James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

The Battle of Cambrai

(Here again is the detailed map of the Battle.)

The bridge at Masniere The advance continued as far as Les Rues Vertes and Masnieres where there was a bridge crossing the St Quentin Canal. Securing the bridge was going to be vital for the 2nd Cavalry Division, planning to move up to the east of Cambrai. Several scouts crossed the bridge but suffered casualties from heavy machine-gun fire from houses in Masnières, the remainder returning over the bridge. Just as a plan to rush the bridge was being formulated, a tank arrived. It took on board some men with bombs to carry them across the bridge to bomb the house on the opposite side. In fact it broke down for an hour and when it finally moved forward its weight proved too great and the bridge collapsed (right, also showing a later replacememnt bridge) – it had probably been weakened by shellfire. Men from the 29th Division crossed a bridge further up but were forced back by machine-gun fire and failed in their objective to take Crevecoer. The problems crossing the canal caused great congestion at Les Rues Vertes and the cavalry advance was effectively halted; during the afternoon some cavalry managed to get cross using another bridge.

The absence of the cavalry was to prove decisive. However, some infantry managed to cross the canal by a lock gate a couple of hundred yards away. Battalion HQ moved forwards but heavy shelling forced its relocation. The Germans were able to regroup and counterattack. On the night of 20/21 November 11th RB failed in a bid to take the bridges at Crèvecoeur as the Germans had occupied the town. It did capture a machine gun, complete with team. The next day the Brigade made further unsuccessful attempts to capture the bridges; the tank support ran out of petrol which did not help. The Battalion had sustained heavy losses - 3 officers and 124 men – and as reinforcements were unavailable it was relieved on the night of 22nd/23rd November after four gallant but unsuccessful attempts to destroy the bridges.

The success of the advance across the seven–mile front was mixed but, in the light of events on the Western Front in the previous months, it was seen as a victory, providing a great morale boost for the allies. On 23 November, it prompted victory bells to ring from churches throughout Britain.