LAST DAYS OF THE FIGHTING.
WITH THE NEW ZEALANDERS AT LE QUESNOY.
A MAORI THE FIRST MAN IX
FINALi SCENES IN THE GREAT
(lu'om Malcolm Ross, Correspondent with tho New Zealaud Forces.) LONDON, Nov. 8.
Fifty years hence there will bo old men sitting m the ingle-nook m New J Zealand telling their grandchildren tales! of the storming of Le Quesnoy. The j more on© sees of the wonderful old fortress the more remarkable seems the achievemnt. Men of mettle would have held it for a month ; the Germans lost lost it m a day. The outer and , inner ramparts with their moats and island bastion m between, bade defiance to an invader. That such a fortress should fall to New Zealanders is an episode m history. Stranger still is the fact that the first man to enter was a Maori — one of our pioneer battalion. Aftor stiff fighting and Beveral casualties to officers and men, a battalion of the Rifle Brigade found themselves within three hundred yards of the Porte de Valenciennes. Already the Boche hdd laid a mine. Presently there was a loud explosion, and the bridge was 1 hurled into the air. The garrison, entirely held by New Zealanders, fought on. At 2.30 the battalion commander (who ,is one of our most determined fighters) decided to try a sortie. Two officers' and ten others went forward. To this party there had attached themselves some Maoris of the pioneer battalion, who for the moment, having- nothing else to do, joined the fighting troops. One of these, seizing a Boche rifle, led the way, and shot the first German he saw. There can lie 116 better account of the incident than his, own terse and humorous description : "When I see the Bocho I shoot and kill one. 'Then: l. shoot again and: miss. Then I fire the. third time but no plurry bullet." (There v had been only two bullets m the magazine of that Boche. rifle). The Maori then realising that there, was little more that he could do, returned to his unit and exchanged the rifle, for a shovel, well content that he had killed at least one Boche. Like some demon m<a pantomime he. faded out of the picture, and no one, knows his name or number ; but the battalion commander, is still looking for him toh-ecommend him for a well-earned decoration. This battalion, like others, fought remarkably and what they accomplished helped greatly to let another. battalion into the centre of the town, where the commandant formally offered his revolver m token of surrender. The sortie did Jiot lead! to any very definite result, but later, when the German machine gunners had been driven from the ramparts, and two field guns that had been shooting at the battalion at point-blahlc range had been silenced; the ■ men" swarmed 'into the town. They had been seen previously by the inhabitants, who wildly cheered them on. Entering the" town they had a similar experience to' that of the Fourth Battalion, 7 who" had already entered from the other side, after scaling the rampart wall "on their; tall ladder. People excitedly : crowded' about them, and they were hugged' Wd kissed and presented with flags 'aitfd? flowers. The frenzied delight" of th&te; Freilohmcn and Frenchwomen was*TM- ; bounded. Later, into one of "the vault'c'd' chambers lately occupied by the enemy, went tho battalion commander and another officer. Thither the" "Bocho had conveyed much French furniture — beds, mattresses, pillows, mirrors — and some of the poorer people now rushed m, anxious to get their own back. Near tho door was a; piano stolen by tlm Boohe. In a moment of inspiration a. Frenchman, sat dqwn\at it and &om-mt-nced to play tho "Marseillaise." *£he of'loct was electrical. Men, women, and children and soldiers joined m tho stir-, ring, strains of th.o splendid hymn, the echoes of which resounded from the vaulted, roof. Tho .thin f^ces! and, poor-, ly-olad forms of, the liberated v civilians,, m the- light of two candles held by the. battalion commander aridjone of his men, made an unforgettable sceno that only a Rembrandt .could do justice to; The place- was strewn with Bocho equipment; and one excited old Frenchman began haciking at it with, a German bayonet that ho had picked up. Then the battalion band marched m along the Rue Thiers, and so on to the place D'Armes, ; followed by a wildly excited throng, waving the tricolor^ singing and cheering. The band stru"ck up the-. "Marseillaise;" " That put tlie townspeople^' <ata fire. One "momeinV you would see wonteh shouting and singing