102nd Bn Tac Sign102 Bn Gif102nd Bn Tac SignBC COAT OF ARMS 1906102nd Bn Tac Sign102 Bn Gif102nd Bn Tac Sign
The Story of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion
From BC to Baisieux by Sgt Leonard McLeod Gould HQ 102nd Canadians WW1


  

 CHAPTER XII

Quéant and Maroeuil - In Pursuit of the Hun - Booby-Traps - Herin - and Denain - We Enter Valenciennes - The Last Offensive - From B.C. to Baisieux.

AFTER one night spent in the camp at Bourlon, orders were received to move further back to a system of trenches lying in the open near the wholly ruined village of Quéant. On our arrival we were joined by Capt. J. A. Mann, M.C., who had been attached to Brigade as Liaison Officer during the last operation, and who, as Senior Officer present, took command of the Battalion until the return of Major E. J. Ryan, D.S.O., from leave a day or so later; thereafter and until the return of Captain Lister half-way through November, Major Ryan acted as Commanding Officer. Our new camp was a comfortable one; the men either slept in good dug-outs or camped out under bivouacs; in Quéant itself a cinema show had been established, and baths of a kind-very much of a kind-were available, and six days were spent in comparative ease, fulfilling the usual routine consequent on a strenuous and costly tour in the Front Line. On the night of the 7th we were relieved by the 42nd (Black Watch) Bn., and proceeded in 'buses to what were known as the "Y" Huts, in the training area close to the village town of Maroeuil. The whole Brigade was encamped in this area, which lies midway between Maroeuil and Agny-les-Duisans, and for five days the ordinary -training routine was carried on, special attention being paid to musketry. About this time the air was full of Peace or Armistice rumours, and we were fully convinced that we had seen the end of all fighting, at any rate for the year. Dame Rumour's reputation, however, suffered a blow on Oct. 14th, when we fell in at 10.30 a.m, and marched to Agny-les-Duisans, where we took train for Marcoing, whence we were to proceed in pursuit of the fast retreating Hun and to take our share in the last offensive of the war.

Owing to the derailment of a train ahead of us we were delayed seven hours on this journey and did not reach Marcoing until an hour before midnight, after which we had to march about three miles to billets in Saudemont. Orders received on arrival necessitated an early start next morning, and at 5:30 a.m. we left for Palluel, where we were to relieve the 7th Middlesex En. in Brigade Support. At Saudemont we left sundry baggage; in fact all through the ensuing advance we kept dropping off various stores and other impediments with a small guard, and later on, when Armistice had been signed, we had the greatest difficulty in securing transport for picking up all our possessions and regaining our men, Ever since open warfare had started the lot of the Transport Lines personnel had been an unhappy one. It is one thing to belong to the Transport Lines when the unit is more or less settled in a permanent area, and quite another when the whole unit moves, bag and baggage too, day after day and night after night, and when stores and boxes have to be loaded on the waggons again almost as soon as they have been unloaded. The greatest credit is due to all ranks of the Quartermaster's Department and the Transport Section for the way in which they managed to keep up with the Unit in spite of hurried moves, and how Sgt. H. N. Monk, who was in charge of the Battalion Orderly Room, with all its records, correspondence files and official documents, managed to keep up with the Battalion and keep up with his work at the same time will for ever be a mystery. It is a matter of common knowledge that the other Units fell behind with their Orderly Room routine, but "Harry" Monk was always there on time, and not only kept up to date with "Returns," but was even able to keep the Brigade fully informed as to the exact number of socks each man in the Battalion had in his possession, to say nothing of those at the wash, at any given moment. Brigade wag perpetually asking for these absurd details during times of stress.

