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NEW ZEALANDERS' GREAT FEAT.

CAPTURE O<F LE QUESNOY

MEX GO' FORWARD WITH MAGS I-FIDE-NT ELAN.

(Special from, the .Official War Correspondent.? ) , FRANCE,, Nov. 10. •■ It has boon stated 'in England, that the -New Zealanders were compelled to draw ;back from r the first • attempt to sto'rni • the . town ,of Le Quesnoy • frontally. -{ This is not the case. iV No. such attempt was either contemplated or made 1 . „ The »' plan was to secure the' capitulation , of .' the garrison by means of surroundnig movements and hold it thus while other troops went on to objectives far ahead. The plan worked exactly as arranged, and the enemy ' in and about the forest of Mormal, : never dreaming that our troops would push iu while such a strong position remained unconquered, was taken by surprise and severely punished. It was to the Otago and Canterbury battalions that the lot fell to make tho farthest and most difficult push forward. A barrage came down at 5.30, and remained till 6 o'clock, to enable the . Canterburys, who were on the left and had further to go, to come 1 up. The barrage jumped twice and then stopped, and the battalions went on without it, following patrols with Lewis guns in front. One of Ota go's first difficulties was dense scrub twelve to fifteen feet high where they expected a clearing. Just beyond a creek, where six roads met. was a forester's house, the position there being very strongly held by German machinegunners and snipers.* On one of the roads a solitary German was sauntering as if to surrender. He appeared to be wounded. This was merely a ruse to. get our men to expose i themselves. Twelve who went forward toi take prisoners were met by a fusillade , of machine gun bullets, but only two were killed and four wounded. Our. men are confident that some of the Germans were in French civilian clothes, and that one was wearing a woman's skirt. Unfortunately nono of these were caught, for they would have deserved the short shrift they undoubtedly would have got. , . -. .. After stiff fighting our men worked round the forester's house, wnjch they found occupied by an old- couple who were absolutely- dazed with the fighting. By this time it was 11.50, and an hour was spent in organising to advance. Along the roads through the forest in the direction of the Sambre the wood was very thick, so companies were pushed up with screens in front, and gained their objectives. On the transverse road ahead there was still 5000 yards of forest through which our men had to fight their way, and "their right flank was somewhat exposed. As there was ganger from counter-attack one company was pushed right out of the wood on the right past La Haute and on to Petit Bavy. when other companies went straight through the wood. It was desperate fighting all the way, jut picturesquely thrilling. The company commanders were wildly enthusiastic, and with magnificent elan their men went forward fighting from tree to tree, driving the Boche before them. As soon as our men got into the wood the Germans opened up on them with machine guns, and every one says it was a truly inspiring sight from a'military point of view to see how quickly the^ New Zealanders were "worming" their^ way in extended and advanced, fighting from tree to tree. With: rifle a Hd Lewis gun they killed; and wounded the Bache as they were driven forward before their onslaught. As their battalion commander phrased it, it was the most rapid advance in open fighting lie Thad ever experienced. A walk through the wood shows that the enemy had had heavy casualties,- for many of his dead still lie there. Our men, on the other hand, made such good use of their cover that tlfgjr casualties wero far lighter thaif might have been expected. They drove such of tho enemy as wero not killed or badly wourfded right through the forest, and emerging Tip'aii the other side upon a road and a lino of cottages, met with further resistance. , The fighting was for a time- severe, and the New Zealanders were handicappod by the presence of civilian's coming up from their cellars to see what fras afoot. The Germans took full advantage of the presence of these inhabitants, hoping our men would not fire. Some New Zealanders, however, worked round the cottages, and the Boches were caught in their own trap. They hoisted the white flag, and under it 45v surrendered. By this time our men were wildly enthusiastic. They got into cottages and dashed across the road, and three hundred yards ahead formed a flank line, which they held. They wero quite equal to going on and reaching the Sambre, but here they had to stay through a _ long and impetuous fighting rush; but there has been no more splendid advance in all the records of these gallant Otagos. The day was an awful one for fighting, wet and wintry. In the thick undergrowth of wood the 1 men quickly became drenched to the skin. Darkness found them on the edge of the forest in most depressing surroundings,; but they were cheerful in the realisation of tho great day's "work. They had broken the enemy on' his last lino this side of the Sambre. In the hamlet of Bavy the diggers got a warm reception from the French, arid were kissed and embraced and treated to hot coffee. In one happy coterie marched in a . German soldier with rifle slung on his shoulder. He had come out of the wood, *and was surprised to find the village in our hands. He was promptly pounced upon and disarmed, to the huge delight of the cottagers. It was half an hour after midnight before these Otagoans were /relieved, and they had a long tramp of nearly ten miles back to billets, wet and mudsplashed, tired almost ta the limit of human endurance, but still with unbroken spirit they marched back to repose wejl earned. They had been gassed and shelled, too, but shelling, they evaded by waiting, and their, box respirators were sufficient protection against gas. Their commander had a narrow escape from a shell which burst so close as to smash the door away behind which he was standing. He had his third horse in this war killed by that shell. He himself had no consciousnes^ of the shell ihaving burst untilshe found some of his men rushing to pick him up. AH who were in the house at once went into the cellar, and had not been there ten seconds when another 4.2 shell landed rig^ht in the doorway, smashing it into' pieces. All that day the Second Otagos were fallowing' up in support, and consequently had less fighting. Of the work of the Canterbury men I must write in a later message. November 11. The part played by the First Canterbury Battalion in the final battle ini which the New Zealanders were engaged is worthy of special mention. What' they did aided greatly in the eventual capture of Mormal forest.' After thb barrage that was put down to give themi direction they advanced vory r quickly till they approached tho northern forester's house, where- they wero held up temporarily by heavy machine-gun fire. Quickly realising the' situation, they worked round the position, and' captured prisoners And three guns. They had to fight '■ their" way across open spaces, coming through thick undergrowth, and in places through a forest of tall trees. From the moment they entered the undergrowth they became soaked 1 to the elcin. arid in that condition.' they fought all day. The enemy wa» shooting from pi'ep'dred positions ; witji rifles and maclnne-gilhs at tho crossroads' aridi- in other parts of the forest. In on© place tho enemy got ivDiuid iOne of the companies, which had to fight its way 'out, of- a difficult position. This.' they did brilliantly, killing and wounding several of the enemy, and capturing three officers^ and a hundred prisoners. For a considerable part of their advance "they were getting ma-chine-gun fire from the left flank, as other troopw were between two and llnoe tkoiis<)utl yards behind. Yet in this bush warfare our men showed such fine initiative, and 1 dash that the

f After they had gained their objectives [the second Canterbury dashed ahead, on rthe right, and went on to a further objective. Throughout the day it was mainly a question of individual fighting. .., One platoon i sergeant especially distinguished.himself iin clearing up a difficult situ-' ation • and capturing thirty of the enemy, but it Jis particularly difficult to 'get any account -of special work by individuals, for; the men are so modest that they will not speak,, of = their own .■efforts, and owing* to , the nature of the fighting in the forest '.the 'officers could seldom° see what^they were/ doing, but, in any case, where all* fought brilliantly, it is perhaps unnecessary:; to particularise.

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Bibliographic details

NEW ZEALANDERS' GREAT FEAT., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLV, Issue 14766, 20 November 1918

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1,496

NEW ZEALANDERS' GREAT FEAT. Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLV, Issue 14766, 20 November 1918

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