Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Second Day of the Battle of Cambrai

Wednesday 21st November 1917

As the old sweats in the Press Corps predicted yesterday, the enemy evacuated Flesquières over-night leaving the exhausted highlanders to occupy it this morning. All the correspondents here at Montreuil-sur-Mer, headquarters of the British Expeditionary Force, have been frantically trying to get south to be closer to the battlefront, your correspondent among them.

This frantic behaviour by the non-combatants, however, has not been mirrored by similar actions on the field of battle itself. It was widely felt last night that a massive breakthrough was at hand. We have learned that, on 6th Division’s front, the cavalry were even sent forward, though they failed in their attempt to seize the village of Noyelles.

This morning Cantaing was quickly taken but the three assaulting divisions belonging to III Corps, including 6th Division and the 8th Bedfords, were told that their advance had ceased and they were to consolidate. The attack has thus been given into the hands of IV Corps alone, which was given orders to take Bourlon Ridge and Wood.

The fighting here and at the village of Anneux has been bloody. The enemy have been, as usual, very quick to counter-attack and the situation is confused though last we heard Anneux still holds out.

The adjutant of the 8th Bedfords tells us that headquarters moved into the old German support system for the Hindenburg Line during the day, south of the Escaut Canal and north of Ribecourt. A pack convoy brought up water for the battalion, which was most welcome.

This afternoon the Battalion moved into the a line just west of Marcoing, then moved again over Prémy Ridge to a quarry (marked in pink on the map above) under shell-fire and relieved the Guernsey Light Infantry of 29th Division in the new front line, holding a stretch in front of Nine Wood west of Noyelles running north-west towards Cantaing. This front line is, the adjutant informs us, not a trench system but just shellholes and posts quickly dug-in.

Source: X550/9/1

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