Orchard Dump
Webmatters : The Capture of Le Quesnoy, 4th November 1918
Rough Map of Area

Le Quesnoy

The investment of Le Quesnoy

Having achieved this Blue Line arcing around the western side of the town, the second wave of troops were to leap-frog through to finish the encircling move and gain the Blue Dotted Line.

These terms are often found in Battle Orders and accounts, the explanation is quite simple: the various objectives were marked in coloured pencil on the maps.

This second phase was carried out by the 3rd NZ Rifle Battalion (southern side) and 1st Auckland Battalion (northern side). The latter, part of the 1st NZ Brigade, were instructed to give the wall of the citadel a wide birth and to encroach on 62nd Division’s front in order to do so.

Le Quesnoy, morning 4th November 1918

The initial two phases of the encirclement of Le Quesnoy
This sketch shows the modern road system

At 0729 hours the 3rd Rifles began their advance and twenty-two minutes later 1st Auckland set off, keeping a good 500 metres between them and the town walls. Swift progress was made by both battalions and within the hour they had achieved their objective.

The 3rd Rifles were ready to proceed towards the Green Line and the advance on their left was taken up by the 1st and 2nd Wellington Battalions (1st Brigade). As they did so the barrages covering each of them extended into the area behind the town as the two fronts slowly made their way towards each other on the far side of the two lakes and the hornwork (today the layout of the area is slightly different with only the southern lake still there).

As 1st Wellington joined up with the 3rd Rifles, 2nd Wellington was liberating the village of Villereau where they found fifty civilians. By 0925 hours the Green Line was secured and the New Zealanders would now advance on their fourth objective (Red Line) as a single front.

Despite them being completely surrounded there was still no sign of any willingness on behalf of the German garrison to surrender.

Le Quesnoy, afternoon 4th November 1918

The initial two phases of the encirclement of Le Quesnoy
This sketch shows the modern road system

It was not just the infantry who were leap-frogging through. British field artillery batteries that were assisting the attack had already been moved forward and now the New Zealanders’ own artillery began to move up.

At 1020 hours the advance recommenced. Herbignies was captured by 1st Wellington and the discovery of welcoming French inhabitants became the norm for the remainder of the day. To the left 2nd Wellington discovered that the Germans had withdrawn across most of the front and by midday both battalions were on the Red Line.

The planning now called for a decision to be made. If opposition remained weak then the 2nd NZ Brigade would move up and continue the advance on to a Dotted Red Line. If resistance was encountered then the troops would install themselves on the Red Line and wait for sufficient artillery resources to made available.

With this in mind, patrols were pushed out by the two Wellington battalions who managed to reach the western edge of the ForĂȘt de Mormal with little incident. Between them that day they had captured hundreds of prisoners, dozens of machine guns and almost a hundred artillery pieces. Their own casualties amounted to less than a hundred killed and wounded.

Behind them, the Rifle Brigade were in the process of creating a legend.