Sunday 4 November 2018

The Attack Goes On

Monday 4th November 1918

The great allied offensive clicked into gear once again this morning. The aim has been to break enemy resistance south of the Condé Canal and undertaking an advance in the general direction of Avesnes, Maubeuge and the place it all began for the British Expeditionary Force - Mons.

Fourth Army has had to negotiate the Sambre Canal and also the Forest of Mormal. The canal is only about head-high but is seventy yards wide. Those of us who reported on the Battle of the Somme remember a vile litany of woods which needed to be taken at a high cost in men's lives - High Wood, Delville Wood, Trones Wood and others.

The canal was crossed at first light this morning on planks and pontoon bridges and it is testament to the increasingly feeble nature of our enemy that it was done almost without resistance. One cannot imagine such an undertaking against the German Army of 1916 or 1917. Only 2nd Division suffered significant losses as the enemy resistance here was very stiff indeed. Indeed the fighting was desperate and called for gallantry of a very high order(1).

In the action around the forest there was hard fighting at times over the ground leading up to the trees. However, our tanks worked their magic and an advance of four miles has been made. As part of the action here the indomitable New Zealanders took the walled town of le Quesnoy, scene of fighting two centuries ago during the ears of the Duke of Marlborough. The walls had to be breached and scaling ladders used in old-fashioned style and fighting through the town was hand-to-hand and vicious until the garrison surrendered. Tonight the army is just in front of the Forest of Mormal.

2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, part of 18th (Eastern) Division has been in action around the village of Preux-au-Bois south-west of Maubeuge. Three officers have been wounded and one, Second Lieutenant Abbott has been killed. Seven other ranks have been killed and 34 wounded, with three missing but the adjutant was able to inform be brusquely: "Operations entirely successful"

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) Four Victoria Crosses were won here, two of them posthumously and it was here that the celebrated war poet Wilfred Owen lost his life.

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