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1918(1) OFF MOD v.1

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New missions. 1918(1) January-April : German Spring Offensive in Pacardy and on the Lys. Poor weather in January restricted much British air observation, but as the weather improved it was clear, by February, that the German build-up was taking place against the British Third and Fifth Armies opposite the Cambrai salient. During this period Jagdgeschwader 1 was joined by two new German fighter wings, JG2 and JG3, to give the German air service a numerical superiority for the first time. But they were remaining quiet, for the most part, trying to conceal the extent of the build-up of air units in this sector, only bombing the British rear areas by night and sending out high altitude recon., photorecon. and art.obs. machines by day. The British responded to this build-up with a programme of intensive recon. and bombing of the German airfiels and rail network by day and by night. Fighter squadrons were also being used to attack airfields by day - in part, is an attempt to lure the German fighters into the air (mostly without much success). But the main work of the Corps machines was with their artillery units, ranging the guns on to enemy gun batteries, supply dumps and lines of communication in the front sectors. This was supported by the fighter units, flying squadron-strength 'Close' and 'Distant' patrols to keep the airspace over the front clear of German machines. On 21st March the German Spring Offensive was unleashed, aiming for Amiens. German two-seaters supported the attack with contact patrols, ground attack and art.obs., with the single-seater fighters flying above to protect them from air attack. As and when the weather allowed, British machines were also flying contact patrols and tactical recon. missions, with fighters flying line patrols and ground attack missions. The bombers were attacking rail junctions and bridges, mostly but not always, by night. After eight days of heavy fighting the German assault was held along the Amiens Defence Line, a line stretching from Mezieres to Ignaucourt and Hamel, and on 5th April the German attack towards Amiens was finally blocked, just ten miles short, at Villers Bretonneaux. On the 9th April the German focus switched to the Lys valley with a surprise assault on the weakly held British and Portuguese line in heavy mist. After the initial breakthrough and swift advance, this attack was also held, although in the ten days that it lasted the Germans managed to recover nearly all the territory lost to the British in the previouse autumn. By the end of April, however, both attacks had been halted. The Germans were aware, though, that a decisive breakthrough was still an urgent necessity - In April nearly 120,000 US troops had landed in France, to be followed by a further 220,000 in May and another 275,000 in June. German attention now switched again to the French sector, for one more throw of the dice before it would, finally, be too late...

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