The Last Hundred Days: Day 21-24

28-31 August – The Battle Of The Scarpe

Commander of the Canadian Corps, Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, inspecting German guns captured in the Amiens offensive, August, 1918.
Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-003046 (MIKAN no. 3397919)

Also part of Second Battle of Arras, the Battle of the Scarpe was three days of brutal combat that would see over 250 officers and over 5,500 men of the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions fall as casualties. They were able to achieve most of their objectives however and in the process captured 3,300 German prisoners along with over 500 machine guns.

They had managed to advance a further 8km across extremely difficult shell cratered terrain, and through well-fortified German defenses. It would be the prelude to the assault on the main German defensive line, the Drocourt-Queant Line, on September 2nd.

The end is near.

General Currie
General Currie, Commander of the Canadian troops in France, and A.D.C. Location unknown. June, 1917.
Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-001370 (MIKAN no. 3191901)

After the battle, Canadian Corps Commander Lt.Gen. Arthur Currie began to have a sense that the end of the war was nearing. In his personal War Diary he would write that the battle was “One of the war’s greatest triumphs.”

Victoria Cross – Lt.Col. William Hew Clark-Kennedy

William Hew Clark-Kennedy

The Victoria Cross was awarded to the commander of the 24th Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Lt.Col. William Hew Clark-Kennedy, for his actions on 27 and 28 August. His citation reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and skilful leading on the 27th and 28th August, 1918, when in command of his battalion.

On the 27th he led his battalion with great bravery and skill from Crow and Aigrette trenches in front of Wancourt to the attack on the Fresnes-Rouvroy line.  From the outset the brigade, of which the 24th Battalion was a central unit, came under very heavy shell and machine-gun fire, suffering many casualties, especially amongst leaders.  Units became partially disorganised and the advance was checked.  Appreciating the vital importance to the brigade front of a lead by the centre, and undismayed by annihilating fire, Lt.-Col. Clark-Kennedy, by sheer personality and initiative, inspired his men and led them forward.  On several occasions he set an outstanding example by leading parties straight at the machine-gun nests which were holding up the advance and overcame these obstacles.

By controlling the direction of neighbouring units and collecting men who had lost their leaders, he rendered valuable services in strengthening the line, and enabled the whole brigade front to move forward.

By the afternoon, very largely due to the determined leadership of this officer and disregard for his own life, his battalion, despite heavy losses, has made good the maze of trenches west of Cherisy and Cherisy Village, had crossed the Sensee Rivert bed, and had occupied Occident Trench in front of the heavy wire of the Fresnes-Rouvroy line; under continuous fire he then went up and down his line until far into the night, improving the position, giving wonderful encouragement to his men, and sent back very clear reports.

On the next day he again showed valorous leadership in the attack on the Fresnes-Rouvroy line and Upton Wood.  Though severely wounded soon after the start he refused aid, and dragged himself to a shell-hole, from which he could observe.  Realising that his exhausted troops could advance no further he established a strong line of defence and thereby prevented the loss of most important ground.  Despite intense pain and serious loss of blood he refused to be evacuated for over five hours, by which time he had established the line in a position from which it was possible for the relieving troops to continue the advance.

It is impossible to overestimate the results achieved by the valour and leadership of this officer.”

(London Gazette, no.31067, 14 December 1918)
Sources

Veteran’s Affairs Canada – The Last Hundred Days

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

Library and Archives Canada

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

Battle Honours and Honorary Distinctions

https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/military-history/history-heritage/battle-honours-honorary-distinctions/scarpe-1918.html

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