion and exhaustion brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning and petrol fumes.
PATRICK: I can only imagine the fear that these guys must have gone through, waiting to be hit by artillery round.
The fire that would then, of course, consume all the oxygen inside the tank.
You are very much a sitting duck.
You're a target as well, an active target for German gunners.
TANK SOLDIER: Right, come on lads! Out! Out! Move.
INDISTINCT SHOUTING BRUCE: And then of course men are incinerated.
They're incinerated when a direct hit actually lands on a tank.
So being in a tank is a perilous position, and it's telling, I think when you look at the figures themselves, most of the tanks committed to battle are disabled in some way or other, during the battle of Amiens.
NARRATOR: The battlefield is soon littered with burnt-out tanks.
But they've done their job.
KEN: Without the tanks I'm afraid it would have been a hopeless task.
Certainly there would have been more casualties.
Many more casualties.
SCOTT: A man's rifle is stuck into the ground and his tin hat on top to show he is wounded.
Hang in there, mate.
SCOTT: And it also indicates to the tanks that they must not go over him or make mincemeat or sausage roll.
NARRATOR: The element of surprise, the creeping barrage the new tactics, techniques and weaponry prove to be hugely effective.
For the first time we have seen the destructive effect of all arms warfare.
GEORGES: The effect on the troops of the successful breakthrough was extraordinary.
It was the first time that we were attacking and advancing in terms of miles instead of yards.
After years of crawling, of dugouts and shell holes and mud hope stirred in our hearts.
MONASH: Australian flag hoisted over enemy HQ near Framerville shortly after noon today.
Should be glad if Chief would cable this to our Governor General on behalf of Australian Corps.
Ten thousand prisoners have passed through our cages and casualty clearing stations a number greatly in excess of our total casualties.
Twenty-five towns and villages have been rescued from the invaders.
The surprise has been complete and overwhelming.
NARRATOR: The Canadian and Australian armies led by their own generals advance 12 kilometres in a single day more progress than the Allies have achieved in any previous battle.
But success comes at a price.
Of the 200,000 Allied soldiers sent into battle forty thousand are missing, wounded or dead.
WILLIAM: Perhaps the most impressive sights I saw were the burnt out wrecks on the ground.
I wondered which of these collections of steel contained the remains of an old friend.
The battle of Amiens is now in its third day and the German Army is reeling.
Field Marshals Haig and Foch want to try to end the war, right here.
We must press the advantage.
NARRATOR: But Currie and Monash have a different idea.
We believe that's not the right course.
But surely we have the enemy on his back foot? Yes, but the situation has changed.
The element of surprise has gone, sir.
MAT: The one thing the Germans were always outstanding at was counter attacking.
They were brilliant at bringing troops in recognising where there had been a breakthrough and bringing troops in to plug the gap.
And Monash and Currie look at this on the 3rd and the 4th day of battle and they realise we shouldn't keep going.
There's no use in pushing this battle, we have achieved a significant victory here but to keep fighting, will only waste an important resource which is the infantry at the sharp end.
CURRIE: The Huns know we're coming.
We need to regroup.
Modify our tactics.
Keep them guessing.
BRUCE: The important point here is that both Monash and Currie call a stop to this.
They're willing to challenge Haig.
They're willing to say "now is the time to consolidate.
Let's not take this gamble too far".
Very well, gentlemen, the offensive will be halted.
NARRATOR: The Battle of Amiens is a great victory.
IN FRENCH: Victoire totale.
Bravo! We've done it gentlemen.
We've done it.
No attack has ever advanced so far.
NARRATOR: Over the course of the battle the Allies capture 50,000 German soldiers, and seize 500 heavy guns.
But the Allied Generals know their enemy is far from ready to give up.
PATRICK: The German Army is still a very formidable army.
There is no massive loss in standard in terms of their power to be able to fight a good battle.
NARRATOR: Standing between the Allies and victory is the most powerful defensive position in the world The Hindenburg Line.
Under construction since 1916, it is an unbroken 600 kilometres of interlinking concrete pillboxes, and machine gun nests densely covered by artillery and surrounded by thousands of acres of barbed wire.
BRUCE: The Hindenburg Line is Germany's final frontier.
And they've chosen that ground in a political sense, as well.
This is going to mark the boundaries of the new Germany.
As far as they're concerned, this is where the advance stops.
This is a part of Northern France that they will occupy forever.
So it has both a symbolic, as well as a strategic importance.
NARRATOR: If the Allies have any hope for victory they'll need to fight through hell to even reach the Hindenburg Line.
Gentlemen this is our next challenge.
NARRATOR: Then use all their military might and modern knowhow to smash through the most formidable defensive position in history.