in' wild- delight, and next "tears were streaming " ddwn their faces. For four long years they had been bond-slaves— now they wer[e free. Relief long-expected- 'had ..come at last. As v one old man put it : "They took our liberty; they took our food; they took, our furniture, and now" la bonne deliverance!" THE; RIFLE BRIGADE'S WORK. ' i In telegrams .already despatched I have referred to. the. work of the three battalions of the Rifle Brigade. It may now bo. added that the' first battalion Had a. very, hard row. to hoe owing to difficulties on their right flank. It was nob a want of y.alor m the neighboring troops but rather a thin barrage on this pa<rt of the advance that was responsible for this. In this battalion the commander and no fewer than 10 officers wero wounded, and though the commander continued toi fight, so great a 'losa m officers was undoubtedly a handicap. . , ■!' Of all tho battalions the Third had apparently the easiest run through. It hud nevertheless some extraordinary experiences. It had a few casualties from enemy shelling about three m the morning m getting ta its assembly ; points. It followed the First Battalion, and: at aii early stage of the advance got into a fog, so denser that the left company could not be seen, and two runners were sent out to find it. Presently one of them came -back : with three Hun automatic rifles slung about liim and a broad smile under his tin, hait. ' It appeared that his mate and he had suddenly stumbled on, a German machinegun position. "I'm sorry." I could not find the company, sir," he said, ''but my mate is bringing m a machine gun ana what is left of Tho crew." .Sure" enough the other runner soon appeared, with .t^e machine-gun and those of the craw that had not been disposed of with revolvers. Runners had rushed the positipn, killed several, and the rest "kameraded." .^ There was another incident, that had a touch af. comedy about it.. The battalion commander, intelligence officer, three signallers, and ; three runners,' 'advanced; their headquarters to an orchard. Tho commander was standings on the road when, he ripticed. looming tip 'through the fog a number oi'mon whom at first he took to be Tommies advancing from his right rear. Taking a second look at them he saw that .they vvero Boches. Most of his men wore sitting -with their backs against apple trees smoking cigarettes. Realising the .danger he called ta them to preparp for action. They were' eight to 'about eighty, but they sailed into tho onbmy; with fhoir revolvers; it second lieutenant rushing m with such vigor and determination, .that the" Huhsj taken com- . pletely off their guili-a, at'orice piit up tlieir 1 hands. The feight " New Zealand; ; ers began, to strip, them, of their arms, actually taking the rovjolyora out of the hands of 'the •■•xhey'.wefc" Germans trying Jb, got back to -their garrison m r Queimby. Amongst them^-was a messenger " from tho ''First " Battalion SvJiom, tliov luld T 6nptaralV -and^U), loo, ' quijcklv "l'am^ilided.'^eing' ■■afraid -that his fellow Ne# Zealanflel*r would slltiot. 'Afterwards it was' setin'Hli'at $ti&er Get 1 - , nians had a machine gtin f eady^ to fire. If they had put "up a fight it would have been headquarters and not tho 80 Huns tliAt would havo been taken prisoner. Later oil this battalion commander sent •«. German officer into Le Quesnoy (with a message asking the garrison ■■ to surrender. A platoon commander took him up to tho inner gato, before which the CJ«nnau burst into tears, being afraid that his own men plight shoot him for a deserter. Tho diggers, however, insisted that he should go m. They saw no moro of him. About three m
. tho afternoon Cwo moro Germans were sent m with a message to Bay that if the garrison did not come out m batches of five at a time, the New Zealander,s would slaughter the whole lot. These two peaco envoys returned,- and stated that the Qennaft aoldiers were willing , to surrender, but the commandant wauld I not agree. ' Apparently, however, this dire threat had some effect, for afterwards 'fresisttittde .gradually "(slackened, and the ue±t thing this battalion commander heard was that .the New Zealariderg were over, the topi of the highest wall and into the citadel, One' tank which some New Zeailanders directed to a machine gim nest that was holding up Tommies on the flank, did really i good work. Two scouts did a very plucky thing ; they ran into a jparty of between 20. and 30 