«LONDON PRINTED BY AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY, OVERSEAS MILITARY FORCES OF CANADA. REPORT of the MINISTRY Overseas Military Forces of Canada LONDON ...»
supply. In addition, on the left, the VIII. Corps had not been able to cope with the supply question and had not advanced in conformity with our progress. In view of these considerations, orders were issued that Divisions were to maintain touch with the enemy without becoming involved in heavy fighting.
For a time on the 20th the 4th Canadian Division was held up just east of Denain by machine gun and artillery fire, and it was not until late in the afternoon that our troops could make progress there.
Continuing the advance on the 21st, a footing was gained in the Foret-de-Vicoigne, and the following villages were captured :-Aremberg, Oisy, Herin, Rouvignes, Aubry, Petite Foret, Anzin, Prouvy, Bellaing and Wavrechain. As on the previous day, all these villages contained civilians, who. subsequently suffered considerably from deliberate hostile shelling.
The 1st Canadian Division had now been in the line for two weeks without having an opportunity to rest and refit since the hard-fought battle of the Canal du Nord, and orders were issued for its relief by the 3rd Canadian Division. At dawn on the 22nd, in order that touch with the enemy be maintained, the 1st Canadian Division pushed forward.
Following closely, the 3rd Canadian Division passed through the 1st Canadian Division during the forenoon, on the left Brigade front, about
9.00 a.m., on the line of the St. Amand-Raismes Road, and on the right about 12 noon on the line of the St. Amand-Raismes railway, the Foret de Vicoigne having been cleared of the enemy. On relief, the 1st Canadian Division came into rest billets in the Somain-PecquencourtMasny area.
The 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions pushed on during the 22nd, and by nightfall Trith St. Leger, La Vignoble, La Sentinelle, Waast-le-Haut, Beauvrages, Bruay, and practically the whole of the large forest of Raismes, were in our hands. On the left Brigade front of the 4th Canadian Division the Canal de l'Escaut had been reached in places. A very large area north-east of Valenciennes and a smaller area to the south-west had been flooded, and to the west of the city the anal itself provided a serious obstacle. To the south-west, beyond the flooded area, Mont Houy and the Famars Ridge made a natural line of defence.
The XXII. Corps on our right had been held up along the Ecaillon River, and the VIII. Corps on our left had not been able to make any considerable advance, chiefly owing to supply difficulties, and were still some distance behind us.
176 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.
The Divisions continued to push forward in the face of' steadily increasing opposition, and by the 25th had reached the Canal and the western edge of the inundated area along the whole Corps front.
Our troops had had a very arduous pursuit, and the rail-head for supplies and ammunition was still very far to the rear. It was therefore decided that we should make good the west bank of the Canal and stand fast until the flanking Corps had made progress.
Attempts to cross the Canal proved that the enemy was holding in strength a naturally strong position, and it was ordered that no crossing in force would be attempted without reference to Corps Headquarters. The Engineers established dumps of material well forward on selected sites so that the bridges necessary to cross the Canal on the resumption of our advance could be constructed without delay.
It had become apparent that, unless the enemy withdrew, Valenciennes could only be taken from the south. The XXII. Corps, on the right, had meanwhile succeeded in crossing the Ecaillon River after a hard fight and captured the Famars Ridge. They had, however, been unable to take Mont Houy, which commanded Valenciennes from the south.
On October 27 the First Army Commander outlined the plans for operations to be carried out in conjunction with attacks on a large scale by the Third and Fourth Armies to the south as follows:— The First Army was to capture Valenciennes. The operation to be carried out in three phases as follows:—
In accordance with the above, instructions were issued to the 3rd Canadian Division to take over the frontage of the left Brigade of the 4th Canadian Division. The 4th Canadian Division was, in turn, ordered to relieve the left Brigade of the XXII. Corps (51st Division), both sideslips to take place on the night of October 28/29, subsequent to the capture of Mont Houy by the XXII. Corps.
