The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line

14 March - 5 April 1917

In March 1917, the German armies on the Somme carried out a strategic withdrawal known as Operation Alberich. They destroyed everything on the ground that they left: flattening villages, poisoning wells, cutting down trees, blowing craters on roads and crossroads, booby-trapping ruins and dugouts. The withdrawal was to an immensely powerful and shorter line, positioned to take every tactical advantage of ground. The construction of this line - or rather, series of lines - had been spotted by British and French aviators in late 1916. British patrols began to detect the withdrawal of German infantry from the Somme in mid February 1917 and a cautious pursuit began, halted only as the Hindenburg Line itself was approached.

German rereat to the Hindenburg Line

Third Army (Allenby)
VII Corps (Snow)
14th (Light) Division
21st Division
30th Division
56th (1st London) Division.

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
5th Cavalry Division
III Corps (Pulteney)
1st Division
48th (South Midland) Division, which occupied Peronne on 18 March
59th (2nd North Midland) Division.
IV Corps (Woollcombe)
32nd Division
35th Division
61st (2nd South Midland) Division.
XIV Corps (Cavan)
Guards Division
20th (Light) Division (transferred to XV Corps on 25 March).
XV Corps (Du Cane)
8th Division
20th (Light) Division (transferred from XIV Corps on 25 March)
40th Division.

Fifth Army (Gough)
4th Cavalry Division
II Corps (Jacob)
2nd Division
18th (Eastern) Division.
V Corps (Fanshawe)
7th Division
46th (North Midland) Division
62nd (2nd West Riding) Division.
XVIII Corps (Maxse)
58th (2/1st London) Division.
I ANZAC Corps (Birdwood)
2nd Australian Division, which captured Bapaume on 17 March 1917
4th Australian Division
5th Australian Division.

The front had now moved several miles, leaving the devastated 1916 Somme battlefield and the razed ground of Alberich behind the British front. New place names began to appear in British news ... they would soon assume as sinister an air as the villages and woods of the Somme.

Hindenburg Line 1917