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«LONDON PRINTED BY AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY, OVERSEAS MILITARY FORCES OF CANADA. REPORT of the MINISTRY Overseas Military Forces of Canada LONDON ...»

-- [ Page 26 ] --

taken. Further west, the patrols which had crossed the Canal on the previous day entered Pommeroeuil and Bernissart.

The 3rd Canadian Division had also occupied Boussu, on its right, before daylight on the 9th, and rapid progress eastward was made during the day towards Mons, the villages of Cuesmes, Jemappes, Flenu, Hornu, Wasmes, Quaregnon, Wasmuel and St. Ghislain all being captured. The rapidity of our advance had evidently surprised and disorganised the enemy, although some opposition was met.

By the morning of November 10, the 52nd Division (VIII. Corps) had advanced and relieved that part of the 3rd Canadian Division operating north of the left boundary of the Canadian Corps.

The 3rd Canadian Division's advance on the 10th brought our troops to the south-western outskirts of Mons, while the 2nd Canadian Division had reached the Mons-Givry Road, outflanking the city from the south, but owing to the large number of civilians still in the city, it was not possible for us to bombard the town. To the north of the Conde-Mons Canal, a further advance was made and the village and Fosse of Ghlin secured.

During the night November 10/11 the Divisions resumed their advance, and immediately after dark the troops of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade (Brig.-General J. A. Clark) commenced to close in. The villages of Nimy and Petit Nimy were quickly captured and an entry into Mons by way of the Railway Station was effected before midnight. By

6.00 a.m. on November 11 the stubborn machine-gun resistance had been broken and the town cleared of the enemy.

The 2nd Canadian Division had, during the night, taken the Bois-leHaut, a wood crowning a large hill on the southeastern outskirts of Mons, thus securing the right flank of the 3rd Canadian Division. The capture of this high ground forced upon the enemy a further retirement, and our troops, still pressing on, reached and captured St. Symphorien and Fbg.

Barthelmy by 8.00 a.m.

In the meantime, word had been received through First Army that hostilities would cease at 11.00 a.m. on November 11, the Armistice having been signed in acceptance of our terms.

To secure a satisfactory line for the defence of Mons, our line was further advanced, and the Bois-d'Havre, Bois-duRapois and the town and villages of Havre, Bon Vouloir, La Corps Operations. 183 Bruyere, Maisieres, St. Denis and Obourg were captured before hostilities ceased.

Between October 11 and November 11 the Canadian Corps had advanced to a total depth exceeding ninety-one thousand yards (91,000 yards), through a country in which the enemy had destroyed railways, bridges and roads, and flooded large areas to further impede our progress.

To the normal difficulties of moving and supplying a large number of men in a comparatively restricted area were added the necessity of feeding several hundred thousand people, chiefly women and children left in a starving condition by the enemy. Several deaths by starvation, or through suffering consecutive to privation, were experienced in villages or towns which, being kept under hostile shell fire and defended by machine guns, could not be captured rapidly by our troops.

The fighting was light up to the Canal de L'Escaut, but stiffened perceptibly from there on until the capture of Mons, and added a great deal to the physical exertion caused by such a long advance in adverse weather. The table hereunder shows the average daily advances made by the Canadian Corps in that period From To Yards.

Oct. 11

Oct. 12

Oct. 17

Oct. 18

Oct. 19

Oct. 20

Oct. 21

Oct. 22

Oct. 23

Oct. 24

Nov. 1

Nov. 2

Nov. 3

Nov. 4

Nov. 5

Nov. 6

Nov. 7

Nov. 8

Nov. 9

Nov. 10

Total

* Held up in front of Valenciennes till after the capture of Mont Houy.

184 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

When it is recalled that since August 8 the Canadian Corps had fought battles of the first magnitude, having a direct bearing on the general situation, and contributing to an extent difficult to realise to the defeat of the German Armies in the field, this advance under most difficult conditions constitutes a decisive test of the superior energy and power of endurance of our men.

It is befitting that the capture of Mons should close the fighting records of the Canadian Troops, in which every battle they fought is a resplendent page of glory.

The Canadian Corps was deeply appreciative of the honour of having been selected amongst the first for the task of establishing and occupying the bridge-heads east of the Rhine.

