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protracted over the Winter. The British armies, however, were now in a position to prevent this by a direct attack upon a vital centre, which should anticipate the enemy's withdrawal and force an immediate conclusion.
(49) BATTLE OF THE SAMBRE
The principal British attack was to take place at the beginning- of November, as soon as possible after the capture of Valenciennes, which I regarded as a necessary preliminary. In view of the likelihood of fresh withdrawals, time was of importance. Accordingly, at 5:15 A. M. on Nov. 1, the 17th Corps of the Third Army and the 22d and Canadian Corps of the First Army attacked on a front of about six miles south of Valenciennes, and in the course of two days of heavy fighting inflicted a severe defeat on the enemy. During these two days the 61st Division, (Major Gen. P. J. Duncan,) 49th Division, (Major Gen. H. J. G. Cameron.) and 4th Division (Major Gen. C. H. T. Lucas) crossed the Rhonelle River, capturing Maresches and Preseau after a stubborn struggle, and established themselves on the high ground two miles to the east of it. On their left the 4th Canadian Division captured Valenciennes and made progress beyond the town.
As a consequence of this defeat the enemy on Nov. 3 withdrew on the Le QuesnoyValencicnnes front—and our line was advanced. There were indications that a further withdrawal was contemplated both in the Tournal salient, where the line of the Scheldt was turned by our progress on the battlefront, and also in the area to the south Of us, where the enemy's positions were equally threatened by our advance. Our principal attack was ready.
(50) The front of the decisive attack delivered by the Fourth, Third, and First Armies on Nov. 4 extended for a distance of about thirty miles from the Sambre, north of Oisy; to Valenciennes.
The nature of the country across which our advance was to be made was most difficult. In the south the river had to be crossed almost at the outset. In the centre the great Forest of Mormal, though much depleted by German woodcutting, still presented a formidable obstacle. In the north the fortified town of Le Quesnoy and several streams which ran parallel to the line of our advance offered frequent opportunities for successful defense. On the other hand, our troops had never been so confident of victory or so assured of their own superiority.
After an intense bombardment our troops moved forward to the assault at about dawn, under a most effective artillery barrage, and very soon had penetrated the enemy's positions on the whole battlefront. Throughout the day their pressure was never relaxed, and by the evening they had advanced to a depth of five miles, reaching the general line
Fesmy-Landrecies-centre of ForSt de Mormal-Wargnies-le-Grand-five miles east of Valenciennes-Onnaing-Scheldt Canal opposite Thiers.
On the right of the attack the 1st Division .of the 9th Corps, under the command of Lieut. Gen. Sir W. P. Braithwaite, starting at 5:45 A. M., captured Catillon, and proceeded to pass troops across the Sambre at this place and at the lock some two miles to the south of it. This difficult operation was accomplished with remarkable rapidity and skill, and by 7:45 A. M. the 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders and the 1st Battalion Northampton Regiment were east of the river. Bois l'Abbayc, Hautreve, and La Groico were captured in turn, and, though held up for a time at Fesmy, our troops took this place also on a renewed attack at 4 P. M., subsequently advancing well to the east of it.
The 32d Division, on the left of the 9th Corps, met strong resistance all along the river line. By hard fighting they forced a crossing at Ors, and, pushing forward, took Mezieres and Heurtebise, reaching the outskirts of La Folic. Later in the day other troops of this division, having crossed the river south of Landrecies, moved against La Folie from the north, and the village was captured.
Meanwhile the 8th Corps, under command of Lieut. Gen. Sir T. L. N. Morland, had attacked at 6:15 A. M. with the 25th, 50th, and 18th Divisions and quickly overran the enemy's positions, despite strong opposition, which at Preux-au-Bois was maintained until the village was completely surrounded by our infantry and tanks. Severe fighting took place also about Landrecies, where a battalion of the 1st Guard Reserve Division had been specially detailed to hold the bridgehead. Troops of the 25th Division, having overcome this resistance, crossed the Sambre north and south of Landrecies by means of rafts and captured the town.
The divisions of the Third Army in the centre of the attack also encountered stiff resistance at first, but when this was overcome made rapid progress. The 38th and 17th Divisions of the 5th Corps, under command of Lieut. Gen. C. D. Shute, pushed far into the Forest of Mormal. Before dawn on Nov. 5 the 38th Division had reached the eastern edge of the forest, while the 17th Division, after sharp fighting about Locquighol, had penetrated a mile to the east of that village.