Huns, killed 12 and brought m the rest as prisoners. Another" incident was the dropping of ammunition by one of our planes — a kindly and a daring action — though our men were riot m need of ■• it. The advance was so fast that those behind did rioi know its "extent, arid artillery officers who caarie up to ask if it was safe to come so far with their guns, were- told that- the lino was already far ahead. The' New Zealauders vould see numbers ?7 6f the enemy running away, but could not get at them. The initial barrage, was magnificent and even terrorising to- our men, who m some places thought twice before starting after it. The noise and concussion were so great that officers told me they suffered from headacheß so severe that they could not sleep that night. During the day several batches of Germans came m under the white flag as' our troops advanced. .'Under the crushing blows hoth m offence and defence by the British and French armies on the Western front m the latter half "of this year, it is quite 'clear that the enemy suffered enormous losses. ' Boifi' m Zanders arid -here, there are German cemeteries that contain thousands of graves. In one place during the recent advance corpses have.been seen bound together m four with wire. One wonders if they were destined for tha glycerine factcjpy. German pioneers and the transport., personnel have been depleted to hold fast the line, and generally there is great disorganisation m units. The eriemy appears- to be 'retreating fast to the Mons-Maubeuge line. In the meantime orders have been issued m View <xf ' German ' eriiissaries appearing on this front with white flag, tor ask for an armistice. In the recent fighting we have had losses, and many gcjod men have gone under. Never m tfie history of the Division have the diggers been m greater heart. Their morale is truly wonderful. ■■.: LONDON, Nov, 10. . .The Divisional Commander, m a special order of the. day, expressed to all ranks his appreciation of their work, during the past fortnight's " operations.' "At no time," .he adds, "has the Division fought with more spirit and determination ; nor have . its efforts at any time 'been crowned with greater siiccess." He is "convinced that the results achieved are due to the determination of every individual to do his utmost towards the common end." '.'? NEARING THE END. •'•-• " NOVEMBER, 9. "'.'To-day an extraordinary position prevails on this front. °* But for- the rumble of passing transport and the hum of a few planes, .no battle sounds meet the; eatr. Out owii -as well as -rthe enemy, 1 !* guns are silent. The British artillery has bean passed for miles with advancing infantry, but can find nothing, to slicotrtato' • -Tiio 'Gisfman armies, • witioh liave,,.bee ; n t ,.jn, quick . retreat, have disapp eared '^hito' the" Wiici." In Le Quosnoy one continues to hear sad tales of the German treatment ..of British prisoners. One Commandant went along the ranks lashing them with his whip. • Tho treatment was so bad on one occasion,. that a* German sergeant interposed to 'prevent a German officer illtreating our men. After their last brilliant acliicvement the New Zealanders have como; out of the line, and tho hope is general that .the next lino they will have to hold will ho the Rhine. final scenes. :•■■■ . . November, 10. :, Ono of tlio •lafet'scoiiea 5 itf the drama of war was enacted to-day m the square of the old frontier town of Le Quesnoy. At two m the afternoon the President of the French Republic, attended by French officers, and with the tricolour flying front his ca£, drove into the main square amid outbursts., of cheering. The New Zealanders furnished a Guard of Honor. Tho square was crowded with our troops and civilians. Many other Now Zealanders watched from every irindow and balcony, and , even, from the roofs of buildings to- whidi-they; f h#dt climbed. When one of our bands struck up the "Marseillaisei' there was a .renewed outburst^ of .^enthusiasm, and. children' drawn *up m : 'th© square waved a welcome with hundreds of flags. General Harper, our corps commander, "-'and General Russell, with the, members of their staffs and other officers, were present. Tho streets were ablaze with buntinp, and m the square itself fluttered m bright sunshine the Allied flags, with the New Zealand ensign m the most proTrnittent position. A French plane flyingi low,'"< circled' over this re-, markable agfeeSipblage .V arid "drew forth; another" bufSt "til cheering/ v while a British plane which followed, got a similar welcome. ' . . The President, addressing the civic authorities, /(among- whpmf- was the Mayor, , re^entily a-etoirneU .,}s I%^ jGermaii ■p.iJisqti because EheJjS'OT^d^ot^ay a heavy fine) said that the enemy had' now Been told the terms on which he might have an armistice. He mußt answer Yea or Nayi, fc'l^'he refused; <tf}ose conditions he' -wpuld|be)driv^^roj|!