A long march of 170 miles under difficult conditions was ahead of them, but they ungrudgingly looked forward to what had always been their ultimate objective-the occupation of German soil.

Between August 8 and November 11 the following had been captured:— Prisoners

Guns (Heavy and Field)

Machine Guns

Trench Mortars (Heavy and Light)................ 336 Over 500 square miles of territory and 228 cities, towns and villages had been liberated, including the cities of Cambrai, Denain, Valenciennes and Mons.

From August 8 to October 11 not less than 47 German Divisions had been engaged and defeated by the Canadian Corps,. that is, nearly a quarter of the total German Forces on the Western Front.





After October 11 the disorganisation of the German Troops on our front was such that it was difficult to determine with exactitude the importance of the elements of many Divisions engaged.

In the performance of these mighty achievements all arms of the Corps have bent their purposeful energy, working one for all and all for one. The dash and magnificent bravery of our incomparable Infantry have at all times been devotedly seconded with great skill and daring by our Machine Gunners, while the Artillery lent them their powerful and never-failing support. The initiative and resourcefulness displayed by the Engineers contributed materially to the depth and rapidity of our advances. The devotion of the Medical personnel has Corps Operations. 185 been, as always, worthy of every praise. The Administrative Services, working at all times under very great pressure and adverse conditions, surpassed their usual efficiency. The Chaplain Services, by their continued devotion to the spiritual welfare of the troops and their utter disregard of personal risk, have endeared themselves to the hearts of everyone. The incessant efforts of the Y.M.C.A. and their initiative in bringing comforts right up to the front line in battle were warmly appreciated by all.

I desire to record here my deep appreciation of the services of Brigadier-General N. W. Webber, B.G.G.S., Canadian Corps, and of the generous efforts and untiring zeal of the General Officers, Regimental Officers, the heads of all Arms, Services and Branches, and the members of the various Staffs.

PART III.

Fifth Period. November 12 to December 31.

Upon the cessation of hostilities and in accordance with the terms of the Armistice the leading troops of the Canadian Corps stood fast on the line reached, and examining posts were placed on all roads.

Generally speaking, the policy adopted was as follows :—

–  –  –

In order to maintain the highest state of efficiency throughout the Corps, I ordered commanders to pay the strictest attention to discipline and smartness, and especially the well-being of their men. All troops not on duty were given every opportunity for rest and recreation.

The general outline of the plan for the advance of the British Armies to the Rhine provided that the Second and Fourth British Armies would advance, and that the Canadian Corps would form part of the Second Army.

The advance was to commence on November 17 and continue for 30 days. The Second Army would advance on a two-Corps front, the Canadian Corps to lead on the right.

It was decided that the Corps would march on a front of two Divisions, the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions leading, and the 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions following.

186 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

–  –  –

At 10.00 a.m., November 16, Headquarters Canadian Corps moved from Valenciennes to Mons, and on the 16th and 17th, the concentration being completed, the troops of the Corps stood fast, completing the final arrangements for the advance.

On November 18, 1918, the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions commenced the march to the Rhine (See Sketch No. 13), the heads of the columns crossing the outpost line at 9.00 a.m. on that day.

The 2nd Canadian Division advanced on the right and the 1st Canadian Division on the left, each in three columns. Each column found its own close protection, assisted by Cavalry and Cyclists attached from the Corps Troops.

No enemy troops were encountered during the march, and the following line was reached by dusk : Haine St. PierreHoudeng-AimeriesRoeulx-Haute Folie-Soignies-Horrues.

The examining posts and outpost line of the 3rd Canadian Division were relieved and withdrawn as soon as the Advanced Guard of the 1st Canadian Division passed through.

The Corps halted on November 19 and 20, the 4th Canadian Division closing up into the area south and south-west of Mons, vacated by the 2nd Canadian Division, and the Corps Troops concentrating in and around Jemappes.

The 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions resumed the advance on November 21, the heads of main bodies crossing the outpost line at 9.00 a.m., and the following line was reached by nightfall--GosseliesNivelles-Lillois Road.

The 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions and Canadian Corps Troops did not move, as was previously intended, owing to supply difficulties.

