Published By Ben Hillidge
Battle of Cambrai.
St Quentin Canal. 1 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 3 December 1917.
On 1 December 1917 the 1 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry relieved the 2/5 Bn Sherwood Foresters. They took over a section of the Hindenburg Support Lines north of Couillet Wood. Here they stayed until 10.00pm the next night when they were ordered forward to relief the 1 Bn Border Regiment in the front line across and to the east of the St Quentin Canal. The Battalion was holding the northern part of a salient. As a salient it was vulnerable to attack and could be fired on from three sides. At 10.30am on the 3 December there was an enemy bombardment of the front lines followed by a strong and determined infantry counter attack. The attack was repulsed with Lewis gun and rifle fire. Many German dead lay in front of the wire. At 11.30am the attack recommenced. This time the Germans managed to break into the southern part of the salient, to the battalion’s right and held by the 14 Bn Durham Light Infantry. Two platoons from D Coy were sent to reinforce the right flank. Also at about this time, reports were received that the trenches to the left, and held by C Coy, had been penetrated and there was hand to hand fighting. The enemy was infiltrating the KSLI positions. The situation was critical, with the attacks to C Coy and to their right flank, there was an imminent threat that the way back to the canal would be cut off. At 2.00pm the order to withdraw came through and a desperate and hard fought retreat began. Bridges across the canal had been damaged or destroyed and many men had to swim the canal back to the western bank. The men regrouped at the battalion HQ at Crucifix Corner on the western outskirts of the village. The withdrawal was completed by about 3.00pm and by evening the men had moved to the Hindenburg Support lines. Second Lieutenant George V Blake was killed and Second Lieutenant TS Lanyon, was missing as were 20 ORs killed, 30 wounded and 40 missing. Two officers – Captain E Spink and Second Lieutenant O Price were also admitted to hospital suffering from shell shock.
GOOGLE MAPS – satellite view of Marcoing
GOOGLE MAPS – street view – bridge crossing the St Quentin Canal – looking south to the area where KSLI crossed/swam cross.
References and Sources War Diary – 1 Bn KSLI, Regimental History KSLI .
B&O 1917. Somme. Battle of Cambrai. St Quentin Canal.1 Bn KSLI. 3 Dec 1917.