On the 4th Corps front the 37th and New Zealand Divisions repulsed a counterattack north of Ghissignles early in the battle with jrreat loss to the enemy. Thereafter the 37th Division took Louvignies and Jolinetz, with over 1,000 prisoners, and during the late afternoon and evening pushed on to the centre of the forest. By 8 A. M. the New Zealand Division had already surrounded Le Quesnoy. Without attempting to take the town by direct assault, the New Zealand troops swept past and far to the east of it, capturing Herbignies by the evening. Meanwhile we had gained a footing on the ramparts surrounding Le Quesnoy, and at 4 P. M. the German garrison over 1,000 strong surrendered.
Opposite Orsinval the 62d Division of the 6th Corps attacked at 5:20 A. M., and as soon as that village had been taken the Guards Division of the same corps attacked on the left of them. Both divisions had hard fighting, but made good progress, capturing Fresnoy and Preux-au-Sart, and reaching the western outskirts of Commegnies. On the front of the 17th Corps on the left of the Third Army the enemy's resistance was less vigorous, though sharp fighting took place about Wargnies-le-Petit. This village and Wargnies-le-Grand were ta'-en by the 24th Division (Major Gen. A. C. Daly) during the afternoon, while the 19th Division captured Bry and Eth.
On the front of the" First Army the 22d Corps and the Canadian Corps advanced against little opposition, except on their right. Here the 11th and 56th Divisions, having crossed the Aunelle River and captured the villages of De Triez, Sebourg, and Sebourquiaux, were counterattacked on the high ground east of the Aunelle and pressed back slightly. The 4th and 3d Canadian Divisions on their left reached the outskirts of Rombies, and the eastern side of the marshes north of Valenciennes.
In these operations and their developments twenty British divisions utterly defeated thirty-two German divisions and captured 19,000 prisoners and more than 450 guns. On our right the French First Army, which had continued the line of attack southward to the neighborhood of Guise, kept pace with our advance, taking 5,000 prisoners and a number of guns.
(51) THE RETURN TO MONS
By this great victory the enemy's resistance was definitely broken. On the night of the 4th-5th of November his troops began to fnll back on practically the whole battlefront. Throughout the following days, despite continuous rain, which imposed great hardships on our troops, infantry and cavalry pressed forward with scarcely a check, maintaining close touch with the rapidly retreating Germans.
On the 5th of November the troops of the Fourth Army realized a further advance of some four miles, penetrating beyond Prlsches and Maroilles. On the Third Army front the 5th, 21st, and 33d Divisions pushed forward well to the east of Mormal Forest, while further north by the evening we were approaching Bavai. Only on the First Army front was the resistance encountered at all serious. Here, after regaining during the morning the ridge east of the Aunelle, and capturing Roisin, Meaurain, and Angreau, the divisions of the 22d Corps were held
up for a time in front of Ancre and along the line of the Honnelle River.
Throughout the day the roads packed with the enemy's troops and transport afforded excellent targets to our airmen, who took full advantage of their opportunities, despite the unfavorable weather. Over thirty guns, which bombs and machine-gun fire from the air had forced the enemy to abandon, were captured by a battalion of the 25th Division in the fields near Le Preseau.
On the 6th of November considerable opposition was again encountered on the front of the First Army, as well as on the left of the Third Army. Ancre, however, was captured, and the Honnelle River crossed, while Canadian troops took Baisieux and Quiovrechain. During the night of the 6th-7th of November the enemy's resistance again weakened, and early on the morning of the 7th of November the Guards Division entered Bavai. Next day Avesnes fell into our hands, Hautmont was captured, and our troops reached the outskirts of Maubeuge.
Meanwhile to the north of the Mons-CondS Canal our success was bearing fruit. During the night of the7th-8th of November numerous explosions were observed behind the German lines, and on the following morning the 8th Corps and the 1st Corps (Lieut. Gen. Sir Arthur Holland) of the First and Fifth Armies were able to move forward, occupy ing Conde and crossing the Scheldt on a considerable front south of Antoing. Further north the enemy abandoned his bridgehead at Tournai, and the western portion of the town was occupied by our troops.
