The Last Hundred Days – 19 & 20

The decisive final one hundred days of World War I and the important role played by Canadian Corps.

26/27 August – The Battle of the Scarpe begins.

Arthur Currie’s plan for the beginning of the battle was to rain down massive amounts of artillery on the well dug in enemy in order to soften them up for the attack. At 3am, as a light rain came down, it began and caught the Germans completely by surprise. Two Canadian divisions and one British division were able to advance forward over 5km and by the end of the day the villages of Monchy, Guemappe, and Wancourt were in Allied hands.

The weather would play a factor on the 27th as heavy rains slowed down the advance and made for difficult conditions under which to engage the enemy, and thus would advance little more than 3km on that day.

Mechanized infantry was still in its infancy and mounted cavalry units were used regularly on the battlefield, but so were bicycles. In fact there were battalions of soldiers on bicycles and their use would continue in the Second World War.

A Canadian cyclist shouting down a German dugout during the 2nd Battle of Arras.
The first phase of the battle was an unmitigated success for Canadian troops, who encountered only little resistance from enemy defence positions. Cyclist battalions, as well as the cavalry, still played an important role at a time when efficient mechanized means of transportation were still being developed.
Library and Archives Canada. Department of National Defence Collection 1964-114 PA-003071

Victoria Cross awarded to Lt. Charles S. Rutherford – Captured over 70 prisoners and neutralized enemy machine guns, without firing a shot.

Charles Smith Rutherford
Lt. Charles Smith Rutherford

Lt. Charles Rutherford of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 26 August in Monchy-le-Preux while leading an assault party. Scouting ahead of his troops by some distance he saw some Germans standing near a pillbox. They motioned to each other, with Rutherford approaching the Germans, revolver in hand. He was able to convince them that they were surrounded, leading to the surrender of 45 men including 2 officers. He was then able to convince one of the German officers to order a nearby machine gun to cease fire, allowing his own men to advance towards him.

Rutherford then moved on to another pillbox, assaulting it with a Lewis gun section and convinced a further 35 Germans to surrender as well as capturing a machine gun.

Sources

The 2nd Battle of Arras – Library & Archives Canada

https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/canada-first-world-war/Pages/arras.aspx

The Last 100 Days – VAC

https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/last-hundred-days?filter=month&month=8

Victoria Cross Bios

http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/gal/vcg-gcv/bio/rutherford-cs-eng.asp

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