Somme Winter 1916-17 and the Hindenburg Line

Many casualties suffered by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on the Western Front occurred during the 1916 Battle of the Somme and the 1917 attacks against the Hindenburg Line (Siegfriedstellung). Over the 1916-17 winter, the Germans had prepared the Hindenburg Line as new defensive positions far behind the existing front. Structurally, it was a series of fortified zones linked together by defensive works that stretched from the North Sea to the town of Verdun. The Allies optimistically thought the Germans withdrawal to this new front was a retreat. However, the Germans' decision to build a new line of defence with only a limited retreat was a clever tactic. By withdrawing to a shorter and more easily defendable front, they made better use of their troops. They also avoided more huge losses like those suffered at Verdun and the Somme.

Australian Army Medical Corps soldiers carry men suffering from trench foot, December 1916. AWM E00081

Last updated: 18 December 2019

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Somme Winter 1916-17 and the Hindenburg Line, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 25 September 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/ww1/where-australians-served/western-front/somme-winter
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