«LONDON PRINTED BY AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY, OVERSEAS MILITARY FORCES OF CANADA. REPORT of the MINISTRY Overseas Military Forces of Canada LONDON ...»
An interesting fact in connection with this fighting is that it was the first to take place in open country for over two years, and the taking of the village of Ytres by the Fort Garry Horse marked the capture of the first village by the Cavalry on the Western Front since the early days of the war.
Triumph for the Sabre.—It was during this action that it was discovered that the German infantry with machine guns, which invariably held out to the last against an Infantry attack, readily surrendered to the cavalry. The prisoners captured confessed that they were seized with a great fear when they saw mounted troops charging down on them with the sword. It established a triumph for the sabre.
Following this the Germans succeeded in making an organised stand on a line running north and south-east of St. Quentin. Later the Brigade was sent into the trenches near St. Quentin as a dismounted force.
On May 26, 1917, the Fort Garry Horse and Lord Strathcona's Horse carried out simultaneously two very successful raids on the St. Quentin front, which resulted in the capture of 40 Germans, two of whom were officers, and the killing of a large number of the garrison.
Lord Strathcona's Horse and the Fort Garry Horse carried out another important raid on the night of July 9 near Ascension Wood. In this raid a section of the enemy's front line, 1,000 yards in length, was attacked and penetrated to a depth of 600 yards.
Cavalry Brigade. 339 This raid was notable for the fact that it was necessary for the Cavalry to cross a 2,000 yards stretch of " No Man's Land " before the enemy's wire was reached. Notwithstanding this, the operation was a great success. One officer and 35 other ranks were taken prisoners, one machine gun was captured, and three were put out of action. It was later learned from enemy sources that an entire company had been destroyed in this raid, while the raiding party had one officer and one man killed.
Early in November the Brigade was selected to act as an advance guard in the proposed attack on Cambrai. At midnight on November 19 the Brigade was on the move, and the following morning went into action. On reaching Masnieres, the Fort Garry Horse found that the bridge over the canal there had been blown up, and that the enemy was holding that part of the village which was on the east side of the canal.
With the assistance of French civilians, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade and two officers of the Fort Garry Horse, inprovised a temporary bridge from whatever material they found on hand. This enabled a squadron of the Fort Garrys to cross the canal and to proceed on the special mission to which it had been assigned, namely, to get through as rapidly as possible to the German Headquarters east of Cambrai, and cut all communications on the way.
An order was later sent forward that the Fort Garry Horse was not to attempt to make a crossing, but by the time this message got as far as the canal the Fort Garrys were some distance on the way to carry out the dangerous task allotted to them. The order reached the head of the Cavalry forces detailed to support the Fort Garry Horse's movement before they crossed the canal, and consequently they turned back.
A Gallant Exploit.—Meantime the officer in command of the Fort Garry Horse Squadron, thinking that support was close behind him, carried on without encountering much opposition. Here and there an enemy battery was met and disposed of with the sword. By night, however, the Germans realised that they had only one squadron of Cavalry to deal with, and so closed in on it from either flank in an attempt to cut off its retreat. There-upon, what horses remained to the troop were stampeded and the officers and men fought their way back on foot bringing with them several prisoners.
Ten days later the Germans delivered a counter-attack against the newly-captured front, and the Canadian Brigade
was rushed into action at Vaucelette Farm, where it was known that there was a gap in our line. It was then largely due to the fine work performed by Lord Strathcona's Horse that the enemy was driven back as far as Villiers Guislan and touch established with the British Guards' Division at Gauche Wood. The work of the Brigade in this action won great praise from the higher authorities.
Two days before Christmas, 1917, the Brigade was again in the trenches near St. Quentin as Infantry, the horses being kept in the forward area so as to be ready for any emergency that might call for cavalry work.
