had been shored up by army engineers to prevent it from tumbling.
The Canadian divisions were part of the breakthrough battle of the Somme,
the assault on Courcelette. They were folded into General Sir Hubert Gough's
On September 15, the Canadians were part of an eleven division assault on the
frontline between the villages of Courcelette and Fler. The Canadians were aimed
straight at Courcelette, but there were metres of bloody fighting ahead. They
also had to capture a sugar refinery and two nearby trenches, called "Candy" and "Sugar." Like
other advancing British troops, the Canadians were using a relatively new technique
called a "creeping barrage" where the infantry tucked in dangerously
close to an advancing wave of artillery fire. They were also aided by another
battlefield newcomer, the tank. The 28-tonne Mark I tank was ungainly and moved
forward at about one mile per hour, but was terrifying to the Germans and a surprise
advantage for the Allies.
Battle of Courcelette was a brutal one, with the Canadians claiming many German
kills at bayonet point.
In savage hand-to-hand combat, the Canadians claimed Courcelette from the
Germans and staved off 17 different counter-attacks. But the overextended Canadians
were at risk of being cut off as they fought for four days and held the village.
The German line did not yield, but the Allies gained little ground, at enormous
cost. But, given the dismal history of the Somme, the Canadian victory at Courcelette
was a welcome respite.
And, as had been seen in earlier battles, it was becoming more and more obvious
that frontline soldiers of low rank had to be allowed to make ad hoc and unilateral
decisions when communication broke down, as it so often did in the heat of battle.
Many lessons were learned that would come together to help the Canadians win
a major victory, this time at Vimy Ridge.
||Heavy Howitzer in action
September, France, 1916.
Heavy guns like this one were meant to destroy German
frontline artillery but early in the Battle of the Somme did Newfoundlanders