Palluel was rather a delightful little village on the banks of the Canal du Nord and introduced us to a new experience in the way of billets. From now on the towns and villages we visited, whether deserted or not, had houses which were well furnished and possessed good gardens well stocked with vegetables. The interiors of the houses were usually ransacked and the furniture spoiled, but enough was left to provide comfortable accommodation for the troops, and the vegetables were an indescribable boon. At Palluel, for the first and last time, the Forward Battalion Orderly Room was located in an upstairs room, and remarkably unsafe it felt at times as the Hun was subjecting these villages in his rear to an intermittent bombardment. At Palluel were Headquarters, with "A" and "D" Coys. under Lieut. C. E. Henderson and Lieut. H. J. French, M.C. "B" and "C" Coys, under Capt. J. G. Knight, M.C., and Lieut. G. T. Lyall, V.C., were quartered in Hamel, a mile or so away. During the three days that we spent in this area gas shelling was very frequent, and the troops were required to wear their gas masks practically every night. In the Front Line at this time were the 54th' and 87th Bns,, who were being held up by the Canal de la Sensée, which offered a formidable barrier to their advance, being strongly defended by the enemy. On the 17th information was received that the latter was retiring from his positions, and the two Front Line units were accordingly ordered to cross the Canal and push forward the advance, the 102nd Bn. Following up behind the 87th, and being prepared to leap-frog on the easterly outskirts of the village of Villers-au-Tertre. Accordingly, on the evening of the 17th we moved up to Arleux, on the banks of the Canal de la Sensée, which the 87th vacated on their advance, and on the morning of the 18th the whole Battalion crossed the Canal by means of an improvised swinging bridge and proceeded through Bugnicourt to Villers-au-Tertre, where "A" and "D" Coys passed through the 87th, and "B" and "C" remained in support. At this point the Battalion was joined by a troop of cavalry and a platoon of cyclists, who reported to the O.C., together with a battery of field guns. Considerable opposition was offered our two forward companies in the neighborhood of Fosse St. Roche and Fosse St. Erchin, and the enemy was greatly aided by the presence of a fog which hampered troops endeavouring to surround and cut off machine-gun nests. By noon, however, these two points were in our possession, and "A" and "D" had pushed forward in face of heavy shelling and machine-gun fire coming from the direction of Auberchicourt to the outskirts of that town. That afternoon "B" and "C" Coys. were sent forward to Fosse St. Roche with orders to pass through the line companies in the morning if the situation warranted.

At 3.30 on the morning of the 19th the situation was much quieter, and a dog was discovered in a house which the enemy was known to have occupied the night before. The animal had evidently been left to give notice of our advance. The two rear companies were accordingly sent forward through the other two, and Headquarters were moved up to Fosse St. Roche, where they remained a few hours, advancing in the afternoon to Auberchicourt, which had been taken by our two leading companies with very little opposition. The retiring Hun had made every effort to destroy the road behind him, but with conspicuously ill success; at the intersection of roads he had blown up mines, but though the corners were impassable a broad trail always led through the middle and afforded safe passage to vehicles. He had now the time necessary to destroy the town, but he had shown his petty spite by wilfully doing all the damage he could to the contents of the houses, and he had left some of the damnable "booby-traps" which were daily adding further disgrace to his foul and dirty reputation. An artilleryman in Auberchicourt was blown to pieces by a bomb hidden in a piano which exploded when the first chord was struck. In this connection there hangs a tale.

Our own Headquarters were located in a large china and glass warehouse, large enough to accommodate the whole of the staff. During the process of settling down an orderly, whom we will designate "X," came up to the Advanced Orderly Room Sergeant and pointed Out what looked like a stick-bomb lying behind a passage-door. The sergeant, being discreet and disinclined to meddle with other people's business, promptly brought the Intelligence Officer to the spot and "passed the buck." The Intelligence Officer summoned his batman, and between them they ascertained that the machine was not infernal. But the incident set everyone "on edge," and when taken in connection with the tragedy mentioned above it created an atmosphere of suspicion. Consequently, when "X" again approached his sergeant and told him that he had this time found a real infernal machine the latter hastened to make investigations. Sure enough, in the dim recesses of the back office could be heard the deadly "tick-tick" of clock-work, and the sergeant suddenly espied a clock lying on a chair. Once more-his stern sense of duty impelled him to inform the Intelligence Officer, and this time not only that important person, but the O.C. himself and the Adjutant and the Scout Officer all came round to investigate the trouble. One look was enough for the O.C. "That's a job for the Engineers," said he; "somebody go for the man who is attached to the unit for this kind of work, No; wait a minute; I'll go myself." And the O.C. hurried off. But a morbid curiosity impelled the other three officers to remain; and the sergeant, very much against his will, had to remain, as he was backed into a corner and couldn't get out without making his departure rather conspicuous; besides, he had no excuse; the O.C. had already gone for the Engineers. "X" also waited. Those three wretched officers "monkeyed" round with the clock for five minutes, first examining it from every angle; then pointing their fingers at it, next touching it gingerly and then more confidently and finally lifting it up, only to find that it was merely a clock-face with no subtle attachments. They went away puzzled, and the sergeant remarked to "X," "Well, its funny; but somebody must have put it there with a purpose." "Yes," said "X," "I did!" And the two of them reached the Orderly Room in time to hear the O.C. loudly declaiming that there was not a shadow of doubt but that the Hun had intended to leave a time-bomb there, and that our too rapid advance had thwarted his dastardly purpose! The old bull was still eating hay with the Battalion all right.