On the night of February 12-13, 1918, another raid was made by the Canadian Cavalry at Ascension Wood, in exactly the same place and with almost the same results as the one on July 9, 1917. On this occasion it was carried out by the Royal Canadian Dragoons, and an entire company of the Fourth German Foot Guards was killed and captured, the company commander being among the prisoners. In the seven months that had elapsed since the previous raid, the position had been re-fortified and rendered much stronger than before. New dug-outs had been built, and some elaborate strong points installed. The casualties to the raiding force were, however, very slight, only one man being killed.
The Brigade was moved some distance back from the front line on March 5, and the Fifth Imperial Cavalry Division being ordered to another part of the front, the Canadian cavalrymen were transferred to the Third Imperial Cavalry Division.
On March 21 the long expected German Offensive was launched against the British line east of Amiens. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade (less R.C.H.A. Brigade which was in the line in support of the 24th Division in front of Vermand) was at Athies, and by 8 a.m. of that day the Brigade was on the move to Beaumont. There, on arrival, orders were received to send as many men as possible forward, dismounted, to reinforce the Infantry, and a force of 800 went forward under the command of the Commanding Officer of Lord Strathcona's Horse. They rode as far as Ugny, whence they proceeded to the front line on foot.
On the morning of March 24 the enemy was forcing the British line back on a section of the front. General Paterson pushed his force ahead to the neighbourhood of Villeselve and succeeded in establishing a line, but later had to withdraw as the Infantry on the flanks had been compelled to fall back.
Paterson's Force.—The Canadian Mounted Detachment was then sent out to re-establish the line from the southern edge of Villeselve, and by sheer courage accomplished this most difficult task. Strong parties of the enemy tried to enter Villeselve, but the volume of fire delivered by the Canadians caused them to retire in disorder. The cavalrymen continued to hold that line until the evening when they were ordered by the French, under whose orders they had been placed during the day, to take up a new line in the neighbourhood of Guiscard, in order to cover the withdrawal of the falling back of the Infantry to a new line.
At midnight the French were holding a line near Murancourt and 800 officers and men from Paterson's Force were dismounted and ordered to support the French. A position was taken up between Chevilly and the near-by wood and was held until the French had established a fresh line close to Catigny. From then until March 27 Peterson's Force continued to do invaluable and heroic work with the French. On the 27th, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade detachment which had been with the Infantry joined the balance of the Brigade at Venette near Compiegne.
The dismounted party had helped to check the enemy onrush at Mennesis, Frieres-Faillouel, Bois de Genlis, and other points of the British line on March 22 and 23. On the 24th it was at Dampcourt in reserve to the Sixth French Corps, and the next day occupied a line running from Mondescourt-leBretelle-Appilly, and was assigned the task of covering an important bridge-head in the event of a further retirement.
The Brigade again came into action on March 28 in support of the French near Montdidier and at Mesnil St. Georges and Fontaine. The latter place was taken by Lieutenant Harvey, V.C., of Lord Strathcona's Horse, and he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre by the French general commanding the operations.
It then made a forced march to Guyancourt and went into action at Moreuil Wood on the morning of March 30. All regiments were engaged in this action, which succeeded in 342 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.
driving the enemy from Moreuil Wood and stopping his advance in that sector, thus denying to him a vital position which would have given direct observation on Amiens.
An outstanding feature of this operation was the mounted attack around the flank of the wood carried out by Lieutenant Flowerdew, of Lord Strathcona's Horse, which won him the V.C. Unfortunately, this brave officer died from wounds received in the engagement.
Two days later, on April 1, the scene of operations for the Brigade was at Rifle Wood at Hourges. It had been decided to attack and capture the wood, a point of considerable strategical importance, and the 4th and 5th Imperial Cavalry Brigades and the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, all dismounted, were allotted the task. The plan called for the 4th Brigade to advance and swing to the left and form a flank, the 5th to seize the front edge of the wood, and the Canadian Brigade to go through the 5th and take the wood.
There was strong opposition as the Cavalry approached the wood, which was defended by machine guns. The wood, however, was penetrated, the Fort Garry Horse taking the left half, Strathcona's Horse the right half, the Royal Canadian Dragoons being in close support.
