«LONDON PRINTED BY AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY, OVERSEAS MILITARY FORCES OF CANADA. REPORT of the MINISTRY Overseas Military Forces of Canada LONDON ...»
It was intended to continue the battle on the 28th, with the -1st Canadian Division on the right and the 4th (British) Division, then coming under my command, on the left ; the latter Division, however, was unable to reach the battle position in time. As it was undesirable at this stage to employ a fresh Division alongside a Division which had already been engaged, the orders issued were cancelled and the battle was continued by the Divisions then in the line.
At 9.00 a.m. on the 28th the 3rd Canadian Division resumed the attack, followed at 12.30 p.m. by the 2nd Canadian Division. The objective for the day was the capture of the FresnesRouvroy line, the possession of which was vital to the success of our further operations.
On the left, the 3rd Canadian Division had pushed forward, captured the Fresnes-Rouvroy line from the Sensee River to north of Boiry-NotreDame, and had secured that village, Jigsaw Wood and entered Pelves.
They had, however, been unable to clear the village of Haucourt.
On the front of the 2nd Canadian Division the fighting was most severe. The wire in front of the Fresnes-Rouvroy line was found to be almost intact, and although at some points the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General T. L. Tremblay) had succeeded in penetrating the line, the first objective could not be secured, except one short length on the extreme right. Subjected to heavy machine gun fire from.both flanks as well as frontally, the attacking troops had suffered heavy casualties, which they had borne with the utmost fortitude.
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At nightfall the general line of the 2nd Canadian Division was little in advance of the line held the night before, although a few small parties of stubborn men were still as far forward as the wire of the FresnesRouvroy line.
Enemy reinforcements were seen dribbling forward all day long.
2nd Phase.—During the days succeeding the capture of Monchy-lePreux the enemy's resistance had been steadily increasing, and it became clear that the Drocourt-Queant line would be very stubbornly defended.
On the 28th instructions had been received fixing tentatively September 1 as the date on which the Drocourt-Queant line was to be attacked by the Canadian Corps, in conjunction with the XVII. Corps.
The intention was to capture also the Canal du Nord line in the same operation.
It was therefore essential to secure, before that date, a good jumpingoff line roughly parallel to, and approximately 600 yards west of, the Drocourt-Queant line.
This was indeed a very difficult task, entailing the capture of the Fresnes-Rouvroy line, of the Vis-en-Artois Switch, and of a number of defended localities of very great strength, notably the Crow's Nest, Upton Wood, and St. Servin's Farm.
The 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions were now exhausted, and during the night 28th/29th they were relieved by the 1st Canadian Division on the right, the 4th (British) Division (which had been placed under my orders on the night 26th/27th) on the left, and Brutinel's Brigade (formerly the Canadian Independent Force) on the extreme left flank.
The Heavy Artillery from now on concentrated on the cutting of the broad belts of wire in front of the Drocourt-Queant line, and the Engineers prepared the bridging material required for the crossings of the Sensee River and the Canal du Nord.
During the day (August 29) our line had been considerably improved by minor operations. Brutinel's Brigade had pushed forward on their front and captured Bench Farm and Victoria Copse, north of BoiryNotre-Dame. The 4th (British) Division, in the face of strong opposition, had advanced their line in the vicinity of Haucourt and Remy. North of the Scarpe the 51st Division had captured the crest of Greenland Hill.
The command of the 51st Divisional front now passed to the G.O.C.
XXII. Corps; and during the night August 29/30 Corps Operations. 151 the 11th Division, which had been transferred to the Canadian Corps from I. Corps, relieved Brutinel's Brigade in the line, the command of that Division also passing to the G.O.C. XXII. Corps on completion of the relief.
This shortened the line considerably and relieved me of the anxiety caused by the length and vulnerability of the northern flank.
On the 30th, following the reported capture of Hendecourt by the 57th Division, the 1st Canadian Division attacked the Vis-en-Artois Switch, Upton Wood, and the Fresnes-Rouvroy line south of the Vis-enArtois Switch. The attack, a daring manoeuvre organised and carried out by the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General W. A.
