How the war was won

The primary reason for the Allies' dramatic victory over Germany in 1918 was their ability to win the tactical and technological war on the western front, argues Jeremy Black

German Spring Offensive: reserve troops in Saint Quentin on their way to the front, March 1918. (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

This article was first published in the June 2011 issue of BBC History Magazine 

In January 1918, many thought a German victory in the First World War possible. Defeat and revolution had left Russia tottering and at Brest-Litovsk in March the Bolsheviks accepted harsh German terms. This allowed large numbers of German troops to transfer from the eastern to the western front. On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched the first of their spring offensives, devastating the British Fifth Army on the Somme. That day, 21,000 British troops were captured and the British pushed back, leading Viscount Ebrington to note in May: “I am where I was in March and April 1915 – little did we think we should be here now.” Yet, six months later the Allies had won the war and Germany was suing for peace. How did this happen?

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