Battle of the Sambre (1918)

Battle of the Sambre (1918)

The Second Battle of the Sambre (November 4, 1918) was part of the final European Allied offensives of World War I.

At the front German resistance was falling away, unprecedented numbers of prisoners were taken in the Battle of the Selle, and a new attack was quickly prepared. The French First Army, together with the British First, Third, and Fourth Armies were tasked with advancing from south of the Condé Canal along a thirty mile front towards Maubeuge-Mons - threatening Namur. Together with the American forces breaking out of the forests of Argonne this would, if successful, disrupt the German efforts to reform a shortened defensive line along the Meuse.

At dawn on November 4, 17 British divisions headed the attack. The Tank Corps, its resources badly stretched, could provide only 37 tanks for support.

The first barrier to the northern attack was the 60 to 70-foot wide Sambre Canal and the flooded ground around it. It was there that the BEF had fought over four years ago. The XIII and IX Corps reached the canal first. German guns quickly ranged the attackers, and bodies piled up before the temporary bridges were properly emplaced under heavy fire. The 1st and 32nd Dvisions of IX Corps lost around 1150 men in the crossing. Even after the crossing the German forces defended in depth amid the small villages and fields and it was not until midday that a two mile deep, by fifteen mile wide breach was secured.

Further north, V and IV Corps attacked into Forêt de Mormal. At Le Quesnoy, the Germans defence was haphazard: the 13th Royal Welsh Fusiliers hardly needed to use their guns, while the 9th Battalion of the 17th Division lost all but two officers and 226 of 583 soldiers. Despite this, the advance continued and the battle objectives were reached on the 4th or the following day. A bridgehead almost fifty miles long had been made, and from two to three miles deep.

From this point, the northern Allies advanced relentlessly, sometimes more than five miles a day, until the Armistice Line of November 11 from Ghent, through Hourain, Bauffe, Havre, to near Consoire, and Sivry.

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