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CAPTURE OF IE QUESNOY., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLV, Issue 14769, 23 November 1918
CAPTURE OF IE QUESNOY.
SCALING THE RAMPARTS. THRILLING INCIDENTS OF THE ATTACK. A MAORI AMONG THE FIRST UP THE RAMPARTS. (From the Correspondent with o the New Zealand Forces.) November 4. The New Zealanders were again m. action to-day, wJien the British armies resumed their advance. In the recent operation their trend had been northeast, but they now swung round due east. In their pathway lay historic Lo Quesnoy, •with its moat and ramparts well garrisoned with German riflemen and machine gunners. A bombardment that heralded the advance of the New Zealanders came from several brigades of artillery, while the ramparts were screened by a smoke barrage as our men moved forward m an encircling movement. The town itself we could neither bombard nor gas, as there were many civilians m it. For this reason a frontal attack was impossible without heavy casualties. The troops moved to the assemblies, and ammunition was dumped m darkness. Night fell with drizzling rain, but morning broke fine, save for a light fog which soon disappeared before a southern wind and bright sun. At 5.30 our massed artillery broke out m a drumfire of creeping barrage and the troops advanced to encircle the town. By the time our troops had half encircled the village the barrage searched the ramparts of the west and north-west faces for a quarter of an hour, after which patrols pushed forward to ascertain the position. They were met with determined opposition from machine gunners and snipers, yet m the face of this they scaled the outer ramparts with ladders which they carried for that purpose, and so secured commanding positions' at certain paints. They also carried cork floats with which to cross the moat should it be flooded. It was almost with regret that they found it" dry, for some of these diggers would havo thoroughly enjoyed the novel experience of such. Homeric warfare. Our troops on the right were counter-attacked from the right flank of the divisional area by five officers, and a hundred men, fifty of whom were shot do,wn and £he rest taken prisoners. The latter came m under command of a couple of our runners. DARING INCIDENTS. There were some daring incidents. A sergeant who wears the ribands of of D.C.M. and M.M., scaled the ramparts, shot down the ' crew of a machine gun, and proceeded to investigate the position inside the town, when he was shot at from some houses, wounded m the arm, and forced to retire. One of the first, if not the first, up the ramparts, Was a Maori from the Pioneer battalions, and his rifle was thrown up after him by a salvage officer. Neither had any business m the fight, but no doubt the sporting instincts of the latter and the feats of the ancestors of the former m storming similar slopes t in' tribal warfare, impelled them forward m this venture. The Maori was I met with bombs, and the salvage officer might have been seen later riding back with a wounded arm m a sling, • and beaming with delight. During the 'morning a battalion headquarters captured a hundred prisoners. One of our most daring battalion comS manders l'eceived his third wound, a I bullet through the shin bone. I saw j him later still conducting operations I with a bandaged leg propped up m a I chair. His brother, when has four I wound stripes on his sleeve, has the misfortune to be out of this fight as he is on leave m England. One of our men who was captured by the Boche early m the morning was recaptured later m the day .by his own battalion. I When the inhabitants saw the New Zealanders on the ramparts they came out of their houses and cheered and waved flags. Their rejoicings were somewhat premature, for the enemy continued to fight on. • I tried to get hit* .the town at 10 m fcho morning, and found the road and adjoining fields swept by machine-gun fire. In the afternoon I tried another way, and reached the outer ramparts to find Boche mnchiwe-gimuers and snipers still busy. The Maoris were sheltering under the railway ■embankment awaiting an opportunity to ga forward to mend the road and fill m the wide cra-tei-s. . , The Boche was determinedly holding out. Earlier m the day 6ne of our officers, had gone m to ask the garrison to surrender, and a large number laid down their arms and proceeded to march out, but were fired on by their own machine gunners and scattered. Another officer crossed the ramparts at a different place with a view to getting the garrison to surrender, but the guide led him by such devious ways that r for the time boing he returned. Later still we sent a message m German by aeroplane, informing the garrison! that they were entirely surrounded, and had better surrender. This message /was dropped inside the town, but still the Germans fought on. In the afternoon another message was sent them. This had the desired effect. The garrison at last surrendered. JOY