Orchard Dump
Webmatters : The Battle of Cambrai 1917, Marcoing
Rough Map of Area


1st December 1917

The loss of Masnières and Marcoing

Following the events of the day before, the 29th Division were gritting their teeth ready for a second onslaught. At 0715 hours the bombardment on les Rues Vertes and Masnières began. An hour later, as the intensity of the bombardment increased, waves of German troops poured against the 86th Brigade who were holding the two towns.

On the right flank the 16th Middlesex once again put down all attempts to dislodge them and elsewhere the Germans were beaten back with heavy losses. The Brigade though was getting weaker and at 0950 hours Brigadier General Lucas reported that either he was reinforced or Masnières could very well fall.

Major General de Lisle had however already used up every combatant he had to hand and further up the line General Byng didn’t have a soul to spare either. If Masnières had to be given up — so be it.

Having beaten off another attempt by the Germans in the afternoon the Brigade began its withdrawal at 2300 hours. The 16th Middlesex were brought in from the positions they had defended so well for two days and slowly but surely the 86th Brigade slipped away to the west.

It had all been accomplished so quietly the Germans never suspected a thing.

The following morning the Germans launched a bombardment on the now empty town before cautiously entering.

On the 3rd December the 88th Brigade, who were still holding the area around Marcoing Copse, were subjected to a severe bombardment with the Newfoundland Regiment and 2nd South Wales Borderers suffering heavy casualties. Despite their losses they beat off the ensuing German infantry assault.

The 87th Brigade had been relieved during the night by the 16th Brigade of 6th Division and they were now subjected to an all out attack by the Germans intent of removing them from the canal loop north of Marcoing. The fighting became extreme and it was evident that regardless of losses the Germans were intent on pressing their advantage in numbers.

At 1215 hours a third German assault was launched and a wounded Captain Arthur Lascelles of the 14th Durham Light Infantry (DLI) was required to organise yet another stand. During the struggle the Captain was captured but managed to escape and once more rallied his men. Rifle and bomb gave way to bayonet and hand to hand combat as the two forces fought for the trenches.

The Germans superiority in numbers though was winning the day and eventually the British were forced back across the canal into Marcoing. The Germans made no attempt to persue them further.

Wounded three times during the course of the day Captain Lascelles was awarded the Victoria Cross.

(He was killed on 7th November 1918, just four days before the armistice, and is buried in Dourlers Communal Cemetery.)

The British rallied and manage to recross the canal but the reality was that their position could not be maintained and the order to withdraw was given.

In the early hours of the 4th December five bridge across the canal were blown by the Royal Engineers. In this sector the Battle of Cambrai was over.