The attack of the 51st Division on Mont Houy on October 28 was not successful. In the first rush the troops succeeded in gaining a foothold on the objective, but were subsequently driven out by repeated counterattacks. In view of this, the relief of the left Brigade of that Division by the 4th Canadian Division was postponed. During the night of October 28/29, however, the 3rd Canadian Division relieved the left Brigade of the 4th Canadian Division.
Capture of Mont Houy and Valeneiennes.—Orders were received that the Canadian Corps was to carry out all three phases of the operation against Valenciennes in conjunction with attacks of the XXII. Corps.
Accordingly, the 4th Canadian Division was ordered to relieve the left Brigade of the 51st Division during the night of October 29/30 on the line then held, and to be prepared to carry out the attack on the morning of November 1.
In conjunction with the attack the 3rd Canadian Division was ordered to cross the Canal and the inundated area on its front, and establish a bridge-head to enable the Engineers to reconstruct the bridges leading into the city.
In the short period available elaborate preparations were made for the support of the attack. The position was eminently suitable for the use of enfilade as well as frontal fire, the general direction of the attack on Mont Houy being parallel to our front, and full advantage of this was taken in arranging the Artillery and Machine Gun barrages.
The application of Heavy Artillery fire was restricted because the enemy had retained many civilians in Valenciennes and the adjoining villages. Strict orders were issued that the city and villages were not to be bombarded, with the exception of a row of houses on the eastern side of the Canal which were occupied by a large number of machine guns. To hinder the good observation which the enemy would otherwise have been able to enjoy from the city and villages, very elaborate arrangements were made to place heavy smoke screens along certain areas.
Despite great difficulties of transport, the supplies of ammunition, bridging material, etc., moved forward were sufficient, and before dawn on November 1 all preparations were completed.
The time for the assault was fixed for 5.15 a.m., November 1. The plan of attack was as follows:—
At 5.15 a.m., November 1, the attack was launched, and from the first-went entirely according to plan on the Canadian Corps front. The enemy barrage dropped quickly and was very heavy, but shortly afterwards slackened down under the influence of our efficient counterbattery fire. In the meantime the attacking Infantry got well 'away, advancing under a most excellent barrage, and reached their objective, the line of the Valenciennes-Maubeuge railway, on time, right behind the barrage.
The fighting during the advance was heavy, especially around the houses along the Famars-Valenciennes Road and in Aulnoy.
The thoroughness of the preparations made for this small but important battle is better illustrated by the following striking figures :— Number of enemy dead buried............ over 800 Prisoners captured over
(exceeding the number of assaulting troops).
Our casualties (approx.)
On the left, the left Brigade of the 4th Canadian Division and the 3rd Canadian Division had, in the meantime, succeeded in crossing the Canal. Bridge-heads were established north of Corps Operations. 179 the city, the station and railway yards were seized, and the Engineers commenced the construction of bridges.
The enemy did not counter-attack against the Canadian Corps during the day, but continued to hold out strongly in the southern outskirts of Valenciennes and Marly, and in the steel works to the south-east until dark.
Two counter-attacks against the XXII. Corps front on the right caused some anxiety, but that flank was strengthened and no trouble developed During the night the 4th Canadian Division took over an additional Brigade frontage from the 49th Division (XXII. Corps) on the right preparatory to the capture of the high ground east of Marly.
Patrols of the 4th Canadian Division pushed forward during the night and ascertained that the enemy was withdrawing. In the early morning our troops had completely cleared Valenciennes and Marly, and patrols had entered St. Saulve.
The advance was continued in the face of stubborn resistance from enemy rearguards throughout November 2 on the whole Corps front, and by nightfall had reached the line MarlySt. Saulve-Bas Amarais-Raucourt Chateau, all inclusive. On the front of the 3rd Canadian Division the advance was particularly difficult, the country being under water except where railway embankments, slag-heaps, and houses stood up out of the flood and afforded excellent cover for enemy machine gunners and riflemen.
Some stiff fighting took place when the advance was continued on November 3, but in spite of this good progress was made, especially on the right on the front of the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade (BrigadierGeneral V. W. Odium), where the line was advanced 3,000 yards and the village of Estreux captured. Progress on the left was necessarily slower owing to the flooded nature of the ground.