OP THE POPULACE. The brigadier, with other of his officers, entered the town, and were received with manifestations af joy by about 1500 civilians. The town is expected to yield a thousand prisoners, so that the captures by the two brigades for the day should amount .to 2500. One brigade estimates it alone has captured about 50 guns. One of the unique sights of the Avar was a German gun with six hc<rses and enemy riders up being taken through our lines. A doctor and his whole staff were among the prisoners captured. But this is not all. While Le Quesnoy was holding out, a brigade supported by all the available artillery, that could get up, ; was . rapidly advancing to objectives far ahead, and before the day had passed' had got beyond range of their artillery. An Auckland battalion took Ranrponeu with prisoners, machine-guns, • and civilians, and two Wellington battalions passing through them captured Villerean and Potclld, where more prisoners, and civilians were found, and to-night our men are well into the farther end pf the great forest of MoTmal. Altogether it has been a glorious day for what the Germans have been pleased to call "A tired and wcirn-out division.' A GREAT ACHIEVEMENT. November 5, 10 a.m. When tales of fiercer fights have almost been forgotten the storming and capture of Le Quesnoy by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade will be remembered a g one of the most picturesque- and romantic incidents of this war. The old fortress whioh has stood many sieges is stwl wonderfully strong with precipitous ramparts of well presented l brick bastions crowned iwith tall trees a.nd a dry : moat, fronting the inner rampairt. besiegers have had a tilt at it m olden times. In 1793 the Auatrians stormed it after ten days' bombardment that laid the town m ruins. In 1918 troops from the "farthest Britsdv Dominion would' have captured it from what was the world's greatest military power m as many I hours. Though ultimately it fell to on© | battalion, the fourth, the credit of its • capture belongs almost equality to the other battalions of the brigade and those of the first brigade ( that fought so gallantly and gradually enveloped the- town m ihee of determined opposition. The German orders were to hold the town to the last. Dawn was just breaking as our troops, who liad assembled overnight m rain, advanced to the attack behind a magnificent barrage. Mingled with the bursting of ordinary sheila were shells of Mehium and Stokes-,trench mortars; while* from still others descended a smoke | curtain that screened the main advanoe and protected the flanks from, a possible deadly hail of machine-gun bullets, the fire at zero hour was truly terrific. Small wonder that m the track of this cyclonic battlestorm were found afterwards thei bodies of dead, Germans,' and many (Wounded who could)' neither walk nor crawl away. THE FIRST OBJECTIVE. The high embankment of thei railway
fronting the outer ramparts was our first. objective. This was strongly he.d and gained only after stubborn fighting, during which several Germans were killed and wounded, and others taken prisoner. Approaching tho outer ramparts' another battalion, the second, found a 77 mm. gun firing at it over open sights, making an advance m the face of casualties exceedingly difficult. Meantime other battalions were gradually encircling- the town to th© south and south-west, and the fourth battalion, whose advance let tis now follow, pushed patrols under I cover of the barrage and smoke screen right up to the front of the outer ramparts and m places on to their bastion heights. When the smoke screen, had gradually drifted away there came tho stuttering noise of machine-guns, and bolt after bolt of German bullets whist" cd , through the trees at the advancing New j Zealanders. One platoon found itself cut off. Its commander was killed while endeavoring to extricate his men, and m the hollow between two brick walls a dairing sergeant remained witli his men for six hours. As the sun rose and the bombcardment slackened, civilians saw our men on the outer ramparts, and greeted them, with distant cheers and waving of flags, inspiring them to renewed efforts. But it waa not till after midday tliat the patrols, like waiy deer stalkers, began to mark down the Boche 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 hau/led along, and' on to this officers and men climbed to t>he top of the precipitous W-sihaped bastions dominating the line of advance. Messages sent mto the garrison were so far without avail. One dropped by aeroplane told them they were entirely surrounded. Later on an ultimatum demanding surrender witliin two hours mad© tho commander \think that surrender was better than Annihilation, and the opposition perceptibly slackened, but on some of the rampart positions men had apparently mot received the news and maintained a defensive attitude. A THRILLING MOMENT. This was the situation iwhen the fourth battalion decided to scaJe