Griesbach), under cover of very ingenious barrages arranged by the C.R.A., 1st Canadian Division (Brigadier-General H. C. Thacker), was eminently successful, all objectives being captured and the entire garrison either killed or taken prisoner. Heavy counterattacks by fresh troops were repulsed during the afternoon and following night.
On the 31st the remainder of the Fresnes-Rouvroy line south of the Arras-Cambrai Road, including Ocean Work, was captured by the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade (BrigadierGeneral F. O. W. Loomis).
In the meantime the 4th (British) Division had doggedly pushed ahead, crossing the valley of the Sensee River and capturing the villages of Haucourt, Remy, and Eterpigny. This advance was over very difficult, thickly wooded country, and the fighting was very heavy, particularly in the vicinity of St. Servin's Farm, which, after changing hands several times, remained in possession of the enemy until September 2.
On the night August 31-September 1 the 4th Canadian Division came into the line on a one-Brigade front between the 1st Canadian Division and 4th (British) Division.
The G.O.C. 4th (British) Division having now reported that he considered his Division unable successfully to attack the DrocourtQueant line on the front allotted to him, in view of the losses suffered in the preliminary fighting for the jumping-off line, I decided that the 4th Canadian Division would extend their front and take over 1,000 yards additional frontage from the 4th (British) Division. This necessitated a change of plan on the part of the 4th Canadian Division, who a few hours before zero had to place an additional Brigade in the line for the 152 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.
initial assault. Accordingly, the 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General J. H. McBrien) carried out the attack on the right and the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade (BrigadierGeneral R. J. F. Hayter) on the left Divisional front, having first advanced the line to conform with the 1st Canadian Division.
It was necessary to postpone the attack on the DrocourtQueant line until September 2 on account of the additional wire cutting which was still required, and the day of September 1 was employed in minor operations to improve the jumpingoff line for the major operation.
The important strong point known as the Crow's Nest was captured by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade.
During the afternoon and evening of September 1 the enemy delivered violent counter-attacks, directed against the junction of the 1st and 4th Canadian Divisions. Two fresh Divisions and two Divisions already in the line were identified in the course of this heavy fighting.
Our troops were forced back slightly twice, but the ground was each time regained and finally held. The hand-to-hand fighting for the possession of the crest of the spur at this point really continued until zero hour the next day, the troops attacking the Drocourt-Queant line as they moved forward, taking over the fight from the troops then holding the line.
At 5.00 a.m., September 2, the major operation against the DrocourtQueant line was launched. Preceded by a dense barrage, and assisted by Tanks, the Infantry pushed forward rapidly, and the Drocourt-Queant line (the first objective) and its support line (the second objective) including the village of Dury were captured according to programme.
With the capture of the second objective the Field Artillery barrage was shot out, and the attack further east had to be carried forward without its assistance. The enemy's resistance, free of the demoralising effect of our barrage, stiffened considerably, the open country being swept continually by intense machine gun fire. In addition, the Tanks soon became casualties from enemy guns firing point blank, and the advance on the left and centre was held up.
movements of the force to the Arras-Cambrai Road ; and this was rendered impassable by machine gun fire and by batteries firing over open sights.
On the right, however, the 1st Canadian Division pushed forward despite very heavy machine gun and direct artillery fire, and captured the villages of Cagnicourt and Villers-lezCagnicourt, the Bois de Bouche and Bois de Loison to the east of Cagnicourt.
"Taking advantage of -the breach thus made by the Canadian Divisions, a Brigade of the 63rd (Naval) Division, XVII. Corps, which had followed the attack behind the right Brigade of our right Division, now turned south and advanced in the direction of Queant."
Further progress made by the 1st Canadian Division in the afternoon resulted in the capture of the heavily wired Buissy Switch line as far south as the outskirts of Buissy ; this largely outflanked the enemy still holding out in front of the 4th Canadian Division, and compelled their retirement during the night behind the Canal du Nord.