On Nov. 9 the enemy was in general retreat on the whole front of the British armies. The fortress of Mauberge was entered by the Guards Division and the 62d Division. (Major Gen. Sir R. D. Wigham.) while the Canadians were approaching Mons. The progress of the Fifth Army was accentuated, and Peruwclz, Antoins, and Tournai captured. The Second Army crossed the Scheldt on its whole front and reached the outskirts of Renaix.
Next day the advance of the five British armies continued, cavalry and cyclists operating in advance of the infantry. Only in the neighborhood of Mons was any substantial opposition met with. Here the Canadians, advancing toward the town from south and west, and working round it on the north, encountered an organized and tenacious machine-gun defense. Further north our cavalry were on the outskirts of Ath, and our line was far to the east of Tournai. Renaix had been captured and our troops were approaching Grammont.
In the early morning of Nov. 11 the 3d Canadian Division captured Mons, the whole of the German defending force being killed or taken prisoner.
(52) THE ARMISTICE
At 11 A. M. on Nov. 11, in accordance with
instructions received from the Commander in Chief of the allied armies, hostilities were suspended. At that hour the right of the Fourth Army was east of the Franco-Belgian frontier and thence northward our troops had reached the general line Slvry-ErqueUnnes-Boussu-Jurbise-Herghies-GhislengheinLessines-Grammont.
The military situation on the British front on the morning of Nov. 11 can be stated very shortly. In the fighting since Nov. 1 our troops had broken the enemy's resistance beyond possibility of recovery, and had forced on him a disorderly retreat along the whole front of the British armies. Thereafter, the enemy was capable neither of accepting nor refusing battle. The utter confusion of his troops, the state of his railways, congested with abandoned trains, the capture of huge quantities of rolling stock and material, all showed that our attack had been decisive. It had been followed on the north by the evacuation of the Tournal salient, and to the south, where the French forces had pushed forward in conjunction with us, by a rapid and costly withdrawal to the line of the Meuse.
The strategic plan of the Allies had been realized with a completeness rarely seen in war. When the armistice was signed by the enemy his defensive powers had already been definitely destroyed. A continuance of hostilities could only have meant disaster to the German armies and the armed invasion of Germany.
(53) WORK OF THE TROOPS
In three months of epic fighting the British armies in France have brought to a sudden and dramatic end the great wearing-out battle of the last four years.
In our admiration for this outstanding achievement the long years of patient and heroic struggle by which the strength and spirit of the enemy were gradually broken down cannot be forgotten. The strain of those years was never-ceasing, the demands they made upon the best of the empire's manhood are now known. Yet throughout all those years, and amid the hopes and disappointments they brought with them, the confidence of our troops in final victory never wavered. Their courage and resolution rose superior to every test, their cheerfulness never failing, however terrible the conditions in which they lived and fought. By the long road they trod with so much faith and with such devoted and self-sacrificing bravery we have arrived at victory, and today they have their reward.
The work begun and persevered in so steadfastly by those brave men has been completed during the present year with a thoroughness to which the event bears witness, and with a gallantry which will live for all time In the history of our country. The annals of war hold record of no more wonderful recovery than that which, three months after the tremendous blows showered upon tin m on the Somme and on the Lys,
saw the undefeated British armies advancing from victory to victory, driving their erstwhile triumphant enemy back to and far beyond the line from which he started, and finally forcing him to acknowledge unconditional defeat.
The great series of victories won by the British forces between Aug. 8 and Nov. 11 Is the outstanding feature of the events described in this dispatch. At Amiens and Bapaume, in the breaking of the DrocourtQueant and Hindcnburg systems, before Le Cateau and on the Selle, in Flanders and on the Sambre, the enemy was again and again brought to battle and defeated.
In the decisive contests of this period, the strongest and most vital parts of the enemy's front were attacked by the British, his lateral communications were cut and his best divisions fought to a standstill. On the different battlefronts 187,000 prisoners and 2,830 guns were captured by us, bringing the total of our prisoners for the present year to over 201,000. Immense numbers of machine guns and trench mortars were taken also, the figures of those actually counted exceeding 20,000 machine guns and some 3,000 trench mortars. These results were achieved by 59 fighting British divisions, which in the course of three months of battle engaged and defeated 99 separate German divisions.
