Sapper History




Western Front


Corps of Royal Engineers


Related Events, other areas of the war & notes

16 January 1918



Riots break out in Vienna and Budapest as the Austro-Hungarians express mounting dissatisfaction with the war.

February 1918

As a consequence of the lack of reinforcements Haig conducts a major re-organisation of the British forces reducing each Brigade from 4 to 3 infantry battalions with each Division having only 9 battalions instead of 12. Divisional artillery was reduced compensated for by an increase in machine gun support and additions to Corps and Army artillery.



3 March 1918



Soviet Russia signs peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk with Germany and her allies.

21 March to

5 April 1918

German Spring Offensive on the Somme - Operation ‘Michael’ or 'Kaiserschlacht'. Germans attack along a 50 mile front south of Arras.



21 to 23 March 1918

The Battle of St Quentin. They use new 'Stormtrooper' assault teams to smash through British positions west of St Quentin taking 16,000 British prisoners.



22 March 1918


2nd Lt Cecil Leonard Knox VC [finally Maj]

150 Fd Coy. Tugny – various canal bridge demolitions.



23 March 1918

German assaults now reach the Somme Line. The greatest air battle of the war takes place over the battlefield as 70 aircraft are involved in a single combat.



25 March 1918

The First Battle of  Bapaume.

Capt Alfred Maurice Toye VC [finally Brig VC, MC – enlisted RE] 2nd Bn Middx at Eterpigny

Canal de la Somme & R. Somme near Peronne



26 to 27 March 1918

The Battle of Rosières.



March 28 1918

The German offensive along the River Scarpe is halted at great loss. The American Expeditionary Force plays a vital role in the battle.



28 March 1918

The Mars Offensive, Arras. A British defensive victory as the Germans are held.



2 April 1918


Capt James Thomas Byford McCudden VC DSO* MC* MM [enlisted RE attached RFC]

56 Sqn RAF, killed in air crash near Auxi-le-Château


4 April 1918

The Battle of the Avre. The German drive for Amiens.



5 April 1918

The Battle of the Ancre. The first German Spring Offensive halts outside Amiens as British and Australian forces hold the line. The second 1918 battle of the Somme ends.



9 to 29

April 1918

The Battle of the Lys, Flanders. Operation 'Georgette' is the second German Spring Offensive. Three British Divisions hold off 13 German divisions inflicting crippling loss in a series of officially recognised ‘battles’:

9 to 11 April Estaires; 10 t0 11 April Messines; 12 to 15 April Hazebrouck; 13 to 15 April Bailleul; 17 to 19 April 1st Kemmel Ridge; 18 April Bethune; 25 to 26 April 2nd Kemmel ridge; 29 April Scherpenberg and subsequent actions: 28 June La Becque; 19 July Meteren



22 April 1918



Allies carry out raids against the harbours of Ostend and Zeebrugge. Obsolete vessels are driven ashore and blown up in order to blockade the entrances. Zeebrugge is partially successful; the Ostend raid fails.

24 to 25 April 1918

Actions of Villers-Bretonneux. The defence of Amiens



30 April 1918 1918


Albert Medal [5] to Sgt-Major Alfred Furlonger & Spr Thomas Woodman, both of 29 Light Railway Operating Company; L.Cpl John Bigland & Spr Joseph Farren, both of 12 Light Railway Operating Company & Spr George Johnson, 21 Light Railway Operating Company.


10 May 1918



The British launch a second raid on Ostend. HMS Vindictive is this time successfully scuttled in the harbour entrance. German cruisers are no longer able to use the port.

19 May 1918



The German Air Force launches its largest and last raid on London. Out of the 33 aircraft are lost while 49 civilians are killed and 177 wounded.

27 May to

6 June 1918

Operation Blucher the third German Spring Offensive assaults the French army along the Aisne River. The French are forced back to the Marne but hold the river after being reinforced by American troops.



