Primary Documents - Sir Douglas Haig's "Backs to the Wall" Order, 11 April 1918
With the great German offensives of Spring 1918 underway - and which almost won the war for Germany before U.S. manpower could reach the Western Front in sufficient numbers - the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, Sir Douglas Haig, issued his famous 'Special Order of the Day' commonly referred to as his 'Backs to the Wall' communiqué.
In his Special Order Haig urged the British Army to 'fight it out' to the end, and stated that the war's victor would be "the side which holds out the longest".
Click here to view an enlarged copy of Sir Douglas Haig's Special Order of the Day (opens in new window, 58KB). Click here to read German Army Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg's summary of the Lys offensive which prompted Haig's Order of the Day. Click here to read Currie's appeal to the Canadian Corps for courage shortly before they entered fighting during the Lys offensive.
SPECIAL ORDER OF THE DAY
By FIELD-MARSHAL SIR DOUGLAS HAIG
K.T., G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.I.E.
Commander-in-Chief, British Armies in France
To ALL RANKS OF THE BRITISH ARMY IN FRANCE AND FLANDERS
Three weeks ago to-day the enemy began his terrific attacks against us on a fifty-mile front. His objects are to separate us from the French, to take the Channel Ports and destroy the British Army.
In spite of throwing already 106 Divisions into the battle and enduring the most reckless sacrifice of human life, he has as yet made little progress towards his goals.
We owe this to the determined fighting and self-sacrifice of our troops. Words fail me to express the admiration which I feel for the splendid resistance offered by all ranks of our Army under the most trying circumstances.
Many amongst us now are tired. To those I would say that Victory will belong to the side which holds out the longest. The French Army is moving rapidly and in great force to our support.
There is no other course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end. The safety of our homes and the Freedom of mankind alike depend upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.
(Signed) D. Haig F.M.
British Armies in France
Tuesday, April 11th, 1918
"Boche" was a disparaging term used to describe anything German.
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