the inner Avail. Ini front, through the trees, they could see a great moat and formidable rampart of brick crownied with machine-guns still'l m action. Only m 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 tho main rampart.. In single file the officers lied their men to the final assault. The. track beaten by their feet can still be seen leading between the trees aaid along the top of this narrow iwal'l. With a stokes mortar and machine guns the New Zealanders drove the enemy on to the reverse slope from the siimmit of the bastion. Then a ladder was placed against the wall. It barely reached the top. Two second lieutenants 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 m flight down the slope and into an underground cavern where other Roches <were sheltering. Following upon this initial success practically the whole battalion streamed quickly m single file .along the lower wall and up the ladder. Headquarters, which, throughout the day, consisted of one signaller with a telephone, and the battalion commander, and was being advanced by silow stages from point to point now mounted the parapet, men paying out the telephone wire as they climbed. Patrols iwero pushed down: the reverse slope, and the Boches sheltering underground began to surrender freely. Within a" few minutes the whole battalion engaged m the vicinity had swarmed up the ladder and were dashing into the beloagured town through tho Rue Caillon, which was the first swept with our machine-gun fire. ENTHUSIASTIC RECEPTION BY LIBERATED PEOPLE. Then a memorable scene occurred. The inhabitants, realising that at last (Saliveronce had come, rushed from cellars and houses, and soon from every building the tricolor was flying m the breeze. Along a street lined with an excited cheering throng tho diggers marched, embraced and kissed, and showered with autumn flow er§> The enthusiasm knew no bounds. Here 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 revolver m one hand and garlands m the other. The excited civilians stuck flowers m the mens tunics and even m their gas respirators, and followed', cheering, to the main square, where the German commander, with a hundred .men already drawn up, surrendered to a young New Zealand captain, -whom he formally saluted, and to whom he handed 1 his- revolver. Meantime other Germans had deliberately fired some of the houses, and dense columns of black smoke rose and drifted across to the northern ramparts. Two New Zealand officers were sent with a hundred prisoners to fight the flames. Other prisoners were rounded up and gathered m the main square, Close at hand was a great barbed-wire i enclosure, where these French men and women said oin? prisoners had been left m the rain without food or clothing till some of them died of hunger arid? ex- j posure. They seemed surprised that we should treat t the Germans so humanely. The battalion got its steaming cookers into the town, and the men, after their strenuous fighting. enjoye4 a hot meal. The Inhabitants had givon 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, slept that night m a warm bed. HISTORIC MARCH-PAST. This morning the divisional general and brigadier formally visited the town. The former, after a brief, stay, rode off to the forest of Mormal to see how his still advancing troops were getting on. Beyond Quesnoy he established neati'quarters m his motor-car. 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 j jubilation. Then the battalion, now somewhat reduced m numbers because of its dead and wounded, formed up m the- square and, headed by a, band playing inspiriting 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 fittle column was showered with flowers and. flags, .Whtye-haired old men doffed their hats v as the battalion passed, but the younger people, less sedate, followed cheering and' waving their tricolors. Thug m a cold drizzle of rain, but still m great heart, with band playing and flags flying and a solitary English gun shooting at a far-dis-tant target, the New Zealanders marched off from the old town they has delivered from the ruthless enemy. PIVISIQN/S BED-LETTER DAY. ."November 5, 11.10 p.m. Yesterday and to-day will remain forever red-letter days m the history of the New Zealand Divisipttr Apart from the capture of Le Quesnoy. by the Rifle Brigade, the splendid 1 adyanco of the other brigades must be regarded «s an almost unique achievement. In two days the division had advanced between eight and nine miles, fighting all the way. From west of Le Quesnoy it has passed through, the great forest of Mormal to within 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 Quesnpy and stormed Ramponeau, Villear-i eau, and Herbinges, through difficult country largely covered with orchards and hedjges and dotted with farms. Penetrating right into the enemy bat'
CAPTURE OF IE QUESNOY., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLV, Issue 14769, 23 November 1918
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