This record furnishes the proof of the skill of our commanders and their staffs, as well as of the fine fighting qualities of the British regimental officer and soldier. It Is a proof also of the overwhelmingly decisive part played by the British armies on the western front in bringing the enemy to his final defeat
It is an accepted military doctrine that in good defensive positions any given force can hold up an attacking force of considerably greater numbers. This doctrine was proved in the fighting of March and April of this year, when, despite the enormous superiority of force which the enemy was able to concentrate against the right of the British armies, all his efforts to effect a definite break-through were frustrated by our defense. Yet, as has been seen, when the tide of battle turned and the British armies advanced to the attack, throughout practically the whole of the long succession of battles which ended In the complete destruction of the Germnn powers of resistance, the attacking British troops were numerically inferior to the German forces they defeated.
It would be Impossible to devise a more eloquent testimony to the unequaled spirit and determination of the British soldier, of all ranks and services. We have been accustomed to he proud of the great and noble traditions handed down to us by the soldiers of bygone days. The men who form the armies of the empire today have created new traditions which are a challenge to the highest records of the past and will be an inspiration to the generations who come after us.
Despite the enormous development of mechanical invention in every phase of warfare, the place which the infantryman has always held as the main substance and foundation of an army is as secure today as in any period of history. The infantryman remains the backbone of defense and the spearhead of the attack. At no time has the reputation of the British infantryman been higher or his achievements more worthy of his renown. During the past three months the same Infantry divisions have advanced to tht attack day after day and week after week with an untiring, irresistible ardor which refused to be denied. No praise can be too high for the valor they have shown, no gratitude too deep for the work they have accomplished.
Four years of scientific warfare have seen a consistent and progressive development in the power and influence of artillery, both In the actual infantry battle and in all the stages which lead up to it. Despite the handicap under which we started the war, British artillery has played a large part in that development and of late has dominated the enemy's artillery to an ever-increasing degree. The influence of this fact upon the morale both of our own and the enemy's troops could scarcely be exaggerated.
During the present year the greater number of guns available for our use and the amount and regularity of our ammunition supply, combined with the enemy's weakened powers of resistance, due to the bitter fighting of the last two years, have for the most part led to the substitution of sudden and intense outburst of fire for the prolonged destructive bombardments which preceded our attacks in 1917. All ranks of the artillery have adapted themselves to these new conditions with complete success, and in the rapid movements of the latter stages of our advance have shown the highest technical skill and most indefatigable energy. The accuracy and intensity of our barrages, frequently arranged at short notice and with little opportunity being given for ranging or previous reconnoitring of the ground, have contributed largely to the success of our infantry attacks. The intimate co-operation between artillery and infantry, which is the first requisite In modern war, has been a marked feature of our operations.
The more open character of the recent fighting at once brought prominently to notice the fact that cavalry is still a necessary arm in modern war. On a number of occasions, to some of which short reference has been made in this report, important results have been obtained by the use of cavalry,
particularly in combination with light tanks and mobile machine-gun units. Such increased opportunities as have been offered them have been seized and utilized by the cavalry with promptness and effect. Both in the development of the success of our infantry attacks and in following up the various withdrawals thereby forced upon the enemy, the different cavalry units have performed work of the highest value.
ROYAL AIR FORCES
During the last year the work of our airmen in close co-operation with all fighting branches of the army has continued to show the same brilliant qualities which have come to be commonly associated with that service; while the ever-increasing size of the Royal Air Force and the constant improvement in the power and performance of machines, combined with the unfailing keenness of pilots and observers, have enabled intense activity to be maintained at all times.
Some Idea of the magnitude of the operations carried out can be gathered from the fact that from the beginning of January. 1918, to the end of November, nearly 5,500 tons of bombs were dropped by us, 2,953 hostile airplanes were destroyed, in addition to 1,178 others driven down out of control, 241 German observation balloons were shot down in flames, and an area of over 4,000 square miles of country has been photographed, not once but many times.
The assistance given to the infantry by our low-flying airplanes during the battles of March and April was repeated during the German offensives on the Alsne and Marne, on both of which occasions British squadrons were dispatched to the French battlefront and did very gallant service. During our own attacks hostile troops and transport have been constantly and heavily attacked with most excellent results.
Both by day and night our bombing squadrons have continually attacked the enemy's railway junctions and centres of activity, reconnoissance machines have supplied valuable information from both far and near, while artillery machines have been indefatigable in their watch over German batteries and in accurate observation for our own guns. In these latter tasks our balloons have done most valuable work and have kept pace with admirable energy and promptness with the ever-changing battle line.
