History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Cambrai, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Flers-Courcelette

Flers-Courcelette was a Battle Honour granted to Canadian units participating in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September 1916, one of the battles on the Western Front during the First World War.

Background

The Allies had spent 1915 unprofitably, and despite numerical superiority, had been unable to achieve a decisive result in the field. By the end of the year, with German success in Russia and Austria successful in Serbia, the Allies had decided that simultaneous offensives on the Western, Eastern and Italian fronts would be the key to victory. The French and British agreed to launch a simultaneous offensive on the Somme in the middle of 1916. The Germans, however, struck first, at Verdun, and by by 1916 the British offensive on the Somme was a desperate bid to relieve pressure from the hard-pressed French.

July and August 1916 were quiet months for the Canadians in France. While the British Army bled in order to relieve the French (as is well known, the first day of the Somme offensive on 1 July 1916 was inauspicious to say the least, with 57,000 killed or wounded making for the worst single-day loss in the history of the British Army.)1 The scale of the losses was not interpreted as a reason to call off further operations on the Somme. The Battle of Albert continued for twelve days. Other operations followed, in which slow advances with gains of only hundreds of yards were measured.

Allied Offensive 1916

Somme, 1916 – Albert (Beaumont Hamel), 1916 – Bazentin – Pozières – Flers-CourceletteThiepval – Le Transloy –
Ancre HeightsAncre, 1916

In the meantime, Canadians did not prepare to move to the Somme front until late mid-August 1916. The Canadian Corps was optimistic about the move, having grown tired of the dreary conditions of the Ypres Salient which had too many unpleasant memories. They received advanced training in the conduct of attacks and began taking over trenches in early September, followed by their first major action at Flers-Courcelette on 15 September.


click to enlarge

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette

The Canadian Corps' first major attack in the Battle of the Somme came on 15 September 1916. Two major tactical innovations were tested in this battle for the first time: the use of the tank to support infantry in penetrating into enemy trenches, and the "rolling barrage" which was a moving curtain of shells behind which infantry could traverse No Man's in relative safety.2


Mark I Tank prepares to advance on 15 September 1916. (Imperial War Museum photo)

The battle was to be fought on a ten mile front between Combles and Thiepval, with Rawlinson's 4th Army delivering the main attack with three corps, aimed at Flers, Morval, Lesboeufs and Gueudecourt - all under the guns of the German Third Position, a network of defences that had the Germans had begun in February 1916 and completed after the opening of the Allied July Offensive. There were hopes that a breakthrough here might open the way for a cavalry advance on Bapaume. The role of the Reserve Army was to protect the left flank, and the Canadian Corps would attack and secure Courcelette and points of observation over the Third Position. To the left of the Canadian Corps, the 2nd Corps was to exert pressure on the Germans south of Thiepval.

One other novel feature of the attack on 15 September was that in general (except in the Canadian Corps' sector) it was planned not as a continuous advance to a final line but in limited bounds to a series of successive objectives. The July battles had exposed the fallacy of trusting to the preliminary bombardment to wipe out all opposition. No longer army commanders dared emphasize that "nothing could exist at the conclusion of the bombardment in the area covered by it", and imply that the infantry would be able to walk over at leisure and take possession. Almost invariably the infantry had encountered bitter resistance, so that frequently even if the first wave reached its distant goal it had become too exhausted and reduced by casualties to complete its task; and later waves, following across no man's land at intervals of 100 yards, had found themselves similarly exposed to deadly fire from the uncaptured position. Official doctrine was not as yet ready to accept the idea of advancing by small detachments instead of in waves; infiltration was yet unknown. Once the artillery had done its allotted part the responsibility was the infantry's - and there was supreme faith in numbers. To the end of the Somme battles unit and formation commanders were to be governed by the training instructions issued by General Headquarters in May: ".... in many instances experience has shown that to capture a hostile trench a single line of men has usually failed, two lines have generally failed but sometimes succeeded, three lines have generally succeeded but sometimes failed, and four or more lines have usually succeeded."

Although limited, the bounds prescribed at Flers-Courcelette were long enough by later standards, amounting to as much as 1900 yards on the Fourth Army's front. The Canadian Corps, attacking on the Reserve Army's right flank with two divisions on a 2200-yard front, was to advance in a single bound which from 1000 yards on the right fell away to less than 400 yards on the left. Objectives of the 2nd Division, making the main effort astride the Albert-Bapaume road, were the defences in front of Courcelette. These included Candy Trench (which ran north-west from Martinpuich), the strongly fortified ruins of a sugar factory beside the Bapaume road, and some 1500 yards of Sugar Trench, which cut across Candy. On the left Major-General Lipsett's 3rd Division, its front held by the 8th Brigade, was charged with providing flank protection.3


Remains of the sugar refinery on the Somme, photographed in September 1917. (LAC photo)

A total of 49 tanks were available for the operation, and the Reserve Army's total allotment of seven were given to General Turner. The Canadians organized them into two detachments of three vehicles each, with the remaining tank in reserve. One detachment moved on the right with the 4th Brigade, ordered to advance at top speed through a gap in the barrage astride the road to Bapaume and tasked to engage German machine guns in Martinpuich and the sugar factory. On the left, the other detachment supported the 6th Brigade by advancing behind the barrage, assisted in "mopping up" and attacked machine guns in the sugar factory or Courcelette as needed. Five infantrymen were assigned to every tank to pull casualties out of their way.

