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FALL OF QUENSOY., Grey River Argus, 26 November 1918
FALL OF QUENSOY.
♦ NEW ZEALANDERS SCALE THE .. RAMPARTS AND SUEROUInTD THE TOWN. SCBRENDEB- OF GARRI3OK. (Froiti Malcolm B'»ss. Correspondent with the Now Zealand To: cos.) NOVEMBER 4th.; The J?ew- Zeahimlers wore again in action today when the British armies resumed their advance. In the tccent operation their trend had hticn northeast 'but' they vow swung round due east. Iv their f»atliway lay' historic Le Qncsrioy with its moat a-nd ramparts well garrisoned with German riflemen and machine gunners. A bombardment that heralded the advance of the Zealanders came from Severn 1 brigades of .artillery while five ramparts were screened by a smoke barrage as our men moved forward in an encircling movement. The- town itsolf we could neither bombard nor gas as there were many civilian's in it. For this reason a frontal attack -was irap^-^iblc wthonrheavy w casualties. The iroops moved to the assemblies and ammunition was dimmed in darkness. Night i">*'l with drizzling rain but luouiinix broke iine save for a light fog which soon disappeared before a southern wind and bright sun. At five thirty our massed artillery broke out in a gunfie of creeping barrage and tho troops advanced to encircle the town. By the time our troops had half circled the village the barrage search. r tho ramparts of the west and lirvrtnwest faces for a ouarter of an -hour after which patrols pushed .'forward, to v. 'eitain the. position,. They were met w^h do teimined opposition 'from "machine gun ners and snipers, yet iv face of this they scaled the outer ramparts with, ladders which they carried for that purpose and so secured commanding positions at certain points. They also carried cork tioats with which tp cross the moat should it r^ flooded:. It was almost with regi-oi *'»ni> '•"^y found it dry for some oi these diggers would have thoroughly enjoyed the novel experience of sucb.lioiiie.ic warfare. Our troops on the right were counterattacked from., the rigut think of the divisional area by five oSicers ana .a hundred men. fifty of whom were shot down and the rest taken prisoners. The hitter came under command of a couple of our runners. Thero were some ..daring incidents. A Sergeant who wears the libauds of D.C.M. and M.ivl. scaled the ramparts, shot down the crew of a machine gun, and proceeded, to. investigate.: the-'posi-tion inside the town when he was skot at from- some houses, wounded in tke arm, and foiced to retire. One of the first, if not the first up the ramparts, was a Maori from the pioneer battalions, and his ritle was thrown up after him by a salvage officer. Neither had any business in the fight but no doubt the. sporting instincts of the latter and the feats of the ancestors of the former in storming similar slopes in tribal warfare impelled them forward in this ventiue. The Maori met vaui. bombs and the salvage olticer might have been seen later riding buck with a wounded arm in a simg aud beaming with, delight. • "■ During the morning a battalion headquarters captured a hundred prisoners. One of our most daring .battalion commandeis Teecived his third wound, a bio let through the shin bone. I saw him later still conducting operations with a bandaged leg pi'opped up in a chair. His brother who iias four wound stripes on his sleeve has the misfortune to be out of tlus fight as he is on leave in England. One of -our men who was captured by the Boehe early in the mormny was recaptured "ater in the day ny nis own battalion, • When the inhabitants saw the INew Zealanders on the ramppHs they came out of their houses smii chocretl and waved flags. , Their rejoicings weie somewhat- premature for the enoiuy continued to fight on. 1 i~ ; ed to get into the town at ten'' in the. morning and found the road- and adjoining fields' swept by machine-gun iim. In the afternoon I tried another way reached the outer ramparts to find Boclic machine gunners and snipers still busy. The Maoris were sheltering under the railway embankment awaiting an opportunity to go forward to mend the road andsfit; in the wide craters. • a The Boche was determinedly holding out. Earlier in the day one of our officers had gone, in to ask the the garrison to surrender, and a large number laid down their arms and proceeded to march out but were fired on by their ■ o.wn machine gunners and scattered. Another officer crossed the ramparts at a different u'nee with, a view to getting the garrison to surrender, but the guide led him by such devious ways that for the time being he returned. Later still we sent a message in German by aeroplane, informing the garrison that they were entirely surroniidered ami '-"i better surrender. This . message •ns- dropp'e,d inside tlie town but stik the Germans fought on. In the aftcrnobu another, niessage was sent them. This had the desired effect. The garrison at last surrendered. ' : 'f The Brigadier, with other of his bfn : eers entered the town, and were re"c'civM by manifestations of, 1 joy by about ,1500 civt'ians. The tov\Ta is expected to yield a tliousand. prisoners sp thkt the -captures by the two brigades for the' rlay should amount to 2500., One brigade estimates "if. alono : %ft Raptured' jaboiit fifty guns with sis ; Qprs.es aiul endmy riders up being takieu gack through, our lines. A' doctor and his whole staff were among the pTisonoTs- capturied. ' Biit -this : is not all, while Lc Quesnoy was hoMiitg* out, a brigade supported by all the ay^ (Gontuiu«d on Page 4.)^ \ "''
