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THE LAST BATTLE., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLVI, Issue 14808, 11 January 1919
THE LAST BATTLE.
THE CAPTURE OF LE QUESNOY. MUG. -GENERAL- HART IN COIMMAND. When Ibo news came through that the New ZeaJanders had won the Battle oi* Le Quesnoy, and that it has been one ul' the most remarkable fights of the war, Wairavapa womdered whether the general commanding m the successful operation Avas tlie Carterton soldier, Liygadier-Ueneral Hart. C.M.G., D.S.O. (states the Wairarapa Daily JS T ews). The cable message as usual suppressed all names, but it is now known that it was General Hart who commanded, and that many brave Wairarapa J ads took part m the fight. It will be remembered that Le Quesnoy was taken m a way reminding one of the old-time battles. The ecuntry outside the town was cleared of the enemy, and then the fortifications were assaulted and carried by means of scaling ladders, etc. Mrs Hart, of Rhodes street, Carterton, has now received letters from her husband, General Hart, from which we are permitted to take some extracts. LETTERS FROM GENERAL HART. Writing on Sunday, November 3, 1918, General Hart says: "Before the dawn, before I hand this m to. the censor, we will have been launched into another huge battle, one of the biggest, and it may be the most decisive of the autumn series of important engagements. The enemy is crumpling up like a house of cards, and the end is absolutely assured ; but there is not the slightest slackening of effort, or indication of jubilation. "Everyone proceeds steadily and calmly with, his allotted task. AJI day I have been very busy — conferences, seeing engineer, artillery, machine gun, trench mortar and cavalry officers ; • arranging for supplies of ammunition and food, evacuation of the wounded, and hundreds of details, including the construction and delivery of scaling ladders, to mount the ramparts of an ancient town, and cork mats on which to cross the moat. This is just a short note to let you know that all is well." ".. . . Writing to Mrs Hart on November 6, two days later, the general says : — "Since I wrote last I have taken part m what I hope was the decisive battle of the war. My brigade, had a very important task — the capture oi Le Quesnoy, an ancient strongly-fortified town m an important strategical position. The battle commenced half an hour before dawn on Monday last, November 4th. I was using eyery battalion under my cctmmand, and each "battalion used every company and every man. It was a supreme effort by all. We were nearly 1000 men below strength, but even so, held the whole divisional front and had taken over a little* extra from the divisions on each flank to give ample room for an enveloping movement. The attack continued" all day, and it was /after four m the afternoon before we secured the surrender of the garrisons, after capturing the commanding positions and the ramparts.- The enemy was holding strong positions well m advance- of the town,* especially along the railway line, which crossed our whole frontage. We -had first of all to storm and capture these before Aye reached the town. This first effort yielded several- hundred prisoners. The units then proceeded steadily and thoroughly to invest the town, manoeuvring forward from * position to position behind trees, mounds* outbuildings — anything which would give concealment from which fire could be brought to bear on the garrison. The ramparts presented a vertical face of brickwork, 50£t. high, having grass-grown mounds on top, and completely surrounded by a wide deep moat, which, fortunately, was empty, except for a small running stream. The enemy had field guns, minnenwerf ers, , and dozens of machine guns mounted m, on, or around tlie ramparts, and these had to be put cut of action before the assault could he made. "The advance of our men m the morning wgs covered by the usual artillery barrage, and m addition burning oil and smoke were also projected on to the ramparts. About mid-day the effect of our fire began to be felt, and several attempts were made to steal into, the town. One man tried to crawl up a tree which had fallen against the Avail, and a* few others tried to rush the bridge, but failed. Shortly afterwards this bridgo Avas blorwn up by the enemy to prevent any similar attempt being repeated. '■'''"*'.. "Later m tlie afternoon three of the prisoners captured that morning were sent m from various points to demand the surrender ctf the place, and a message making a similar demand was dropped from an aeroplane. Before any reply was received, however, one storming party succeeded m getting a scaling ladder into position against one part of the ramparts, from which the enemy had been driven, and under cover of LeAvis gun and light trench moTtar fire, our men went up the ladder, one by one, until finally one whole battalion had effected an entrance m this manner. They quickly put several gun crews out of action, whereupon the remainder threw m the sponge, shortly followed by the surrender of the whole garrison. "About 1600 French civilians wero m the town — women, children, and old men — and they gave a wonderful demonstra-, tion of welcome to our men. They cheered and clasped all and, sundry around the neck, kissing and hugging them Avith joy at being liberated. 1 entered the town shortly afterwards, and it was indeed a very stirring scene. One felt a great joy m having taken a part m the release of these poor people from the years of sirffering they had endured at the hands of the Boche. Next morning, at the request of the Mayor, I attended, with two battalion commanders, at the Maine, an impromptu but impressive ceremony to receive, on behalf, of our men from the aged Mayor and his council, the formal than*|_s of the town far their deliverance. "Later on I walked around the ramparts and saw from the enemy's viewpoint the country over which we had attacked. The position appeared so very strong, I marvelled at what had been accomplished. Owing to the wide extension adopted m the attack, and the Red-Indian-like skill and cunning shown by the men, our casualties were remarkably small— an average of 77 per battalion, most of them, I am thankful to say, being machine gun wounds, from which there will be, m most cases, complete recovery. "There were many enemy slain, and we captured 1482 prisoners, and m addition took five guns, eight minnenwerfers, 80 machine guns, 19 hoTses, and other ,war material. "During the day there were many amusing incidents. A Maori, having become tired of being a Pioneer, attached himself to cne of the battalions for tlie fight. At one stage c-f the investment he was seen to rush into one of the archway entrances and shortly afterwards return. Upon being asked what happened he replied : 'I sec him, the hole m the Avail. I think I get . m there. I forget him my rifle. I find him tho Hun one. At first T not know
THE LAST BATTLE., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLVI, Issue 14808, 11 January 1919
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