Attack on Courcelette 15 September 1916

The attack was launched at 6:20 a.m. on 15 September, the din of the rolling barrage joined by a new, unfamiliar sound as the tanks ground forward. The German 45th Reserve Division put up heavy resistance but their front line nonetheless fell in just fifteen minutes, falling under the weight of the artillery fire. On the Canadian right, the 4th Brigade's trio of assault battalions were on their positions by 7:00 a.m. and the 21st Battalion had taken 145 prisoners from the sugar factory. At 7:30 a.m. the 6th Brigade to the left was reporting success as well, holding firm in Sugar Trench.4 General Byng ordered the attack pressed forward at 6:00 p.m., the soonest possible time artillery could be arranged. Two battalions of the 5th Brigade advanced to the far end of Courcelette following a hand-to-hand fight with German outposts, then came under repeated counter-attack, the 22nd Battalion fighting off seven such assaults during the night, and more again the next day.5

The first use of the tank had brought mixed results. The Germans had been encouraged to surrender, complaining that their use was "not war but bloody butchery." All six tanks assigned to the Canadians were put out of action, however, either becoming mired, breaking down mechanically, or being lost to shellfire. Only one of the six reached the objective, and one had failed to even reach the start line. Of the 32 tanks on the 4th Army front, only 10 were with the infantry and able to assist on the objective, and the remained were mired or mechanical failures (due to the heavily cratered ground and heavy use in demonstrations before the battle) as well as losses to artillery fire. There had been, in fact, little actual study as to how to best deploy armour tactically, and strategically, the unveiling of this secret weapon seems to have been mishandled.

It seems a questionable procedure to have distributed the machines piecemeal along the battle front, thereby removing them from the tank company commanders' control. Properly coordinated action of artillery, tanks and infantry was still to be learned...Mr. Winston Churchill records that he was shocked when he learned from Mr. Lloyd George of a War Office this tremendous secret to the enemy upon such a petty scale". He made a fruitless appeal to Mr. Asquith, have the introduction of tanks into operations postponed until they could be employed in tactically profitable (ways).6


Detail from Map 6 of the Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War showing employment of tanks at Courcelette on 15 September 1916.

Fabeck Graben and Zollern Graben: 15-20 September 1916

On the left the 8th Brigade of the 3rd Division was also successful in its attack attack in front of Mouquet Farm. The 7th Brigade also had mixed success. The 42nd Battalion reached their new line without trouble, but per Corps orders had attacked without prior reconnaissance. The P.P.C.L.I. was required to advance on the right through a shattered landscape in which all landmarks had been destroyed by shellfire. The Patricias managed to reach the Fabeck Graben despite heavy small arms fire and kept contact with the 5th Brigade in Courcelette. A 200-yard stretch of German trench remained occupied by Germans while on the far left the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles of the 8th Brigade secured another sector of the Fabeck Graben despite enfilade fire from Mouquet Farm and heavy shelling. The 49th Battalion bounded forward to secure chalk pits beyond the Fabeck Graben after 8:00 p.m. though the nearby trench line remained in German hands. The 1st Motor Machine Gun Brigade had provided almost continual cover fire from their Vickers Guns. German counter-attacks came throughout the night while engineers worked to shore up communications trenches and strongpoints.

The 2nd British Corps to the left of the Canadian Corps managed to gain 400 yards, pushing closer to Thiepval. On the right, however, the 4th Army managed to break through the German Third Position on a front 4,500 yards wide to take Flers and Martinpuich, but Morval, Lesboeufs and Gueudecourt remained in enemy hands, while farther south the French 6th Army floundered and made little progress.

The Zollern Graben, a long trench, lay 1,000 yards beyond Mouquet Farm, with the Zollern Redoubt forming its midpoint. This strongpoint lay on high ground on the crest of the ridge and was one of the major features of the German Second Position. Zollern Graben climbed the western slope from Thiepval and joined the Fabeck Graben half a mile west of Courcelette. Troops in the Redoubt could hit adjoining trenches with heavy enfilading machine gun fire. Both Zollern Graben and the Redoubt were the objective of a surprise attack by the 3rd Canadian Division on 16 September.