ailable artiEery that could got up, was rapidly advancing to objectives far ahead and before the day had passed had got J^eyond range of *heir artillery. An Auckland Battalion took Ramponcau with prisoners, machineguns, and civilians, and two Wellington battalions passing through them captured Villerran and Potelle, where more prisoners and civilians were found, and tonight our men are well into the farther end of the great forest of Mormni'. Altogether it has been a glorious day for what the Germans have been pleased to cajll "A tired and worn out division." NOVEMBER sth iv' fi.m. When tales of fiercer fights have almost been forgotten the storming and capture of Le Quesnoy by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade will go membered as one -of the most picturesque and romantic incidents of this war. The old fortress which has stood many sieges is still wonderfully strong with precipitous ramparts of well preserved brick bastions crowned with tali trees and a dry moat fronting the inner rampart. Many besiegers have had a tilt at "it in oddcn times .In 1703 the Austrians ! stormed it after ten days .bombardment that laid the town in ruins. In 191S troops from the farthest British dominion have captured it from what was the world's greatest military power in as many hours. Though ultimately it felj to one battalion, the Fourth, the credit of its capture belongs almost equali'y to the other batallions of the Brigade and those of the First Brigade that fought so gailantly and gradually enveloped the town in face of determined opposition. [The German orders were to hold the 'town to the last. Dawn was just breaking as our troops who had assembled overnight in rain advanced to attack behind a magnificent barrage, mingled with bursting of ordinary shells, were shells of Mehium and Stokes trench mortars, while from others descended a smoke curtain thp.t screened the nvm advance and protected the *jfZs fioni a possible deadly hail of machine-gun bullets. The lire at zero hour "was truly terrific. B mall wonder that in the track of this cyclonic battie-storm were found afterwards th.^ bodies ol dead Germans and many wounded who could neither wa.'k nor crawl away. The high embankment of the railway fronting the outer ramparts was our first objective. This was strongly held and gained only after stubborn lighting during wh.ich several Germans were killed and wounded and others taken prisoner. Approaching the outer ramparts, another battalion, the second, found a 77 num. gun firing, at it over open sights, making an advance in the face of casualties exceedingly difficult. Meantime other bat■'taiiions were gradually encircling the I town to the south ana southwest and the Fourth Battalion whose advance let us now follow, pushed patrols under cover of the barrage and smoke screen right up to the foot or the outer ramparts and in places n to their bastion heights. When the smoke screen had gradually lifted away there camo the stuttering noise of machineguns and belt after belf of German bullets whistled through tne trees at the advancing New Zealanders. One platoon found itscvf cut off. Its commander was killed, while endeavouring to extricate his men in the hollow cant remained with his men for six hours. As the sun rose, and the bombardment slackened, civilians saw our men on the outer rampart s and greeted them with distant cheers and waving of flags, inspring them to renewed efforts. But ,it was not till after midday that the patrols, like wary deer stalkers, began to mark down the Bocho machine guns and snipers and systematically shift them from the cover of their bastions. These enemy positions were bombarded with the only available Stokes mortar and one after another occupied: A narrow thirty foot ladder was hauled along and on this officers and men climbed to the top of the precipitous W-shaped bastions, dominating the line of advance. Messages sent in to the garrison were so far wthout avail. One dropped by aeroplane told tf *Mn they were entirely surroundeu. Later on an ultimatum demanding surrender within two hours made the commander think that surrender was better than annihilation and the opposition perceptibly slackened but on some of the rampart positions men had apparently not received the news and maintained a defensive attitude. This w r as the situation when the Fourth Battalion decided to scale the inner wall. In front through the trees they could see a great moat and formidable rampart of brick,' crowned with machine-guns stifll in action. Only in one place was it possible to reach the bastion by means of their thirty foot ladder. This was a spot at which the low wall abutted on to the main rampart. In single fi'Je the officers led their men to the final assault. The track beaten by their feet can still be seen leading between the trees and along the top of this narrow waiU. With a Stokes mortar and machineguns the New Zeailanders drove the enemy on to the reverse slope from the summit of the bastion. Then a ladder was placed against the wall. It barly reached the top. The second3ieutenants with three men ascended. It was a thrilling moment. Leaving the last rung of the ladder these men found themselves confronted by a few Germans, who, finding our bullets whistling about them, sought safety in flight down the sfopc and into an underground cavern where other Boches were