28 to 30 May 1918

US troops go on the offensive for the first time at Cantigny.



9 to 12 June  1918

The fourth German Spring Offensive on the Western Front codenamed 'Gneisenau' between Noyan and Montdidier. It fails to break the French line and ends four days later.



15 June 1918



The second Battle of the Piave River Italy opens with a massive offensive by the Austro-Hungarian Army. Italian and British troops first hold and then push back the attackers. Despite heavy losses the Allies destroy the Austro-Hungarian Army precipitating the collapse of the Empire.

19 June 1918



Battle of Asiago, Austria v. British & French.

15 July to

4 August 1918

The second Battle of the Marne marks the final phase of the German Spring Offensive. Allied counter attacks and inflict irreplaceable German casualties. The defeat leads to the cancellation of their planned Invasion of Flanders and puts the Germans on the complete defensive.



20 Jul 1918


Albert Medal to Lt Frank Calverley, No 1 Special Coy. Bois l'Abbe near Amiens.


22 July 1918

Germans retreat Hindenberg Line.



26 July 1918


Maj Edward Mannock VC DSO** MC* 85 Sqn RAF [RE att. RFC then RAF]. Killed in action in vicinity of Lestrem near Bethune.


8 August to 3 September 1918

The Second Battle of the Somme. This is a ‘black day’ for the Germans as they are forced to retreat in the face of Australian and Canadian troops with massed tanks.



8 to 11 August 1918

The second Battle of Amiens begins. German resistance is sporadic and thousands surrender. Fighting is now defined by mobility as the lines of trenches are breached.



16 Aug 1918


Albert Medal to L.Cpl Walter Beard, 1st Reserve Battalion. Fort Darland, Gillingham.


21 to 23 August 1918

The Battle of Albert. The army moved forward on a 7 mile front preceded by a creeping barrage and Albert was taken.



21 August to 3 September 1918

The Second Battle of Bapaume. Progress eastward continued with British and Australian forces.



24 August 1918


Sgt Samuel Forsyth VC New Zealand Engrs. At Grevillers near Bapaume.



31 August to 3 September 1918

The Battle of Peronne. The capture of Mont St Quentin and then Péronne by the Australians.



26 to 30 August

The Second Battle of Arras. Scarpe and the advance to the Drocourt - Quéant Line.




2 to 3 September 1918

Drocourt-Quéant Line: breaking the line.



12 September 1918

The Battle of Havrincourt.


St Mihiel. American assault with French support on German held salient which is taken by them.

15 September



Vardar. Franco-Serbian force successfully attacks Bulgarian army across Macedonian mountains. Bulgaria sues for peace.

18 September 1918

The Battle of Epéhy.



19 September 1918



The Battle of Samaria marks the British offensive of Palestine with Nazareth taken from Turko-German forces leaving way to Damascus open.

22 September  1918



The Great Allied Balkan Victory.

27 September  1918

The Great British Offensive on the Cambrai Front leads to the storming of the Hindenburg Line. British and American troops launch devastating offensives piercing the Hindenburg Line.



27 September  to 1 October 1918

The Battle of Canal Du Nord. British forces cross heavily wired canal meeting continued stiff resistance.



28 September 1918



Hindenberg & Ludendorff recommend peace talks.

29 September  to 2 October 1918

The Battle of St Quentin Canal with British forces breaking through the Hindenberg Line.



3 to 5 October 1918

The Battle of Beaurevoir Line.



8 to 12 October 1918

The Battle of Cambrai.



28 September to 2 October 1918

The Battle of Ypres.




30 September 1918



British and Arab troops take Damascus capturing 7000 prisoners and securing stability in the Middle East.

4 October 1918



The German and Austrian peace proposal is sent to the American President Woodrow Wilson requesting an armistice.

8 October 1918

The Allies advance along a 20 mile front from St Quentin to Cambrai and drive the Germans back 3 miles taking Cambrai and le Cateau. Over 10,000 Germans are captured.