Although the crossings of the Canal du Nord had not been captured, the result of the day's fighting was most gratifying. The Canadian Corps had pierced the Drocourt-Queant line on its whole front of attack, and the exploitation of our success by the XVII. Corps on the right had further widened the breach and made possible the capture of a large stretch of territory to the south.
To stem our advance, and hold the Drocourt-Queant line, the enemy had concentrated eight fresh Divisions directly opposite the Canadian Corps, but the unparalleled striking power of our Battalions and the individual bravery of our men had smashed all resistance.
The number of unwounded prisoners captured exceeded 5,000, and we had identified every Unit of the seven Infantry Divisions and the one Cavalry Division engaged.
Our Infantry had penetrated the enemy's defences to a depth exceeding 6,000 yards.
In prevision of the attack on the Canal du Nord taking place the same day, the Engineers had rapidly prepared the bridges and roads, advanced the light railways, and pushed forward the personnel and all material necessary for future construction.
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During the night of September 2/3 the 4th (British) Division, by a minor operation, captured the village of Etaing without serious opposition.
At dawn our Infantry pushed forward strong patrols, and meeting very slight resistance from the enemy contact patrols established a line just west of the Canal along the Corps front, freeing the villages of Buissy, Baralle, Saudemont, Rumaucourt, Ecourt St. Quentin, and Lecluse. A certain number of French civilians were liberated during this advance.
The enemy had blown up all the bridges on the previous night, and was holding a commanding position on the eastern bank of the Canal with a large number of machine guns. His Artillery was very active, more especially from the north, and it was impossible to send bodies of troops by daylight over the long and bare slopes bordered by the Canal.
Our left flank was now very exposed to Artillery fire from the north, and the nature of the ground we were holding, the strength of the obstacle in front of the Corps, and the resolute attitude of the enemy, forbade any attempt to further exploit our success.
It was necessary to prepare minutely the details of the operations required to attack successfully the Canal du Nord line. Accordingly, no further attempts were made at this time.
In the night of September 3/4 the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions relieved the 1st and 4th Canadian Divisions respectively, and the 4th (British) Division was relieved by the 1st (British) Division, which had come under the Canadian Corps on September 1 and had been concentrated after that date in the Monchy-le-Preux, Vis-en-Artois, Guemappe area.
3rd Phase.—The left flank of the Corps was again very long, and in accordance with the policy adopted the 1st (British) Division was transferred in the line from the Canadian Corps to the XXII. Corps. I handed over command of that sector -extending from Palluel (exclusive) to Etaing (inclusive), and facing north-to the G.O.C. XXII. Corps at midnight, September 4/5.
The enemy had flooded the valley of the Sensee River and all the bridges had been destroyed. Our Engineers were very actively engaged in an effort to lower these floods and wrest the control from the enemy.
On the right flank the XVII. Corps was engaged in heavy fighting in and around Moeuvres, and all their attempts to cross the Canal du Nord at that point had been repulsed.
Corps Operations. 155 A thorough reconnaissance of our front had shown that the frontal attack of the Canal du Nord line was impossible, the eastern bank of the Canal was strongly wired and was generally much higher than the western bank.
The whole of our forward area was under direct observation from Oisy-le-Verger and the high ground on the northern flank, and any movement by day was quickly engaged by hostile artillery.
No battery positions within a range sufficient to carry on the preparation of the attack, or to support it, were available, and any attempt to bring guns forward of the general line Villers-lez-Cagnicourt-Buissy was severely punished ; the battery positions south and west of this general line were subjected to intense gas shelling every night.
The Canal du Nord was in itself a serious obstacle. It was under construction at the outbreak of the war and had not been completed.
Generally speaking, it followed the valley of the River Agache, but not the actual bed of the river. The average width was about 100 feet and it was flooded as far south as the lock, 800 yards south-west of Sains-lezMarquion, just north of the Corps southern boundary. South of this and to the right of the Corps front the Canal was dry, and its bottom was at the natural ground level, the sides of the Canal consisting of high earth and brick banks.
The attack of the Canal Du Nord could not, therefore, be undertaken singly by the Canadian Corps, but had to be part of a larger scheme.