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Webmatters : The advance from Arras to Cambrai in 1918

The Drocourt-Quéant Line

The Drocourt-Quéant Line

Following some preparatory local actions to secure the remaining southern sector of the Fresnes-Rouvroy Line the assault on the Drocourt-Quéant Line was set for 2nd September 1918.

The defensive system in front of the Canadian Corps was no less impressive than they had recently fought through. Concrete bunkers abounded and the fields of barbed wire in front of the first trenches were equally dense.

A particular problem was going to be taking Mont Dury and the village of Dury itself.

There was not much in the way of cover over this open farm land which had been well behind the German lines for four years and thus little touched by the ravages of war. The slope leading up to the hill was in clear view of the defenders and once crossed, the reverse slope would offer little respite as any attackers would be silhouetted on the skyline to the defenders in the support positions.

Canadian memorial at Dury Hill

The Canadian memorial at Mont Dury
In the distance is the water tower at Dury village

The initial assault down the Arras — Cambrai Road by the 12th Canadian Brigade (4th Canadian Division) went pretty much to plan. The position was, as predicted, heavily defended but they managed to achieve their first objective (marked on the maps as a Red Line) in accordance with the timetable. However, as soon as they crossed over the hill they were exposed to the full force of the German machine gun positions situated along the sunken road running between Dury village and the main road.

Despite taking heavy casualties the Brigade pushed on, supported by tanks, and by mid morning had captured the sunken road at about the same time that Dury village had fallen to the 10th Brigade. Any further advance towards the east proved, for the moment, impossible.

On the southern side of the main road on the front of the 3rd Canadian Brigade the 13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) passed through the Drocourt-Quéant Line before handing over the assault on the village of Cagnicourt to the 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment).

That night the Germans pulled back and the following day, 3rd September, the Canadian Corps advanced six kilometres in the face of very little opposition to reach its next obstacle: the Canal du Nord.

In the course of this advance the 87th Battalion would liberate French civilians
— perhaps the first since the onset of trench warfare.