Meantime "B" and "C" Coys, had over-run their objective, Abscon, and had taken that allotted to the 54th at the railway embankment beyond that town. They were accordingly pulled back and billeted for the night in Abscon. In this place were 3,300 civilians, the first to be liberated from the Hun by any unit in the Division, and the welcome they gave our troops was marked by every evidence of enthusiastic delight. On the morning of the 20th we fell in at 7:30 and marched on through Escaudain; east of this town we expected to leap-frog the 87th, who had passed through us at Abscon, but the forward battalions were held up by an unexpected resistance, and we consequently billeted in Escaudain for two nights. On this occasion our Transport Lines moved up ahead of the main body of the Battalion and billeted, about 200 yards in advance. When the time came for us to move, on the 22nd, resistance had died away, and we proceeded without opposition to the village of Herin, where we remained for six days. The billets here were excellent; Herin had been the Headquarters for a German general, and his billets in the Brewery were just exactly what a German general would be expected, to occupy. The gardens were all well stocked with vegetables, which we devoured in large quantities. During our stay we were subjected to a good deal of shell fire, one shell penetrating the corner of the Headquarters' Sergeants' billet, causing the unfortunate "Sam" Sorensen to throw down "four kings," which he was holding against a big "full"; all bets were cancelled in the mad rush for the cellar, and it took hours to divide up to everybody's satisfaction the money found afterwards on the floor. The Signallers also had a narrow escape during this tour; having a shell pass right through their billet and explode on the far side. Brigade Headquarters fared worst of all; they were located at Aubry, where they were badly gassed and shelled and lost all their documents when Headquarters were practically blown sky-high. On the 27th a great religious ceremony was held in Denain, a neighbouring town, to celebrate the liberation of the town from the Hun by the Canadian Corps; this was attended by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, the Corps, Divisional and Brigade Commanders with their staffs, and by the senior officers of all the Battalions in the vicinity.

It was to this town of Denain that we moved on the night of October 28th, the Brigade being relieved in the Front Line by the 9th Canadian Brigade. Our entry was in the nature of a triumphal procession; it was very dark, but on every doorstep stood men, women and children holding up lighted candles and cheering themselves hoarse. We were billeted in a large block of buildings which had evidently been used as some sort of collegiate institution prior to the war, but which the Hun had used as a prison camp. Denain was the largest town, outside the Coast towns, which we had yet visited, but there is little of interest or beauty in it. The civilians were still trying to realize their freedom and showed their gratitude by entertaining any soldiers who gave them the opportunity. All had the same tale to tell, but it appeared that the individual German soldier, when billeted in a house and left alone by his superior officers, was a harmless guest; there was abundant proof that the hardships endured by the civilians were those provoked by organized authority and, save in a few isolated instances, were not caused by the license or violence of the individual soldier.

