The Battle of Cambrai and the Hindenburg Line (27th September - 5th October 1918)

On the night of the 28th September, the New Zealand Division would pass through the 42nd Division with the 2nd Brigade on the right and the 1st on the left. In view of the 42nd Division's progress, alternative plans were laid dependent on whether the line to be taken over was still short of Bonavis or not. Possession of Welsh Ridge seemed already assured.
 
In the former case, the Division would advance at 3.30 a.m. to carry La Vacquerie village, complete the capture of Bonavis Ridge, and seize the crossings of the Scheldt Canal between the villages of Vaucelles and Crévecoeur. Should, however, the Bonavis Ridge have been already captured by the 42nd Division, our objectives were to be extended eastwards. Patrols would be rushed forward at once to ascertain the situation on the Canal. Advanced guards would follow at dawn, secure the crossings and establish posts on the high ground beyond in order to deny observation of the river bed to the enemy. The advance would then be pushed up to 3 miles east of the Canal. Five brigades of artillery were available to support operations. A battery was placed at the disposal of each infantry brigade for exploitation purposes. The remainder of the artillery was to be prepared to move forward to positions to cover the Canal crossings, should resistance be met.
 


 

Crèvecoeur was captured on the 2nd of October.  By noon (1st October) our lines ran solidly all round the eastern outskirts, with posts in the northern extremity of the Beaurevoir-Masnières line. Forward posts were established by 2nd Wellington well towards Lesdain and up the Seranvillers valley.  
 
Continuing their advance, the leading Canterbury company cleared the high ground about Cheneaux Wood.  In view of the strength of the Beaurevoir-Masnières wire the enemy's position could not be rushed. But the advance already achieved facilitated immediately the Engineers' task of constructing bridges over the Scheldt Canal and river for guns and transport. Forward sections of artillery also could now be thrown over the Canal, and the fact that the New Zealanders and the 37th Division on their right had now room for deployment on the eastern bank would be of enormous assistance in the next movement.
 
The Battle of Cambrai and the Hindenburg Line closed on 5th October. Bitter resistance was being still encountered in the envelopment of Cambrai, but the strategic aims of the battle had been achieved, and the whole Hindenburg defence system was in our hands. From the various strong counterattacks launched against us during the first 3 days of the battle along the Army front and from the fact that generally the bridges on the Scheldt Canal were only hurriedly destroyed, it seemed probable that the enemy had not only intended to hold up the British attack but had been confident of his power to do so. As late as 24th September Admiral Hintze had assured the Reichstag that the wall of bronze in the west would never be broken. It was now irretrievably shattered.  
 
With the passage of the Canal du Nord and the capture of the Hindenburg Line the first phase of the British offensive, the struggle in entrenched positions, was closed, and the menace to the enemy's railways and lines of communication became immediate. Except for the Beaurevoir-Masnières line and some other still less complete defences, no artificial obstacle barred the way to Maubeuge. Nor could the Germans find comfort in the north. The Flanders battle commenced on 28th September. Ploegsteet Wood, Messines, and Polygon Wood were once more in our hands, and a large tract of country beyond the limits of the advance achieved in 1917. Threatened equally by this movement and by the progress on Cambrai, the Germans were already withdrawing south of the Lys, and by 4th October British troops were again in the old New Zealand area about Erquinghem Armentières and Houplines.