Since the opening of our offensive on Aug. 8 tanks have been employed in every battle, and the importance of the part played by them in breaking the resistance of the German infantry can scarcely be exaggerated. The whole scheme of the attack of Aug. 8 was.dependent upon tanks, and ever since that date on numberless occasions the success of our infantry has been powerfully assisted or confirmed by their timely arrival. So great has been the effect produced upcu the German infantry by the appearance of British tanks that in more than one instance, when for various reasons real tanks were not available in sufficient numbers, valuable results have been obtained by the use of dummy tanks painted on frames of wood and canvas.
It Is no disparagement of the courage of our infantry or of the skill and devotion of our artillery to say that the achievements of those essential arms would have fallen short of the full measure of success achieved by our armies had it not been for the very gallant and devoted work of the Tank Corps, under the command of Major Gen. H. J. Biles.
TRENCH MORTARS Throughout the period under review the personnel of the trench mortar batteries, both heavy, medium, and light, have continued to discharge their duties with skill and efficiency whenever opportunity offered for the effective use of their arms. During the period of trench warfare the heavier types of trench mortars well maintained their superiority over the enemy, while during the war of movement later in the campaign numerous Instances were reported when the lighter types have been used with effect well forward in the attack In overcoming the resistance of hostile strong points.
MACHINE GUN CORPS The high reputation earned by the different units of the Machine Gun Corps during the defensive battles of the Spring has been well maintained under the changed conditions of the latter part of the year. The great value of the machine gun in the attack, when handled with energy and decision, has been proved again and again. The consistent failure of the enemy's frequent counterattacks has been due in no small degree to the skillful use of these weapons.
Reference has already been made to the vast amount of work carried out on new defenses during the earlier part of the period under review. In the construction of the 5.000 miles of new trench 20,000,000 cubic yards of earth were shifted, while the wire entanglements erected in front of the trench lines consumed 23,500 tons of barbed wire and 15,000,000 wooden or steel pickets.
During the period of our offensive all branches of the Royal Engineers and the engineer units of the dominions have shown the greatest energy and skill in discharge of their different tasks. On many occasions, particularly in the construction of bridges under fire and in the removal of mines, they have shown courage of the highest order.
In the course of our advance some 700 road bridges, exclusive of pontoon bridges, were constructed. Many of these, and In addition a large number of footbridges for Infantry assault, were constructed under heavy
shell and machine-gun fire. Notable instances of the cool pluck and determination displayed in this work were furnished by a field company of the 38th Division, which in a crossing of the Selle River lost 50 per cent, of its effectiveness, yet completed its bridge, and by the fine performance of engineer troops of the 1st Division at the crossing of the Sambro on Nov. 4.
The work of the tunneling companies has demanded equally with that of the field companies great courage and skill. In the period from Aug. 8 to the termination of hostilities nearly 14,000 German mines and traps of various descriptions, totaling over 540 tons of explosives, had been discovered and rendered harmless by the different tunneling companies, while a further amount of nearly 300 tons of explosives had been withdrawn from our own demolition charges and mine fields.
The provision of water for the troops presented a problem of great difficulty, which was met with equal energy and success. Many miles of new water mains were laid, and over 400 mechanical pumping plants, giving a daily yield of some 20.000,000 gallons of water, were installed as our troops advanced. In addition to work of the kind performed by the transportation services, engineer troops were responsible also for the repair of some 3,500 miles of roads, including the filling In of some 500 road craters.
Prior to the commencement of the advance several Important gas operations, in which large quantities of gas were discharged, were carried out successfully by the special brigade. After our advance had begun immediate advantage was taken of any temporary stabilization of the line to carry out a large number of useful operations of a lesser character, wherever it was possible to do so without danger to the lives of French civilians.
Some idea of the magnitude of the work performed and of the energy and zeal displayed by all ranks can be gained from the fact that the twenty-one special companies, with the assistance of two American companies attached for instruction, discharged during the period March-November a total of over 2,250 tons of gas. Between March 11 and Oct. 7 gas was discharged on 119 nights out of 210, and no less than 301 separate operations were successfully carried out, in addition to a large number of others which, when all preparations had been completed, had to be abandoned in consequence of changes in the tactical situation. In all these different operations all ranks of the gas services have shown their accustomed courage and devotion to duty.
The constant movement of the line and the shifting of headquarters has again imposed an enormous strain upon all ranks of the signal services. The depth of our advance