Hand-to-Hand Fight.—In the centre of the wood a fierce hand-tohand fight ensued, in which the enemy was overcome and the Canadians succeeded in reaching their objective beyond the wood on scheduled time. They captured 121 prisoners and 13 machine guns.
During this time the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Brigade, reinforced by the two R.H.A. Batteries, fought in support of the 24th Division through the whole retreat, and the Division afterwards stated that their successful fighting was largely due to the action of the Horse Artillery. Owing to its mobility the Horse Artillery were able to remain to the last moment, firing over open sights as the Infantry withdrew to successive positions.
This is the bare outline of a brilliant minor operation, but the importance attached to it.was made clear by General Rawlinson, commanding the Fourth British Army, when two days later he visited the Brigade and thanked the officers and men for what they had done. The General said that he had asked the Infantry to take Rifle Wood, but was told that it could not be done without fresh troops. " Although I knew that you were very tired and had already done more than your Cavalry Brigade. 343 share in the recent fighting," added the General, " I called upon you for the task,. as I felt that there was no one else available who could do it successfully.
"I have asked that a cable be sent to Canada informing the people of your splendid deeds."
The Brigade "stood to" at Bois de Sencat until April 5, when it moved to near Amiens and remained there five days, when it was sent to Pernes in reserve to the Third Cavalry Division in action near Merville.
Early in May it was moved toward Albert to be on hand if an attack in that district developed. From then until July 4 it was doing duty in the trenches, but on that date acted as special reserve in the attack by the Australians on Hamel and Bois de Vaire.
It will be remembered that the French delivered a surprise attack in the Soissons sector with such force that the Germans (who had no doubt begun to conclude that the tide of war was flowing entirely in their favour and were busy carrying out pre-arranged plans elsewhere) were unprepared to resist.
It was while the French were exploiting their success that the British forces launched a big offensive in front of Amiens on a 20-mile front and for the first time in its career in France the Canadian Cavalry Brigade was detailed to assist the Canadian Corps.
This attack was made on August 8, and is known as the Battle of Amiens. A French Corps was on the right, the Canadian Corps on the left of the French, the Australian Corps and a British Corps extending northwards.
Co-operating with Tanks.—The Canadian Cavalry Brigade went into action at 9.15 on the morning of the attack on the Canadian Corps front in the neighbourhood of Ignacourt, captured Beaucourt, and took up a position east of that village astride the Amiens-Roye road. The village of Fresnoy was soon encircled and 125 prisoners captured.
During the day the Brigade did valuable work in co-operation with the Tanks in clearing the way for the Canadian Infantry to advance and established occupation in Beaucourt Wood and the village of Beaucourt.
On the 9th the Brigade remained in bivouac, but the following day was employed to seize the high ground north and west of 344 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.
Roye in order to relieve the difficulties the infantry were meeting at Parvillers, and captured the village of Andechy for the French.
The Brigade did not go into action again until October 9. Then it was ordered to advance from the vicinity of Maretz and seize e the high ground north-west of Le Cateau. When darkness came this ground had been taken, and patrols pushed into Le Cateau, Montay, Neuvilly-Inchy.
The Brigade's operations on that day extended on a front three miles wide and eight miles deep, yielded over 400 prisoners, several Artillery pieces and 100 machine guns, drove the enemy from six villages inhabited by French civilians and cleared the way for the Infantry to advance and consolidate the new territory. This was the Brigade's last, action before the Armistice came into effect on November 11, although they were in pursuit of the enemy east of Ath on that date.
The personnel of the Brigade has had 82 mentions in despatches and been awarded 394 honours and decorations, including three Victoria Crosses. Two of the recipients of this decoration are living, namely, Major H. Strachan, of the Fort Garry Horse, and Lieutenant F. M. W.
Harvey, Lord Strathcona's Horse. The other recipient was Lieutenant Gordon M. Flowerdew, of the Strathconas, who was killed in action. The Brigade also has the distinction of having been mentioned by name in despatches for five different engagements.