The Last 100 Days
The Australian Road to Victory in the First World War
By Will Davies
Published by Penguin Random House
RRP $34.99 in paperback • ISBN 9780143784968
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While this latest book by Will Davies is entitled The Last 100 Days, he wisely begins his examination from November 1917 when the Bolsheviks seized power and the newly formed Russian government signed an armistice with Germany in December 1917.
Thus 60 German divisions were available for relocation from the Eastern to the Western front. Emboldened by this increase in manpower and fearing the arrival of the Americans, the German High Command launched a major offensive in March 1918. This offensive was seen as a ‘last throw of the dice’ by Germany, which was bleeding economically with much of the country – and its soldiers – desperately short of food. The German aim was to capture the city of Amiens which housed a major Allied supply centre.
Davies charts the succession of battles which followed and in particular those battles involving Australian forces. The Battle of Hamel, in July 1918, was the first opportunity for the Allies to strike back. Led by the Australian General John Monash, victory was secured in just 93 minutes.
Davies then charts the Australians’ advance up the Somme valley, across the river to Mont St Quentin and Peronne, and finally to the Hindenburg Line itself. Many Australians were recognised for their bravery during this time.
And then it all ended, quite suddenly and unexpectedly. The war was over, Armistice was declared and suddenly the most pressing issue was the repatriation of men back to Australia.
Davies has a rare gift of storytelling that is no less evident in his latest work.