“Undoubtedly the most critical and anxious period of the whole advance arrived at the end of September. The culminating attacks of the 27th and 29th of that month on the Canal du Nord and Hindenburg line defences shattered the most formidable series of field defences that military science has yet devised and drove the enemy into open country. These attacks, indeed, accomplished far more than this. They definitely broke the power of resistance of the German Armies in the field. In the battles which followed, our troops were able to take greater and greater risks, and on every occasion with complete success.
“Yet again, the risk was great. If the enemy had succeeded in holding the Hindenburg position, he would have been little, if anything, worse off, territorially at any rate, than he had been before he began his great adventure of the spring. It was clearly a time for him to pull himself together and hold on at all costs.
“On the other hand and with all its difficulties, so favourable an opportunity of securing immediate and decisive victory, by pressing our advantage, could scarcely be expected to present itself again. The decision was therefore taken and was justified by success.
“After this battle, our chief anxieties lay rather in the ability of our supply system to keep pace with our Armies than in any resistance that the enemy could offer. In the succeeding battles our troops accomplished with comparative ease feats which earlier in the struggle it would have been madness to attempt; and in the final battle of the war, begun on the 4th November, the crossing of the Sambre and the clearing of the great Mormal Forest furnished a wonderful tribute to the complete ascendency which their earlier victories had enabled our troops to establish over the enemy.”
GENERAL GOURAUD AT STRASBOURG
The Maine—Verdun—Champagne—it is in connection with these three names that the French war consciousness shows itself most sensitive and most profound, just as the war consciousness of Great Britain vibrates most deeply when you test it with those other names—Ypres—Arras—the Somme—Cambrai. As is the name of Ypres to the Englishman, so is that of Verdun to the Frenchman, invested even with a more poignant significance, since the countryside where so many sons of France laid down their lives was their own adored mother-land, indivisibly part of themselves, as those grim, water-logged flats north and south of the Menin road could never be to a Lancashire or London boy. And no other French battle-field wears for a Frenchman quite the same aureole that shines for ever on those dark, riven hills of Verdun. But it seemed to me that in the feeling of France, Champagne came next—Champagne, associated first of all with Castelnau’s victory in the autumn of 1915, then with General Nivelle’s tragic check in 1917, with the serious crisis in the French Army in May and June of that year; and finally with General Gouraud’s brilliant successes in the summer and autumn of 1918.