On 4 November, against faltering opposition, the British First, Third and Fourth armies launched a major offensive later designated the Battle of the Sambre. It would prove to be the final attack of the war. On the opening day, the New Zealand Division captured prisoners and 60 field guns and advanced to the edge of the Mormal Forest. Le Quesnoy fell the same day after soldiers from the 4th Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade, scaled the walls with a ladder.
The area around Le Quesnoy maintains a strong affinity with New Zealand. The old fortress town of Le Quesnoy had been in German hands since , and several thousand German troops were still inside it when the New Zealanders attacked. Heavy artillery could have rapidly demolished the walls of Le Quesnoy, but at heavy cost to the inhabitants. Although their orders did not provide for an immediate assault on the town, the New Zealand riflemen were determined to capture it. A little competition between the 2nd and 4th Battalions developed after the encirclement was complete; the former advanced on the town in the direction of the Valenciennes Gate, while the latter pressed forward through the outer defences from the west.
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The German defenders were demoralised, but their officers were not prepared to surrender without a fight. When a section of the 4th Battalion reached the inner walls about midday on 4 November, they had already scaled the complex network of outer ramparts with ladders supplied by the field engineers.
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But because of the height of the inner wall, the riflemen could only position a ladder on a narrow ledge atop a sluice gate. The whole battalion followed. After exchanging shots with fleeing Germans, the New Zealanders entered the town. The garrison quickly surrendered. They picked up the ladder, and stepping on the knife-edge bridge in single file reached the sluice-gate. The whole place was ominously still but for the low gurgle of water in the moat below them… Quietly they raised the ladder against the wall.
It reached the top of the bricks with a foot to spare, resting against a 2-foot high grassy bank which crowned the rampart… Averill started to mount it, telling the others that he would shout down to them from the top if all was quiet. It was now about 4 p. Averill quickly reached the top of the brick-work, and stepped over the coping on to the grassy bank. Crouching behind it, he peered over.
There was an instant crashing through some brushwood on the far side, and Averill saw 2 Germans of the bombing post running off panic-stricken. He sent a revolver bullet after them. Kerr was now on the topmost rung. The 2 officers could see a pair of machine guns on the salient on their right pointing into the moat but abandoned. They stood up and walked over the top of the grass slope and down the other side towards the boulevard.
They were greeted by a great jabbering of German. Kerr fired a shot at the man who appeared to be leader, but missed. The whole enemy party bolted at once into an underground cavern under the rampart.
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This was the last significant action of the war for the New Zealanders. That night the division was relieved. The New Zealand gunners remained in action in support of British units for a few days before heading back into reserve on the 9th. Two days later, the fighting ended. The last New Zealanders in action had been the mounted riflemen and cyclists serving in XXII Corps, which, after helping to capture Valenciennes, had reached Mons when the guns fell silent.
An armistice on the Western Front came into effect at 11 a. The conditions of the armistice gave the Germans 14 days to leave all occupied territory and 28 days to withdraw across the River Rhine.
The Allies also insisted on sending their armies into Germany to occupy bridgeheads around the cities of Cologne, Coblenz and Mainz. British forces occupied the Cologne area, while the Americans and French took control of Coblenz and Mainz respectively. Led by 1st Battalion, Canterbury Regiment, the infantry entered Cologne the next day, followed on Boxing Day by the artillery and other horse-borne units. Read more. Once it became clear that Germany could not resume the fight, attention turned to demobilising the troops and getting them home.
Beginning in late December, married men and those who had enlisted in —15 were sent back to England and from there to New Zealand. The process sped up from January , with — men leaving each week. Skip to main content.
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