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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > May 2018 > A breaking point survived

A breaking point survived

Keith Gregson investigates the German Spring Offensive of 1918, a series of attacks by the Germans along the Western Front, towards the end of a long and brutal war. Many of our ancestors would have seen action in these battles, been taken prisoners of war or lost their lives, creating a lasting impact on countless families and communities


Devastation following the Battle of Lys on the Western Front during the German Spring Offensive of 1918
Keith’s wife Barbara’s grandad Fred and his great-uncle John
were both captured by the Germans in 1918 and spent the remainder of the war as PoWs

‘It broke the British line and nearly broke the British Army’ – Historian Lyn MacDonald

As we near the end of our centennial First World War commemorations, it is worth reflecting on what has been highlighted. Essentially this has been the great land battles (with the exception of the sea Battle of Jutland) and nearly all of these (again with one exception – the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign) on the Western Front. The names of these battles trip easily off the tongue, as they have for the last 100 FINAL MONTHS OF WAR years – The Somme, Ypres, Arras, Loos, Verdun – yet one significant ‘battle/campaign’ on that front rarely receives the same exposure. It is known commonly as the ‘German Spring Offensive’ of 1918. Covering the months from March to May, this offensive cost numerous British and Empire lives; left many wounded and (particularly) caused thousands to spend the ensuing six to nine months in prisoner of war camps.

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About Family Tree

Where are you going to take your family history this spring? From planning a trip to The National Archives to a meander down memory lane, there are so many choices... I bet there are few among us whose hearts don’t gladden when spring is in the air, and this issue we’ve got all sorts of ideas to help you get out and about and enjoying your family history. Whether you’re going to pay a visit to the archives, or plan a day out or weekend away to the places where your family once came from, it’s sure to add so much to what you know about your ancestors’ lives. It’s definitely true – the more we look, the more we learn. Have fun!