The front of the 3rd Canadian Division had now become very extended, and on the night of the 3rd/4th a portion of it, from Odomez to Fresnes--about a mile in extent-was handed over to the 52nd Division of the VIII. Corps.
of the Canal de l'Escaut was captured and the EscaupontQuievrechain railway bridge was taken. The village of Onnaing and the western part of Rombies fell into our hands during the day.
During the early hours of November 5 the 3rd Canadian Division entered the town of Vicq, following the capture of two points of local tactical importance west of the town. A large portion of the line of the Escaupont-Quievrechain railway was also made good, and the northern part of Quarouble captured during the day.
The 4th Canadian Division attacked on November 5, and, clearing Rombies and the southern part of Quarouble, crossed the River Aunelle between Rombies and Marchipont, the enemy fighting very stubbornly to prevent our crossing. By this advance the first troops of the Canadian Corps crossed into Belgian territory, the Aunelle River being the boundary at that point.
The advance was resumed on November 6 and important progress made. The villages of Marchipont, Baisieux, and the southern portion of Quievrechain were taken by the 4th Canadian Division, while the 3rd Canadian Division took the railway station and glassworks at Quievrechain and the northern part of the village, and also captured Crespin further north.
The enemy's resistance was very stubborn. The XXII. Corps on the right were forced to give up a portion of the ground gained and to withdraw to the west bank of Honelle River at Angre, in the face of severe counter-attacks.
The 2nd Canadian Division relieved the 4th Canadian Division during the night 6/7, and the latter was withdrawn to rest in the AnzinAubry area, just west of Valenciennes.
On our right we were now getting into the heart of the Belgian coal district-a thickly populated area, where the numerous towns and villages, the coal mines, and the commanding slag-heaps complicated the task.
The 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions attacked on the morning of the 7th and, although by this time the weather had broken and the country was rapidly becoming thoroughly water-logged, good progress was made during the day, the enemy showing increasing signs of demoralisation.
that surrounded it. In conjunction with the 3rd Canadian Division Quievrain was taken, and an advance of about two and a-half miles made. On the left the 3rd Canadian Division, in addition to co-operating with the 2nd Canadian Division in the capture of Quievrain, pushed along the Mons road for about 4,000 yards and took La Croix and Hensies, north of the road.
The VIII. Corps on our left had still been unable to negotiate the Canal de l'Escaut. In order to better protect our rapidly lengthening left flank the 3rd Canadian Division was ordered to extend its attacks to the north, and, in addition to clearing the country south of the Conde-Mons Canal, to secure the crossings of the Canal.
When the advance was continued on the 8th, the 3rd Canadian Division pushed troops to the north, and by noon had secured the villages of Thievencelle and St. Aybert. Later in the day a foot-bridge was constructed across the Conde-Mons Canal, and under cover of darkness patrols crossed and a bridge-head was established.
Further south the 3rd Canadian Division had surprised the enemy in the villages of Montreuil-sur-Haine and Thulin at an early hour, and these towns were quickly captured. Pushing on from here the village of Hamin was taken, and by nightfall our troops were on the western outskirts of Boussu.
The 2nd Canadian Division met with strong opposition. Good progress was, however, made, and by midnight the important village of Dour and the smaller villages of Bois-deBoussu, Petit Hornu, Bois-deEpinois, and a portion of the Bois-de-Leveque were cleared.
Resuming the advance on the 9th, the 2nd Canadian Division captured Warquignies, Champ-des-Sait, Petit Wasmes, WasmesPaturages, La Bouverie, Lugies, Frameries, and Genly with little opposition. The advance made by this Division was over four miles through densely populated areas, the twin towns of Wasmes-Paturages combined having a population of about 30,000. By nightfall the 2nd Canadian Division was clear of the main mining district.
The 3rd Canadian Division had on its left front crossed the River Haine during the night, north of Montreuil-sur-Haine, and later secured a further hold on the north bank of the Conde-Mons Canal near Le Petit Crepin.
During the afternoon, further troops were sent across the Canal, and the villages of Petit Crepin, Ville Pommeroeuil, Hautrage and Terte were 182 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.