Fifth Army (United Kingdom)

The Fifth Army was a field army of the British Army during World War I that formed part of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front between 1916 and 1918. The army originated as the Reserve Corps during the preparations for the British part of the Somme Offensive of 1916, was renamed Reserve Army when it was expanded and became the Fifth Army in October 1916.

Fifth Army
5th Army WW1 (1st).jpg Fifth Army WW1 (2nd).svg
5th Army formation sign; first (left) and second (right) patterns.
CountryUnited Kingdom
BranchBritish Army
RoleOperations on the Western Front, 1916–1918
EngagementsFirst World War
Hubert Gough
Henry Rawlinson
William Peyton
William Birdwood
Lieutenant General Hubert de la Poer Gough


The Fifth Army was created on 30 October 1916, by renaming the Reserve Army (General Hubert Gough).[1] It participated in the Battle of the Ancre, which became the final British effort in the Battle of the Somme.[2]

In 1917, the Fifth Army was involved in the Battle of Arras and then the Third Battle of Ypres. The following year, the Fifth Army took over a stretch of front-line previously occupied by the French south of the River Somme and on 21 March, bore the brunt of the opening phase of the German Spring Offensive, known as Operation Michael.[3] The failure of the Fifth Army to withstand the German advance led to Gough's dismissal and replacement by General Henry Rawlinson on 28 March and on 2 April, the army was renamed the Fourth Army.[4] Gough and his remaining staff officers were to be renamed the Reserve Army with a headquarters at Crécy-en-Ponthieu, to survey a defensive line west of Amiens as a precaution and to oversee the building of all GHQ lines.[5][6] After Gough was removed and sent home, General William Peyton took over the HQ until 23 May, when the Reserve Army title was dropped and the Fifth Army HQ was re-formed, under the command of General William Birdwood.[7][8] Although the Fifth Army was blamed for failing to hold the German advance, it was later "triumphantly vindicated".[9]



  1. ^ James 1990, p. 10.
  2. ^ James 1990, p. 14.
  3. ^ James 1990, pp. 17–19, 21–24, 26–27.
  4. ^ Edmonds 1995, pp. 27–28, 109.
  5. ^ Harris 2009, p. 462.
  6. ^ Edmonds 1995, p. 118.
  7. ^ Bourne 2017.
  8. ^ Edmonds 1994, p. 194.
  9. ^ HMSO 1944, p. 102.



  • Edmonds, J. E.; et al. (1995) [1937]. Military Operations France and Belgium: 1918 March–April: Continuation of the German Offensives. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. II (Imperial War Museum & Battery Press ed.). London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-89839-223-4.
  • Edmonds, J. E. (1994) [1939]. Military Operations France and Belgium, 1918 May–July: The German Diversion Offensives and the First Allied Counter-Offensive. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents By Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. III (Imperial War Museum & Battery Press ed.). London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-89839-211-1.
  • Harris, J. P. (2009) [2008]. Douglas Haig and the First World War (pbk repr. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-89802-7.
  • James, E. A. (1990) [1924]. A Record of the Battles and Engagements of the British Armies in France and Flanders 1914–1918 (London Stamp Exchange ed.). Aldershot: Gale & Polden. ISBN 978-0-948130-18-2.
  • The Eighth Army, September 1941 to January 1943: Prepared for the War Office by the Ministry of Information. London: HMSO. 1944. OCLC 461008574.


Further readingEdit