The 7th Brigade would strike northwards from Fabeck Graben to Zollern Graben in order to secure a line from which the 9th Brigade (Brig.-Gen. F.W. Hill) might attack the redoubt from the east. But the first phase failed (for the opening bombardment had overshot the objective) and Brigadier Hill's attack had to be cancelled. In the meantime, bombing parties from the two battalions of the 7th Brigade on either side of the break in Fabeck  Graben had worked their way inward on the German stronghold and sealed the gap, taking some sixty prisoners. The end of enemy resistance here was hastened by the action of Private J.C. Kerr (49th Battalion) who, though wounded, ran alone along the top of the trench, firing down upon the defenders and killing several; this heroism earned him the Victoria Cross. The 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles attacked Mouquet Farm with apparent success. That night troops of the 2nd British Corps began to relieve the Canadians, the 34th Brigade (11th Division) taking over the farm. It turned out, however, that the German garrison, far from being annihilated had taken refuge in tunnels. The 34th Brigade finally secured the troublesome position on the 26th.7

Rain fell over the next few days, restricting activity by both sides. The Germans reinforced the trenches due east of Courcelette with fresh troops, and an attack on 17 September by the 5th Brigade consequently failed. The 1st Division took over General Turner's sector the next day, and on the night of 19-20 September fought off two German counter-attacks on Courcelette. In a dawn raid on 20 September, two battalions of the 3rd Division (43rd and 58th) managed to secure a hold in the Zollern Graben but were quickly counter-attacked by fresh German troops utilizing a smoke-screen. After a morning-long battle the Germans regained most of what they had lost, though the eastern stretch of trenches remained in Canadian control. The 1st Battalion managed to advanced 500 yards on a half-mile front east of Courcelette on 22 September, capturing front-line trench positions from the Germans there.

In its first major operation at the Somme the Canadian Corps had acquitted itself with credit, though the week's fighting had cost 7230 casualties. "The result of the fighting of the 15th September and following days", wrote Sir Douglas Haig in his despatch, "was a gain more considerable than any which had attended our arms in the course of a single operation since the commencement of the offensive." Breaking through two of the enemy's main defensive systems, Allied troops had advanced on a front of six miles to an average depth of a mile and captured three large villages which the enemy had organized for a prolonged resistance. Yet the main objectives were still untaken. The way to Bapaume was blocked by the strongly defended villages of Monal, Lesboeufs and Gueudecourt, and the enemy still held Combles and Thiepval at either end of the ridge. Bad weather and a shortage of ammunition for the French artillery postponed a renewal of the offensive until the 25th. The next phase was to be known as the Battle of Morval on the Fourth Army front, and by the Reserve Army as the Battle of Thiepval Ridge.8

Morval and Lesboeufs fell on the 25th while Gueudecourt held out an additional day, prompting the Germans to withdraw from Combles. The Morval battle gained a belt of ground 2,000 yards wide on average, necessitating the capture of Thiepval to bring the left flank into line and move the Germans off the ridge. The task fell to the Reserve Army.

In all, Flers-Courcelette had been far more successful than any British operation during the previous two months. If the employment of the newest weapon of war - the tank - had been premature, work was continuing on other weapons and methods also:

It is clear from the detailed orders and careful training of the assault divisions that tactical lessons from earlier operations were being incorporated into planning and preparation. Artillery technique was developing, even if Fourth Army's bombardment was not yet being prepared with the meticulous calculations of shells-per-metre of Sixth Army's gunners. By mid-September, Fourth Army had received many more heavy guns...The barrage would be twice as concentrated as that of 1 July, although only half as heavy as that of 14 July. Moreover, artillery technique was becoming much more sophisticated, with high-explosive shells used to cut wire, gas shells (fired by British guns for the first time) for neutralisation of enemy artillery, long-range interdiction fire, and a creeping shrapnel barrage - at a lower speed and with a greater concentration of shell - all employed to disrupt the enemy's response and fire the infantry on to their objectives.9

Battle Honours

The Battle Honour "Flers-Courcelette" was awarded to units for participation in these actions.

Notes

  1. Goodspeed, D.J. The Armed Forces of Canada, 1867-1967: A Century of Achievement (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1967) p.39

  2. Marteinson, John. We Stand on Guard: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Army (Ovale Publications, Montreal, PQ, 1992) ISBN 2894290438p.144

  3. Nicholson, Gerald Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Candian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919 (Duhamel, Queen's Printer and Controller of Stationery, Ottawa, 1964)

  4. Ibid, p.152

  5. Marteinson, Ibid, p.145

  6. Nicholson, Ibid, p.152

  7. Ibid

  8. Ibid

  9. Philpott, William Bloody Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme (Little, Brown, London, UK, 2009) ISBN 978-0-349-12004-1 p.363


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