Somme, 1918

First World War


21 March - 5 April 1918

Geographical Parameters

No geographical parameters defined.


A group honour incorporating the “Battle of St. Quentin”, the “First Battle of Bapaume”, the “Battle of Rosières”, the “First Battle of Arras, 1918”, the “Battle of the Avre”, and the “Battle of the Ancre, 1918”, formally entitled “The First Battles of the Somme, 1918”, and itself being part of “The Offensive in Picardy (21 March – 5 April, 1918)”Footnote 1.


The Honour “Somme, 1918” was awarded as a Campaign Honour for the defence against the German Spring offensive in this region. Launched on 21 March, the German offensive named Operation Michael was intended to knock the British out of the war before American forces could arrive in large numbers. Using infiltration tactics the German attack was planned and rehearsed starting in January. Although the British forces in the area had attempted to adopt a form of elastic defence there were insufficient number to resist the German assault. Over the next few weeks the Germans penetrated some 40 miles into the British lines. Various formations were moved in to attempt to stop them. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade (Brigadier-General J.E.B. Seely) was the first Canadian formation called into action, playing a part in arresting the German advance near the town of Moreuil. The 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade (a battalion-sized unit) was also quickly rushed to help stop the German advance. In their “Motors”, as their armoured cars were called, they were able to quickly move and help cover British withdrawals since many of the British machine gun positions had been captured. The only component of the Canadian Corps to be involved in this campaign was the 2nd Canadian Division (Major-General Sir H.E. Burstall), temporarily assigned to the Third Army to re-establish a defensive line.

In February 1918, prior to the opening of the German campaign, Canadian railway troops, such as the 6th Canadian Railway Battalion (formerly the 228th Battalion, CEF) had been dispatched to the Fifth Army rear areas to construct a light rail system to better serve the front line. The enemy threat was such that these hitherto unarmed units were issued with and practised on, service rifles. When the storm broke on 21 March these railway construction battalions became, in a few instances, the only organized and cohesive military units in the rear areas. The units continued in their duties under enemy shell fire and air attack until withdrawn.

Gen. Sir Sam Hughes

Gen. Sir Sam Hughes (left fore) visiting the Front, talking with Brig.-Gen. Seely (middle fore). Aug. 1916. Location unknown.
Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence/PA-000599Library and Archives Canada/PA-000599; (MIKAN no. 3221015)

Major-General Sir Henry Edward Burstall

Major-General Sir Henry Edward Burstall was General Officer Commanding the 2nd Canadian Division. Location unknown. December, 1917.
Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada (MIKAN no. 3213482)

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