Commemorating the final year of the Great War
The fighting on the Western Front and in the Middle East that raged during 1917 continued into the early months of 1918. A major consequence of the bitter fighting in France and Belgium the previous year had been the enormous casualties. With fewer men voluntarily enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force, the Australian government held a second vote on conscription. As it had the previous year, the issue of conscription polarised the nation along sectarian, class and political lines, and was narrowly rejected a second time.
The Centenary of WWI: 1918 stamp issue, released on 2 October 2018 and designed by Lisa Christensen of Three Branches Design, charts some of the major events and themes from this final year of the war, as well as a key figure. The stamp photographs are from the collection of the Australian War Memorial.
The stalemate ends
On the Western Front, the year began with a major German offensive that successfully ended the stalemate of trench warfare. Following the collapse of the Eastern Front, more than a million German soldiers were transferred to the west for an offensive that sought to split the British and French Armies along the Somme River and capture the vital logistical centre of Amiens. Having entered the war on the side of the allied forces, US troops had not yet arrived in France to help stem the German onslaught. The Germans began their offensive in March 1918 and succeeded in advancing to within artillery range of Amiens.
Australian troops were in Belgium and spared the German offensive that fell on British forces on the old 1916 battlefields. They were rushed to defend Amiens alongside other British formations, fighting notable actions at Dernancourt and Hangard Wood in the opening weeks of April 1918. German troops succeeded in capturing the town of Villers-Bretonneux but were ejected by Australians from the 13th and 15th Brigades on the evening of 24¬–25 April 1918 (the third anniversary of the Gallipoli landings). With the Germans unable to advance any farther, Amiens was saved and the line stabilised, and the allied armies began preparations for a counter-offensive.