On the afternoon of Oct. 31st we left Denain and moved to Thiant, where we were to support the attack which the 10th Brigade was to launch on the morning of the 1st in the effort to penetrate to Valenciennes. This attack was preceded by the most intense barrage which we had yet heard in France, and by 9:30 a.m. prisoners began streaming in including in their number the Regimental Commander of Valenciennes. An hour later we in our turn moved forward to Maing, where we waited until 4.00 p.m., when we set out to relieve Imperial units northeast of Aulnoy, on the east side of the Rhonnell River. Owing to the congestion of traffic on the roads our progress was slow and difficult, and when we reached Aulnoy we found three battalions of the 164th Brigade more or less mixed up. Just as details for the relief were completed orders came in cancelling same, and the Battalion was billeted in Aulnoy until the following morning, when we were to continue the attack in conjunction with the 54th. Shells fell intermittently throughout the night, the bombardment increasing in violence after dawn, and it was during the course of this shelling that we lost Capt. H. Dunlop, M.C. (C.A.M.C.), our Medical Officer, who had just completed a year's service with the unit. He was aroused from sleep to attend to a sick civilian, and just as he was going out of the doorway of Headquarters he was struck by the fragments of a bursting shell, from the effects of which he died before reaching Field Ambulance and without recovering consciousness. He was immensely popular, as well with the rank and file as with the members of the Officers' Mess, and his death was a sad blow to the Battalion. Aulnoy had been found crowded with civilians who for 43 hours had been living in cellars and dug-outs; there was a tremendous amount of gas about from gas-shells, and it was with a distinct feeling of relief that we left at 11.00 a.m. to take part in the fight for Valenciennes. The general plan was for "B" and "D" Coys., with the other Companies in Support, to push through the 54th at Marly and attack in an easterly direction, with the left flank resting on the Valenciennes-Mons Road and the right flank in touch with the 54th. Headquarters were established opposite those of the 54th in Marly. By 1.30 p.m. the forward companies were well in position and were pushing forward covering the left half of the Brigade, as detailed; considerable enemy machine-gun fire was encountered, but by dusk a line had been established about 400 yards west of a sunken road which ran north and south across the Brigade frontage and was strongly held by the enemy. The night of the 2nd-3rd was spent in readiness to resist an expected counter-attack which did not, however, materialize, and it was found possible to establish an Advanced Headquarters in Valenciennes itself by midnight. The following morning we were relieved by the 12th Brigade on the left and by the 54th Bn, on the right, and went into billets at Valenciennes, which had already been cleared of Huns by the 10th Brigade.

Valenciennes was in a very good state of preservation. The contents of the houses, of course, had been badly treated, but there was little material damage done to the buildings. There were few civilians to be seen on our first appearance, but it did not take long for them to flock back in large numbers. In good weather and at the proper season Valenciennes is doubtless a very beautiful city, but we saw it under poor weather conditions; November is not a good sight-seeing-month, and there was too much of the aftermath of the war visible on every hand to allow of a favourable impression being made. There is a very fine block of municipal buildings occupying one side of the principal square, and these buildings still bore the "Kommandatur' sign and other evidences of German occupation. There is a fine theatre in Valenciennes, where later we were to see a Canadian Company giving nightly performances to the elite of the Lace City.

We were, only in the city two nights, but before we had time to move out the Mayor, whose house we were using as a Headquarters, returned, and we were served with a notice that we should have to vacate the premises, as His Worship wished to resume residence. Seeing that he had been left homeless for a very long time by the Hun it would have been more graceful on his part to have refrained from serving an eviction notice so quickly on his country's Allies, but it didn't do him much good or us much harm; we stayed the odd night anyway and received orders to advance on the morning of the 5th. At 12:30 p.m. on that day we reached Rombies, which had been the Headquarters of the 87th, who with the 75th, were supposed to be cleaning up the high ground between the Aunnelle and Honnelle Rivers; it was our task to pass through the 87th after they had, attained their objectives, and to clean up the country west of the Grande Honnelle River and, if possible, to capture the village of Baisieux east of that stream. Though we did not know it for certain, we were on the eve of our last offensive, and to the 102nd Bn. was to belong the honour of capturing the last position taken by the 4th Division. By midnight the 87th had failed to take their final objective, a road from which we were to jump-off in our turn; in consequence we had to start 700 yards this side of the road and had that much more ground to cover to begin the day's work with, To "C" Coy., on the right, under Lieut. M. K. Devine, was allotted the task of crossing the Grande Honnelle River, if possible and establishing themselves in Baisieux; "A" Coy., under Lieut. W. H. C. Stanley, was to capture and mop up Marchipont and a wood lying to the left of that place, and then, if the Company on their left was held up, to push northwards through Petite Baisieux and assist the 12th Brigade by outflanking a village called Quiévrechain. "D" Coy., on the left, was to capture and "mop up" Maison Rouge and to push on, "mopping up" all the ground west of the Aunnelle River, keeping in touch with the 12th Brigade on the left and assisting, if necessary, in "mopping up" Quiévrechain. "B" Coy., which had suffered most heavily in the preceding offensive, was to remain in Support.

