A series of very large scale offensive operations that advance to and break the Hindenburg Line system. Carried out by the First, Third and Fourth Armies these victories rank among the greatest-ever British military achievements. The German Army fights on but it is increasingly clear that their ability to do so is declining fast. Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and the United States Divisions all play key parts.
The Honour was awarded to the 8th Hussars.
St Quentin Canal
The Battle of St. Quentin Canal was a pivotal battle of World War I that began on 29 September 1918 and involved British, Australian and American forces operating as part of the British Fourth Army under the overall command of General Sir Henry Rawlinson.
The Honour was awarded to the 8th Hussars.
Along with the 46th British Division, the 2nd Australian Division was ordered to breakthrough the Beaurevoir Line on 3 October 1918. The Australians were to seize the village of Beaurevoir and the British Montbrehain.
The Honour is borne on the Guidon of the 8th Hussars.
The Battles of the Hindenburg line began on the 12th of September and lasted to the 9th of October, and they include the Battle of Havrincourt, the 12th of September, the Battle of Epehy, the 18th of September, the Battle of the Canal du Nord, from the 27th of September to the 1st of October, the Battle of St. Quentin Canal, from the 29th of September to the 2nd of October, the Battle of Beaurevoir line, from the 3rd to the 5th of October, and the Battle of Cambrai, 1918, from the 8th to the 9th of October.
In the Battles of St. Quentin Canal, of the Beaurevoir Line, and of Cambrai the 8th Hussars took their part.
On the 16th of September, the Brigade moved from the Grand Rullecourt area. The Eighth paraded a 6.30 a.m. on the 17th and moved to a position of readiness north of Ligny. The 9th Brigade was leading with two squadrons of the 8th Hussars on the left and two of the 15th on the right. The Brigade marched forward to the crossings over the Cauche at 8 am on the 17th.
The regiment marched via Vacquerie and Boffles onto Wavars. It was a longish day for both men and horses. The going was heavy and the pace pretty fast. The regiment finally gathered near Maizicourt and returned to Willencourt for the night, arriving there at 5.30 pm. A severe thunderstorm broke in the night, making the ground extremely heavy. The regiment on the 18th left Willencourt for Outrebois to find it very crowded, as a water Tank Company was already there.
The Brigade moved from the Autheoy area, and the regiment set out for Couin on the 24th. The next day both moved, the regiment proceeding to bivouac near Meaulte. The Brigade proceeded from the Meaulte area on the 26th, bivouacking at 2.45 am on the 27th at Dessus de l’Eau.
The task of our armies on the St. Quentin-Cambrai front was a troublesome one. For we had to attack an opponent more numerous than ourselves, and he had behind him the Hindenburg line. The Nord Canal, though dry in places, constituted a most formidable outwork of Cambrai. As the German line shortened it stiffened in most places, and it certainly stiffened along the canal. The Nord Canal was, at last, carried on the 27th of September, and the 1st, 3rd and 4th Armies fought onwards on the whole long front from Douai to St. Quentin. We had to swim the St. Quentin Canal, but we swam it on the 29th.
A captured order of Ludendorff at this juncture reminded his troops that:
“there can be no question of going back a single step farther. We must show the British, French and Americans that any further attacks on the Siegfried line will be utterly broken and that that line is an impregnable rampart, with the result that the Entente Powers will condescend to consider the terms of peace which it is absolutely necessary for us to have before we can end the war.”
The Battle of the St. Quentin Canal was to prove, as the Battles of the Beaurevoir Line and of Cambrai in their turn were to prove, that there was the question not merely of going back a single step but of going back row after row of steps.
The regiment arrived at Hervilly on the 29th of September, and the next day orders were received to stand to at half-an-hour’s notice. At noon this notice was extended to three hours. At 7 am on the 1st of October the regiment stood to at an hour-and-a half’s notice, and at the same hour, the Brigade was notified that it would move the next morning at 8 am. This was altered to 9 am during the night. The Brigade moved at 9 am on the 2nd, the 19th Hussars leading.
