The Great War Part 197, May 25th 1918

THE CAMBRAI BATTLE OF SURPRISES. II.— From the Capture of Bourlon Ridge to the Retirement to Flesquieres. By Edward Wright. Enemy Brings up Reinforcements from Flanders Russia and Italy —Disposition of the Numerically Smaller British Forces— British attack Resumed November 23rd— The U lsterm en a t Mceuvres and Highland Territorials a t Fontaine-N otre-D am e— 40th Division Carry Bourlon Wood— Skill and Audacity of British Airmen— Fierce Struggle for Bourlon Wood— H aig Handicapped b y Lack of Reserves— Repeated Hostile Counter-Attacks Stemmed— E ast Surreys Escape from the Trap in Bourlon Village— Great Effort by the Guards and West Riding Territorials— Germans Effect a Surprise on the British Right Flank and Capture Gonnelieu, Gouzeaucourt Land a Vacquerie— Guards Railwaymen Tank Crews and Others Come to the Rescue— Ordeal of the 29th Division a t G ouzeaucourt—Serious Situation a t Masniferes and Les Rues Vertes— Gallantry of the Guernsey Battalion— 29th Division Evacuate Masnieres—Main Enemy Attack on the Bourlon-Moeuvres Sector—N otable Deeds of Heroism Performed by Men of the 1 7th Fusiliers 13th Essex and 1 7th Middlesex under Captain M cReady D iarm id—Tanks Co-operate with the Infantry a t Gonnelieu Gauche Wood and Villers Guislain—B ritish Line Withdrawn to the Flesquiires Ridge—M aterial Results of the Three Weeks Fighting— Sir Douglas H aigs Summary of the Operations. CHAPTER CCXXXVIII CANTAING VILLAGERS I AFTER LIBERATION. HEN in the evening of November 21st 1917, Sir Julian Byng received the order to renew the action around Bourlon Wood he and his Staff were unable immediately to give battle again. The troops were severely strained by constant marching and fighting. It was impossible to send them at once into action against the large fresh forces which the enemy commander was upbring­ing by three railways and the knot of roads at Cambrai. Thirty-six hours had to be sacrificed in resting the men and relieving or strengthening those that were most worn. In this period the enemy, who had already brought two fresh divisions and five resting battalions into line, with the survivors of his original forces railed troops up from the Aisne and from Flanders besides bringing forces direct from Russia, and turned his main reserve away from Italy towards Cambrai. Avery able cavalry com­mander General von Marwitz, was placed in control of the Cambrai front while the new tactician General von Hutier, who had been practising leap-frog division charges with special infantry gunfire at Riga was of the St. nven command )uentin sector. Ludendorff prepared for the pitched battle in avery BRITISH RECAPTURE NOYF.LLES. Inhabitants of Noyelles who had been rescued by the British under machine-gun fire getting into an ambulance for removal to safety. Noyelles was taken by the British on the second day of the Cambrai Battle November 21st 1917. large way even bringing General von Below back from the campaign in Italy in order to get all the best minds in the German Army behind the heavy return blow he was organising near the centre of the western front. It was the first time that the new German High Command had prepared an offensive movement in the west. It was in the west that first Moltke and then Falkenhayn had broken down and lost their reputation and their high position. For the Ludendorff and Hindenburg combina­tion the western oftest battle was an anxious affair and the prestige of the defen­sive capacity of the British soldier shadowed the calcu­lations of the German leaders in spite of themselves. Fine British military traditions extending through centuries had been renewed and given clearer lustre by the creation of a national army on the Continental scale. The German WarLords appeared by no means confi­dent of victory and in an indirect way they tried to open a path for negotiations for peace through Austrian diplomatists while energetic­ally gathering every avail­able man for the ultimate ordeal of the grand western campaign. General von Marwitz gave little attention to the direct but feinting thrusts towards Cambrai. He left the 29th II 241
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