The Corps stood fast on November 22 and 23, all Units resting and smartening up.

For some time past the question of the demobilisation of the Canadian Corps had been frequently discussed. Having often conferred on this subject, not only with the General Officers and Staffs, but also with the men themselves, I had represented from time to time that there was a strong feeling in the Corps that demobilisation should be carried out by Units.

I now wished, before taking any further step, to ascertain definitely the desires of the Corps To that end, a conference 188 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

was held on November 23, 1918, at Mons, at which all available Divisional and Brigade Commanders, Heads of Services and Branches, were asked to be present.

The following took part in this conference:— Maj.-Gen. A. C. Macdonell, C.B., C.M.G., Commanding 1st Canadian Division.

Maj.-Gen. Sir H. E. Burstall, K.C.B., Commanding 2nd Canadian Division.

Brig.-Gen. W. A. Griesbach, C.M.G., D.S.O., Commanding 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. R. P. Clark, D.S.O., M.C., Commanding 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. G. S. Tuxford, C.B., C.M.G., Commanding 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. G. E. McCuaig, C.M.G., D.S.O., Commanding 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. T. L. Tremblay, C.M.G., D.S.O., Commanding 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. A. Ross, D.S.O., Commanding 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. J. A. Clark, D.S.O., Commanding 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. D. C. Draper, D.S.O., Commanding 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. D. M. Ormond, D.S.O., Commanding 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. J. M. Ross, D.S.O., Commanding 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. V. W. Odium, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., Commanding 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Brig.-Gen. J. H. McBrien, C.M.G., D.S.O., Commanding 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Colonel A. Macphail, D.S.O., C.R.E., 1st Canadian Division.

Lt.-Col. S. H. Osier, D.S.O., C.R.E., 2nd Canadian Division.

Colonel H. F. H. Hertzberg, D.S.O., M.C., C.R.E., 3rd Canadian Division.

Colonel H. T. Hughes, C.M.G., C.R.E., 4th Canadian Division.

Corps Operations. 189 Maj.-Gen. W. B. Lindsay, C.M.G., D.S.O., G.O.C.C.E.

Brig.-Gen. G. J. Farmar, C.B., C.M.G., D.A. and Q.M.G., Canadian Corps.

Brig.-Gen. R. Brutinel, C.M.G., D.S.O., G.O.C., Canadian Machine Gun Corps.

Lt.-Col. The Hon. C. M. Hore-Ruthven, C.M.G., D.S.O., G.S,O. 1, 3rd Canadian Division.

Lt.-Col. M. C. Festing, D.S.O., G.S.O. 1, Canadian Corps.

The question of demobilisation was fully and freely discussed, every individual present being asked to express his definite opinion on the subject.

All present were unanimous in the opinion that from every point of view it was most desirable to demobilise the Corps by Units and not by categories.

As the outcome of this consultation, a letter was sent to the Minister, Overseas Military Forces of Canada, embodying the sentiments of the Canadian Corps.

On November 23 instructions were received that the Canadian Corps would be composed as under for the purposes of the advance to the Rhine:— Corps Headquarters.

1st Canadian Division.

2nd Canadian Division.

Corps Troops.

The 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions, with the 8th Army Brigade, C.F.A., and the 126th Army Brigade, R.F.A. (attached to 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions), together with the 1st and 3rd Brigades C.G.A., were transferred to the IV. Corps, Fourth Army. These two Divisions remained billeted in Belgium for the rest of the year.

The general plans for the advance were amended, it being decided that only the Second Army would cross the Rhine and establish bridgeheads. This amendment was made necessary by the difficulty of bringing forward the necessary supplies owing to the thorough destruction of railways and roads in the battle areas, and the immense amount of work required to effect temporary repairs sufficient to take care of the needs of the Army and of the Belgian population.

On November 24 the leading Divisions continued the march without incident, reaching the line Velaine-Sombreffe-Mellery, and Corps Headquarters moved to Gosselies at noon.

190 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

On November 25 the march was continued, the leading Divisions halting on the line Namur-Meux-Grand Leez.

The Corps halted on November 26. The weather, which had continued generally good up to this time, now broke, and the daily rains, coupled with the heavy traffic, greatly damaged the surface of the roads.



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