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ASTOUNDING VICTORY., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLV, Issue 14785, 12 December 1918
FALL OF LE QUESNOY
THRILLING ACCOUNT OF NEW ZEALANDERS' EXPLOIT.
The following thrilling account by Mr. Philip Gibbs of the operations which resulted in the capture of Le Quesnoy by the New Zealanders was oabledj from London and published in Vancouver newspapers on November Bth:—
It was an astounding victory on Tuesday, south of Valenciennes, .abputvLe Quesnoy and Landrecies, and after/ hig heavy.- defeat the -enemy is - retreating in disorder* from some sectors of "'his front. The 4th British Corps, commanded by General Harper, was in the centre of this attack, with the 137th and New Zealand divisions on this side of Ghissinidies and Le Quesnoy. The last-named place is a medieval town, defended by high ramparts and inner and outer bastions, strengthened by Vauban, the famous engineer of military works under Louis XIV., and it wat garrisoned by over 1000 Germans, with orders to defend it at all costs.
They were brave men and determined to obey this command. The New Zealanders, however, were equally determined to take Le Quesnoy, and thej set out to assault it frontally as soon as the attack had been launched with a powerful bombardment. Those New Zealand boys, among whom I have been this morning, have been fighting with hardly a break since they went away from Hebuterne, near Albert, three months ago, but their spirit remains high, and yesterday they achieved one of their most heroic feats. They stormed the outer ramparts of Le Quesnoy in old-fashioned style with scaling ladders, and made breaches in the walls as in the old days of Henry's men-at-arms, but with more peril because of machine gun fire, which swept them from the inner defences.
New tactics ; were adopted by th< New Zealand general, who ordered one body of his men to go around Le Quesnoy on the north and another to work round it on the south, leaving pickets all around the town. This was done, and the town was completely surrounded by the New Zealanders, who joined hands on the east side.
Some of their battalions then fought forward against determined resistance from the Germans in the villages oi Herginies and Jolimose, . where they broke their way into the enemy's artillery positions and captured many guns. Astonishing things happened there, but meanwhile the German garrison of Le Quesnoy was called upon to surrender. Messages were first dropped inside the town from British airplanes flying low above them.
"You are completely surrounded" was the first message dropped in this way. "Enemy troops are far to the east oi you. If you surrender you will be treated as honorable prisoners of war.'' . The German garrison of Le Quesnoy read these words, but no order to surrender was given. Later in the morning two deputations were sent to them, each one consisting of a New Zealand officer and two German officer prisoners. Going through a breach in the outer ramparts, they shouted out the summons to surrender, with the prom ise of honorable treatment. A few meTi accepted tliis offer and came out to give themselves up, but most of the thousand remained within their bastions, and still gave ao sign of capitulating. DECIDE TO STORM IT. So it wasall day until evening, when, after astonishipg successes further forward, the New Zealanders determined to close in upon Le Quesnoy and force its surrender at the point of the bayonet. Prom the outer ramparts they stormed the inner walls, which were very high and perpendicular, so that they were" not easy to scale. They forced their way in, despite all machine gun fire, and after fighting in the streets of the town they received the capiulation of the remaining members of the garrison, amounting still to nearly a thousand men. While this drama was in progress other New Zealanders were fighting in the village of Jolimetz and other villages and farmhouses on the edge of the forest of Mormal, where most of the trees had been ' felled in the outskirts, and they broke straight through the German gun positions, as 1 have already said. The gunners were harnessed up when the New Zealanders surrounded them, and it was as strange a sight as I have seen > of these German artillerymen, driving their batteries toward our lines as prisoners of war under the escort of our dismounted men. On© division, captured fifty-seven guns, and another twenty^ and all told the English and New Zealanders of our 4th Corps took nearly 100 guns by Tuesday afternoon. The English battalions of the 37th Division fought with the greatest gallantry, and had' a hard time on their left, where they were held up by fierce machine-gun fire at the chapel and the railway embankment near Ghissignies. For a long time they could not break down this resistance. Five tanks set out to help them, but only two crossed the railway embankment. Finally the Germans were routed out, and the left of the 37th moved forward into line with the right, which already had made ; forward progress and had broken down the enemy's desperate defence and captured many prisoners and guns. WORE LIFEBELTS.
With the New Zealanders they mad'e an advance of 10,000 yards up to Tuesday evening, fighting all the way for 7000 yards against stubborn enemies, and yesterday morning they have gone much further, with tne Germans retreating before them. Terrific fighting also happened on the British attack across the Sambre Canal, near the 4th Army front, on the right wing of Landresciee, where first the 32nd, 50th, and 18th divisions were engaged from i north to south.
.They had twelve German divisions against them, arid ini front of them th© canal, thirty yards broad, with wide reservoirs on either side, so that it was a wide stretch of water. In crossing the St. Quentin Canal between Bellenglise and Bellicourt, our men were provided' with life-belts and rafts, and here they also had canoes and light bridges, which were brought up. Before reaching) the line of the canal there was fierce fighting round and in the village of Catillon by the troops of the Ist Division, who carried it with splendid, courage and took many prisoners. They were helped by the gallant service of the Tank Corps. A number of tanks went into action, clearing their way through the woods and crawling round Catillon, which ♦they girdled with machine-gun and Hotchkiss fire. All through the day these tank pilots and crews did not spare themselves, but fought with their units like destroyers in a fleet action. GALLANT DIVISION.
Landresciesi itself, whose nana* is heroic in the early history of the Bv'tish retreat from Mons four years ago (it seems a thousand years), was taken by the 25th Division, that gallant <Kvi« sion of men which, in Aprd last, was fighting desperate rearguard actions up in Flanders, when Sir Douglas Haig called them to fight with their backs to the wall.
There are many new men among them now^ but the spirit of the division remains as an inspiration and a glory to those who wear its badge, and Tuesday they gained great honor because they were the first back in Lamdrescies in tho footsteps of the "old
contemptibles." On the left centre opposite Villerspol and Lafolie farm, near Orsinval, there were Guards on the left and the 62nd Division on the right. The Guards took Villerspol during the night before the attack, and Tuesday morning met fierce resistance. On their left were battalions near Wargnie© le Petit. They and the 62nd had marshy ground in front of them and isolated farmhouses were fortified as machinegun nests, ini spite of civilians living mthe cellars below and surrounded by this terror of battle. There was a severe struggle across the River Aulnelle and beyond, but tho troops >of single corps,,, took i 1000 . prisoners andj„a number of howitzers arid guns. •' * the '■ extreme left "of the - battlefront" : theSjlsV Army > did not have' much fighting .yesterday except at\Romsies, as the enemy was .'retiring in , fro,nt of the British troops south of .* V&lenciennes. Many German dfivisione \ there have been almost wiped out. '• Oiily 250 men were left out of the liOth Division, and some regiments were down to fifty and sixty men. A Baden regiment, which happened fo be up to strength, wae cap. tured completely, with twenty-five officers and 650 men.
ASTOUNDING VICTORY., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLV, Issue 14785, 12 December 1918
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