The Battle of Havrincourt-Epehy (12th-18th September 1918)

Breaking the Hindenberg Line.

The positions on which the enemy had been driven back at the close of the Battle of Bapaume (21st August-1st September), he appears to have intended to hold firmly for the time. Under cover of strong resistance from his rearguards he proposed to make a gradual and deliberate withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, saving equally guns men and material. But the development of the Battle of the Scarpe (26th August-3rd September), precipitated his movements. By our success on the Scarpe, the northern hinge of the Hindenburg Line itself was broken, and his organised positions west of it were turned for many miles southward. His plans had to be summarily revised and his armies to be withdrawn hastily on the famous fortress and its outlying bulwarks.

We are to trace 3 distinct phases of activity in which the New Zealand Division was engaged. Firstly it was to attack the enemy in semi-prepared positions where, till the disaster on the Scarpe caused him to reconsider his policy, he had intended to make a tentative stand. Then, as he retreated on the Hindenburg Line outposts, it was to carry out a rapid pursuit under conditions closely approximating to open warfare. Lastly, in a distinct reversion to the trench warfare type of operation, it was to assault these outposts with a view to obtaining a position for attack on the main Hindenburg Line beyond.


 

The Division started from Bancourt, moved past Delsaux Farm and Hermies down the southern corridor past Havrincourt Wood to confront the Trescault Ridge and Canal du Nord - the forward defense line for the Hindenburg Line itself. They then turned north at Dead Man's Corner to Charing Cross (by the 12th of September), Beaucamp Ridge and the Gouzeaucourt-Trescault road in front - the battalion's ultimate objective.  It was found to be impossible, but an advanced post was established 100 yards west of Charing Cross. 

Two New Zealanders were recognised with military medals for their efforts during this time. Sergt. Harry John Laurent earned the Victoria Cross when his fighting patrol captured 111 rank and file, and an officer with 2 messenger dogs in African Support. Sergt. E. V. Manson, M.M., of the Divisional Signal Company went out early to get the lines through and worked unceasingly for 7½ hours under the gas and shell bombardment. By that time he had restored the communications. On one occasion during the period he was gassed and fell unconscious. Half an hour later he was brought-to by the explosion of a shell alongside him and continued his work. 

Trench map