8 - 9 October 1918


Capt Coulson Norman Mitchell VC

[finally Lt Col MC]. 1 Tunnel’ Coy, Canadian Engineers at Pont d’ Aire, Canal de l’Escaut, Escaudoeuvres.


14 to 19 October 1918

The Battle of Courtrai. The British pushed the Germans back across the Lys with a Franco-Belgian force advancing to their north.




14 October 1918


Cpl James McPhie VC 416 [Edinburgh] Fd Coy

Cork float bridge Canal de la Sensee, Aubencheul-Au-Bac.


17 to 25 October 1918

The Battle of the Selle with British and American troops launching attacks. The British liberate Lille and Douai.

Belgians retake Ostend and reach Zeebrugge the following day. The whole of the Channel coast in the west of Flanders is liberated.



23 October  1918

The British launch a night attack with all three of their armies the First, the Second and the Fourth. This time the British advance six miles in two days. The British are now 20 miles behind the rear of the Hindenburg Line.



24 October 1918



Vittorio-Veneto. Italian attack across the Piave results in collapse of Austria’s main army.

25 October 1918


Pte Norman Harvey VC [finally CQMS RE]

1 Bn, RIK near Ingoyghem [Ingooigem]


29 October  1918



German sailors aboard the High Seas Fleet at Jade mutiny and refuse to engage the British Fleet.

30 October 1918



The Turkish army surrenders to the British in Mesopotamia. Turkey signs an armistice with the Allies. Fighting ceases the following day.

1 to 2 November  1918

The Battle of Valenciennes. Protected on its west side by the Schelde Canal the attack pushed in from the south over Mount Huoy and the Rhonelle and Marly into the city.




3 November 1918



Trieste, Italy taken. Landings by Allied Navy.

At Kiel German sailors mutiny.

Austria-Hungary signs an armistice with the Allies.

4 November 1918

The Battle of Le Quesnoy in which saw the New Zealanders used scaling ladders set against the ancient walls of the town. Around 12,000 Kiwis lost their lives in the war.



4 November 1918

The Battle of the Sambre fought along the Sambre-Oise Canal around Ors, Landrecies and the huge Forest of Mormal.



4 November 1918


Maj Geo de Cardonnel Elmsall Findlay  VC [eventually Col MC*] 409 [Lowland] Fd Coy. Near Catillon, Sambre Oise Canal

4 Nov - Maj Horace Santo Waters VC [eventually Col Sir- CBE DSO MC] with

Spr Adam Archibald VC, 218 Fd Coy

Near Ors, Sambre Oise Canal


6 November 1918


Maj Brett Mackay Cloutman VC [Eventually His Honour Lt Col MC] 59 Fd Coy at Quartes Bridge, Pont sur Sambre

[final Sapper VC of war]


8 November  1918



Armistice negotiations between the Allies and Germany begin in Ferdinand Foch's railway carriage HQ at Compiègne

9 November 1918



Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates and flees to Holland. Revolution in Berlin breaks out.

11 November 1918

Canadian troops enter Mons.



11 November




Armistice Day. The Armistice is signed at 5.00am and comes into effect at 11.00am.

At 10.57am Canadian Private George Lawrence Price is killed while on patrol in Canal du Centre. He is the last soldier to die in action on the Western front.

14 November  1918



General Von Lettow-Vorbeck surrenders his East African forces on the Chambezi River Northern Rhodesia.

21 November  1918



The Capitulation of Rosyth - Nine German battleships five battle-cruisers seven cruisers and 49 destroyers arrive off Rosyth to surrender. Thirty nine U-Boats surrender off Harwich.

12 December 1918

The British Cavalry cross the Rhine and begin the Occupation of Cologne.



13 December 1918

Americans cross the Rhine and occupy the bridgehead at Coblenz. Armistice is prolonged for one month until 17 January 1919.