sheltering. Following upon this initial success, practically the whole battalion streamed quickly am single file along the lower wall and 1 up the ladder. Headquarters, which throughout the day consisted of one signaler with a telephone, and the battalion commander, and was being advanced by slow stages from point to point, now mounted the parapet, men paying out the telephone wire as they climbed. Patrols were pushed down the reverse slope and the Boches ' sheltering underI ground, began to surrender freely. Within a few minutes the whole battalion engaged in the yicinty had swarmed up the. ladder and were dashing into the beleaguard town through the Rue Caillon which was first swept with our machine-gun fire. Then a memorable ««***>« occurred, the inhabitants realizing that at last deliverance had come rushed from cellars and houses and soon from every buildng the tricolour was flying in the breeze. Along a street lined with an excited cheering throng the diggers marched, embraced and kissed and i showered with autumn flowers. The enthusiasm knew no bounds. Hero and there a rifle still cracked, our men taking no chances when they saw a . Boche who had not surrendered. The Battalion Commander marched with revoi!v«r in one hand and garlands in the other. The excited civlians stuck flowers in the men's tunics and even in their gas respirators, and followed cheering to the main square, where the crerman commander, with a hundred men, already drawn up, surrendered to a young New Zealand captain, whom he formally saluted and, to whom, he handed his revolver. Meantime, other Germans had deliberately fired some of the houses and 4 dense columns of
black smoke rose and drifted across to the northern ramparts. Two New Zealand officers were sent with a hundred prisoners to light the flames. Other prisoners were rounded up and gathered in the main square. Close at hand was a great, barbed wir> enclosure where these French men and women said our prisoners had been left in the rain without food or clothing till some of them died of hunger and exposure. They seemed surprised that j we should treat the Germans so hu- ' mancly. The battalion got its steaming cookers into the town and the men after their srenuous fighting enjoyed a hot meal. The inhabitants had given them, hot coffee and food from their own scanty stores, and pressed upon them the best accommodation their homes could afford. Many a digger used to damp clay, s?cpt that night .in a warm bed. This morning the Divisional Geeneral and Brigadier formally visited the town. The former after a brief stay rode off to the forest of Normal to see how his still advancing tvoops were getting on. Beyond Quesnoy he established headquarters in his motor-ear The Brigadier remained to receive a civic welcome and congratulations. The band of the Second Battalion ] played the Marseillaise, and our National Anthem amid renewed jubiliatoin. Then the batt^ion, now somewhat reduced in numbers because of its dead and wounded, formed up in j the square and headed by a band playing inspiring music marched past the Brigadier, who sitting on his charger hand to rim of steel casque, took the salute of his war worn heroes. Swinging proudly down the main street, the little column was showered with flowers and flags. White haired old men doffed their bats as the battalion passed, but the younger less sedate followed cheering and waving their tricolours. Thus in a cold drizzle of rain, but still in great heart with Band playing and flags flying and a solitary English gun shooting at a far distant target, the New Zealanders marched off from the old town they had delivered from the ruthless enemy. November sth, 11.10 p.m.) Yesterday and to-day will, remain for ever red letter days in. the history of the New Zealand Division. Apart frim the capture of Le Quesnoy by the Rifle Brigade, the splendid advance cf the other brigades must be regarded as an almost unique achievement. In two days the division had advanced between eight and nine miles fighting a.ll the way. From west of Le Quesnoy it has passed through the great forest of Normal to witVn. a short distance of the canalised ■Sambre. Yesterday the Auckland and Wellington troops, under cover of a smoke barrage, broke through the German lines to "the north of Le Quesnoy and stormed Ramponeau, Villereau, and Herbinges, through difficult country Jargely covered with orcnaras and hedges and dotted with farms. Penetrating right into the enemy battery positions they captured many guns, and by nightfall had established themselves half a mile inside the forest of Normal on its western side. Many German jdead in the track of these troops and horse teams lie prostrate besides aban[doned jruns. j The advance was continued to-day by the Otago and Canterbury troops who gained the objectives east of the forest seven thousand yards ahead, and within about half a mile of the Sainbrc. A feature of this fighting was that they had to go the whole way through the forest without artillery support. It was an advanced guard action almost ali the way, with only machinee gun support, for the. artillery could move along only outride roads> and could not see what VTas doing in the forest where the enemy had pdsted machine-guns at stars formed by the cross roads. Progress was by no means easy. To-day about 150 prisoners were captured.
FALL OF QUENSOY., Grey River Argus, 26 November 1918
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