Zero Hour was 5.30 a.m. on the 6th November, and after a good barrage our troops moved forward, capturing the sunken road with-out difficulty. From this time onward they encountered stiff opposition. "A" Coy. captured Marchipont before 7.00 a.m., but found that the enemy was holding a wood on the right in strength; this had to be surrounded, and eventually the position was taken, yielding 30 prisoners, at least that many more having been killed. "D" Coy., on the left, was held up with the 12th Brigade by the enemy holding out fiercely in the outskirts of Quiévrechain, so the centre company, "A," pushed on as ordered and surrounded the town from the north, with the result that the place was surrendered, with 20 prisoners, four machine guns and four trench mortars, Meantime "C" Coy., on the right, was suffering from the failure of Imperials on their right to keep up; the flank was exposed to a withering machine gun fire, but by using one platoon as a defensive flank the company pushed on over the crest of the hill and gained the eastern bank of the Grande Honnelle. When this news was received Lieut. R. L. Gale, M.C., the Battalion Intelligence Officer, went forward to reconnoitre for possible means of crossing the river. He found that all the bridges were down and that wading was the only means by which the passage could be made. He therefore organized a party, consisting of himself, C.S.M. Dunn, D.C.M., of "C" Coy., two Scouts and a Lewis Gunner, waded across the river and established a post on the other side. The river was about fifteen feet wide and well over the knees. Pushing their way forward in face of heavy machine-gun fire, they obtained a footing in the near side of the first house. A message was then sent back to the balance of "C" Coy., who effected a crossing under cover of the fire of the solitary Lewis gun which was already on the eastern side. "B" Coy. was then ordered up from Supports to protect the right flank, the Imperials still being 3,000 yards behind, and this manoeuvre resulted in the complete capture of Baisieux and the total confusion of the enemy, who seemed to be wholly unprepared for such a rapid denouement. They could be observed running from the eastern outskirts of the town, and afforded easy targets far our Lewis gunners and riflemen, who were not slow to take advantage of same, causing-heavy casualties. As an example of the complete surprise obtained it may be stated that a team and wagon suddenly appeared outside the sugar factory and commenced loading, apparently quite unaware of our presence in the vicinity; the wagon and sugar remained in our possession; the driver was shot and the horses bolted. After throwing out a screen of outposts "C" Coy. was ordered to stand firm and consolidate, our two flanks being already too much exposed to make a further advance advisable. Moreover, we had reached the "ultima Thule" of our objective. "B" Coy, was accordingly ordered to connect up with the Imperials on the right, who were still 2,500 yards in the rear, thereby affording the necessary protection for our right flank. We were relieved the same night by the 25th Bn, which arrived after nightfall; the darkness was so profound that relief was to some extent hampered, and it was not until early next morning that the last of the companies reached their billets back in Valenciennes. We had completed our last tour in the line, and to the Battalion in the Fourth Division, which had originally been raised in the most western districts of Canada, had fallen the honour of capturing the stronghold of the enemy lying furthest to the east of all that had been occupied by the Division. We had come from further west and gone further east than any other unit in the "Fighting Fourth."

During the past three weeks we had taken 80 prisoners, two field guns, four trench mortars and 26 machine guns. Our casualties had been comparatively light and were largely caused by gas shells, numbering in all: Killed or Died of Wounds-Capt. H. Dunlop, M.C., and six Other Ranks; Wounded-Lieuts. C. E. Henderson, R. L. Gale, M.C., G. V. Atkin, M.C., J. R. Wilson, M.C., J. Palmer, S. P. Martin., W. H. C. Stanley, and 50 Other Ranks.

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Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 

Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Images The Author The VC Uncle Bob 29th Battalion Links

BATTLE HONOURS

"SOMME, 1916", "Ancre Heights", "Ancre, 1916", "ARRAS, 1917, 18", "VIMY, 1917", "Hill 70", ", 1917", "PASSCHENDAELE", "AMIENS", "Scarpe, 1918", "Drocourt-Queant", "HINDENBURG LINE", "CANAL du NORD", "VALENCIENNES", "France and Flanders, 1916-18".

Be sure and visit the 102nd Battalion`s Sister Unit - the 54th Kootenay Battalion

Visit the 21st Battalion from Eastern Ontario

In Memory of LEONARD MUNROE, Lance Corporal, 634116, 21st Bn., Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regt.), who died on, Saturday, 3rd November 1917. Age 22. Son of Peter Munroe and his wife Ellen McDermid, of Maxville, Ontario, resting at PASSCHENDAELE NEW BRITISH CEMETERY, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, Grave Reference, IX. E. 11., all Canada in Khaki  pictures courtesy of Leonard Munroe' s descendant Maj Don MacLean, Canadian Armed Forces.