Primary Documents - Arz von Straussenberg on the Opening of the 1918 Spring Offensive, 2 April 1918
Reproduced below is Austro-Hungarian Army Commander-in-Chief Arz von Straussenberg's official statement regarding the opening of the great German Spring Offensive of 1918, dated 2 April 1918. It essentially comprised a eulogy to the skill and determination of both the German Army and of its leadership.
Opening on 21 March the Spring Offensive was designed to knock the British and French out of the war (possibly by the expedient of separating their forces and communication) before sufficient U.S. forces could arrive in France to decisively tip the scales in favour of the Allies.
The German Army made enormous breakthrough gains against the British Fifth Army at the Somme and indeed looked set to triumph over the Allies; with the aid of French reserves however the German advance was finally halted in early April.
Freiherr von Arz on the Opening of the Spring Offensive, 2 April 1918
Among other things, the wound of our enemies in the west is so deep today that it can never heal again.
I should be telling a lie if I said that the latest German successes surprised me; of these victories I was confident.
The splendid leadership of the great masters of war, Hindenburg and Ludendorff, who have known their own aim, the depth and thoroughness of the German mind, and the high moral earnestness of the German soldiers were sufficient guarantee for success to the onlooker acquainted with the circumstances.
The change from trench to active warfare makes the superiority of the German Army appear still more conspicuous. When the barbed-wire defences are left some miles behind, and the manoeuvres take place in the open field, then the alertness and experience of the non-commissioned officers, who have been trained by years of instruction during peace, and our thoroughly trained General Staff get their reward.
Millions of fighters can be raised out of the soil, but it is not so easy to obtain even a fraction of the necessary leaders of all ranks. The facts we must keep before us when judging of the position on the western front. The German company and battalion commanders are a hundred times better than the English, and in that form an important guarantee of success.
The victorious and confident feelings of the German troops had not suffered any change by reason of the bad weather, the cold and rain which set in on March 27th.
Against the wet and cold they were protected by the huge quantities of booty, consisting of coats, jackets and canvas, which they had found, while the rich lots of foodstuffs, which were found everywhere piled up in the British army depots, most advantageously supplemented their own rations.
These unexpectedly large supplies have enabled many of the troops to live completely on what they find, so that their own supplies can be saved for a later period.
Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923
"Suicide Ditch" was a term used by British soldiers to refer to the front-line trench.
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