(i Hh# remaining pa\'t of *Fra'nebi ife^had .devastated, to" his own borders, and pursued even beyond" their confines. The people- oi , J&ancev had untold and indalcUlable ' nfise'ries ; * "out ' it * 'Was not France that would have to pay. It was the enemy. "Citizens of Le Quesnoy," .added M. . Poincaje, addressing the "grey-headed fathers -whoi-'stood -before him uiteoyei^^y. ,?you owe your liberty to the action of* the armies, and notably to the New Zealand troops what are assembled here to-day." After a . bjrfcf .' JcejPemQrijr, (thf president walked to. the hospital, where he sought out iSistm'l: Sfei^ean, '•w;hp s t with other Sisters of Mercy had played such a conspicuous part m alleviating the terrible sufferings of' Brrash prisoners m this -town. Ha found her sorting linen, and thanked ■tier "m the^riariie^of'-the.j Republic for what she had done. They Twill tell you,, these sißterß, almost -with 'tears, tales; |f brutaj[ty: that; Englishmen can scarcely beli&Ve. Any day on which a British prisoner did npt die ,was a Red Letter Day m their calendar. 'Usually several died each day. Near by is Mdrihal fdrest, where new history has jbeea ma,de aince. Stevenson paddled 'past it "on 'ftls inlfcnd voyage. There the Princess do Croix, sister of^ the /Prince who has been so long associated with the New Zealand Divisiqn as head of the Belgian J^ssion, fed' and blojihed the British i)rieoriirs> Tlie PrinccSs*'was placed iv' c solitary confinement' in a- German prjsonv where, ill almost to death v and badly^e'd; shb ; languished for a year or more. In that wood to-day I, saw. the graves of. many Germans who liad T fallbn to New Zealand bullets. Fr,om the other side of the world just retribution had at last overtaken them. THE END. v The news of cessation of hostilities this morning was received vory quiStly so, far as the New Zealand Division was ■concerned. The infantry Jluul coriio o"ut of line after the Mormal forest fighting m wonderful spirit, and were billolcil m villages behind. Tho artillery •lived their, last shot yoaterday, and today aio trekking back to v. woll-oarned rest. Divisional headquarters was^ on the point of shifting, nearer the front, but tho move was cancelled, and the whole division has tp niovo further back. ■■■■.. . ■. Already tho whole Elxpeditiotiaa-y Force is concerned with educational arid demobilisation schemes. Every effort will be made to occupy and interest the men during what must inevitably .prove a trying' interregnum. Ordinary military di'ill must continue for some considerablo time, but of primary importance is the' education scheme. The development of tho scheme which was
I started 1 m England* by the , V.M.C. A., encouraged and developed by the command there, and also m France, is well m hand already. A tentative scheme which has been m operation here during hostilities, will now give placo to » more comprehensivfi scheme, on which the board has been at wcrk. The method of procedure, selection of staff and estimates for equipment have been considered. The requirements of all classes of students, from thoße desirous of obtaining scholarships to those who need elementary training, will be considered. The general estimates that, the scheme will cost £50,000 and expresses the opinion that with the hearty cooperation of military officers here and m New Zealand, it will have far-reach-ing results, and be of incalculable,; benefit to the Dominion. Already those concerned with it have been m" close liason with those responsible for similar schemes m the British army and other overseas forces. An officer (formerly a professor at Canterbury College) will bo m charge of the whole scheme.
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LAST DAYS OF THE FIGHTING., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLV, Issue 14773, 28 November 1918
LAST DAYS OF THE FIGHTING. Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLV, Issue 14773, 28 November 1918
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