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The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade

Part 2.—the Advance to the Selle River

Part 2.—the Advance to the Selle River.

Advance continued, October 9th—The Guards, the 2nd Brigade, and the 3rd Battalion to the Cambrai Railway—3rd Battalion patrols to Fontaine-au-Pire—General success—Cambrai taken—Pressure continued, October 10th—1st and 2nd Brigades to the Selle—Immediate result of the Battle of Le Gateau—Effects farther north—Ostend and Lille taken.

On October 9th the whole advance was continued. Our 3rd Battalion, attacking in conjunction with the 2nd Brigade on the right and the Guards' Division on the left, had for its objective a section of the St. Quentin-Busigny-Cambrai Railway. The advance, starting at 5.20 a.m., proceeded with practically no oppositon, and outposts were established well beyond the objective. Patrols from the 3rd Battalion were finally checked on the outskirts of Fontaine-au-Pire, while those of the Guards were held up at Estourmel. A cavalry patrol passed through the new line at 10 a.m. with the object of exploiting the gains of the infantry, but was driven back by machine-gun fire pouring from Fontaine.

The 3rd Battalion now became attached to the 2nd Brigade, which took over responsibility for the whole front of the Division. It was relieved during the night, however, and returned to Brigade.

Elsewhere also the advance had been a complete success. The close defences of Cambrai had been partially broken by the Canadians and the 57th Division on the 8th, and on the fol-page 416lowing day the town fell and the British troops passed on to a line three miles to the east of it. We were now within two miles of the important centre of Le Cateau.

Progress continued on October 10th, the enemy's resistance stiffening as he reached the Selle River* in his retreat. It soon became evident that he intended to stand behind the general line of the Selle, and, save for minor operations, the fight was broken off while communications were improved and other preparations completed for an assault in strength.

The 1st and 2nd Brigades took part in the advance of the 10th. The latter, passing beyond Beauvois and Caudry, captured the railway running north to Quievy. The 1st then leap-frogged through the 2nd and advanced to the Selle, some of the troops actually securing a footing on the farther side of the stream, just south of Solesmes. The 1st Brigade continued its pressure here till the 12th October, when the New Zealand front was taken over by the 42nd Division.

The immediate result of the Battle of Le Cateau was the capture of the important lateral double line of railway running from St. Quentin through Busigny to Cambrai. The toll of prisoners taken amounted to 12,000, and the captures included no fewer than 250 guns. Incidentally, the enemy's withdrawal before Lens was hastened, and by October 13th British troops had reached the western suburbs of Douai. Similarly, under this pressure from the north, combined with local French attacks, the enemy was forced to evacuate his positions in the Laon salient, and by the same date Laon itself had fallen to the French.

The effects of the advance in the Cambrai sector were also being felt on the Flanders front, where the enemy was being constantly pressed. Here, on the whole front from Comines to Dixmude, he was attacked in strength on October 14th by the forces, British, Belgian and French, under the command of the King of the Belgians; and so successful was the attack that by October 17th Ostend was captured and three days later the northern flank of the Allied line rested on the Dutch fron- page break
Lieut.–Col. R. C. Allen, D.S.O.

Lieut.–Col. R. C. Allen, D.S.O.

Major G. W. Cockroft.Face p. 116.

Major G. W. Cockroft.Face p. 116.

page break
Towing a Captured Tank.

Towing a Captured Tank.

A Ruined Factory—smashed, not bombarded.

A Ruined Factory—smashed, not bombarded.

page 417tier
. The advances on the northern and on the southern fronts left the flanks of the Lille defences exposed, and these the enemy began to evacuate on October 15th; but he was pressed so hard that he was given no time to complete either the removal of his stores, the destruction of roads and bridges, or the evacuation of the civil population. Douai was taken on the 17th, and Lille on the 18th; and by the evening of October 22nd the Britsh troops had reached the general line of the Escaut from Valenciennes northwards to Avelghem, north-east of Roubaix.

* The Selle River is a small winding stream flowing slightly west of north through Le Cateau, Neuvilly and Solesmes, and joining the Escaut between Cambrai and Valenciennes. Solesmes is about eighteen miles due east of Cambrai.