Its route was via Hesbecourt and Villaret to just south of Bellicourt, arriving there at 11.30 pm. The regiment was detailed to remain behind for road repair work, but this order was subsequently cancelled. The regiment reached Hervilly at 2.15 pm, being at four hours’ notice to move. Orders were received at 11 pm on the 2nd that it was to hold itself in readiness to proceed at half-an-hour’s notice the next day.
From the Meuse to the sea the battle had now been raging, and in the early days of October was fast approaching its climax.
The German army was threatened with a colossal Sedan. St. Quentin and much of the main Siegfried line had fallen, and the Allies were forcing their way through the fortified zone to the last defences of Beaurevoir by the 3rd of October.
The day before there had been a general retirement of the Germans between Lens and Armentieres. The 2nd Australians broke through the northern part of the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme line, the last works of the Siegfried zone, and on the 5th the villages of Montbrehain and Beaurevoir were taken. The open country was at last insight.
At 11 am the 8th Hussars received orders that the Brigade was moving at once. We marched via Hesbecourt and Villaret to Riqueval, and the 19th Hussars were sent on to find out the actual situation of affairs. ‘B’ and ‘C’ Squadrons were actually watering in the canal when an order came for the Brigade, less the 19th Hussars, to return to Hervilly.
The regiment moved off at 7 pm and arrived at Hervilly at 9.30 pm The next day it was notified to be ready to proceed at three hours’ notice. A working party of a hundred under Lieutenant Rowley set out to repair the Villaret-Riqueval road. On the 6th at 10 am orders were received that the Brigade would probably move forward in the afternoon. An advance party started at 1.15 am. It was, however, recalled, and the Brigade did not move. It moved the following day to the area south of Villaret. The regiment paraded at 15.30 and arrived to bivouac at 17.30.
By the 7th of October Haig had crossed the Canal du Nord and the Scheldt Canal. He had broken through all the main Siegfried line and was pressing upon the last defences thereof. In fact, to employ his own words, “nothing but the natural obstacles of a wooded and well-watered country lay between our armies and Maubeuge.” Nor was the prospect any brighter for Ludendorff on any other part of his front. He had been gambling, and the last throw of the gambler was fast approaching.
Early on the 8th of October Byng and Rawlinson began the Battle of Cambrai. Attacking on a seventeen-mile front, from south of Cambrai to Sequehart, their efforts saw the whole Siegfried zone disappear completely.
Every road converging upon Le Cateau was blocked with men and transport, and our cavalry was galloping eastward in order to confuse the retreat. The 8th opened as a fine morning though there were showers in the afternoon. The regiment paraded at 04.40 and set out by Riqueval to the valley south of Soncourt. Orders were received about 08.15 to move to the valley south of Wiencourt, and orders were then received about 11.00 to support the 19th Hussars who were south-east of Premont. The regiment was shelled on crossing the high ground south of Premont. Lieutenant. Daly patrolled towards Maretz and reported an armoured car and a machine gun on the main Le Cateau road. Fresh orders came about 15.00 to disengage the enemy and come into the Brigade reserve in the valley south of Premont. The regiment left about 17.45 to go to bivouac at Beaurevoir, arriving at 18.00. In spite of the considerable bombing during the night, there were no casualties among the men. The horses, however, were without water the whole day.
One man was killed, fourteen men and thirty-four horses were wounded. The Brigade moved at 07.45 on the 9th and concentrated in a valley south of Beaurevoir. It moved at 09.00 to the north-west of Premont, and it also moved to bivouac in the valley south of Maretz.
The next day it moved to the valley south of Reumont. There was considerable shelling of Reumont, but even more in the valley. The Brigade moved at 16.00, and marched back to the bivouac south of Maretz, arriving there at 17.30. The regiment remained standing to at half-an-hour’s notice on the 11th, which in the afternoon was extended to three-and-a-half hours. There was no cover for the men, and the day was wet.
The next day orders were issued that the Brigade was to move on the 13th, and twenty tents were provided. The Brigade proceeded on the 13th to the Trefecou area, and the regiment marched via Estrees and Belleglise to Trefecou. There were stables for three-quarters of the horses, and as the ground was really heavy this was very trying for the remaining horses.
The pursuit to Mons was in progress, and at long last, the fruits of victory were about to be reaped. The exertions of the men and horses had been severe, and there was a period of rest after the 14th.