The Final 100 Days: The Battle of Valenciennes - November 1, 1918

5:15 AM. The crash of an artillery bombardment signals the beginning of the Canadian assault on Valenciennes.

Roaring with power, the initial artillery barrage accurately eliminated enemy strongpoints in and around Mont Houy. Given Valenciennes’ status as a logistical centre with a huge civilian presences, any artillery attacks near the city itself had to have been executed with a surgical accuracy. 

The 44th and 47th Battalions followed the barrage as closely as they could. As the barrage crept forward, the Canadians crossed over hundreds of dead and dying Germans. Although the Corps still encountered pockets of resistance amongst the ruins, the effectiveness of the barrage was apparent.

In fact, the barrage had all but nullified German resistance in the village of Aulnoy. The 1st Company of the 44th arrived just as German engineers planned to demolish a bridge - they were shot dead before they could do so. 

On the left, the 2nd Company of the 44th moved on Mont Houy. Shattered German defences fell quickly, and it took only 45 minutes for the 44th Battalion to capture their objectives. 

The 46th Battalion picked up where the 44th had left off. Pushing through the recently established front line, the 46th soon encountered a difficult problem. The rapidity of their advance had seen over 600 prisoners captured - nearly double the number of men in the 46th battalion. 

As some men took the prisoners back to the rear, the reduced 46th pushed through two and a half kilometres of German defences and residential areas. 

In house-to-house fighting, or open field engagements, the 46th fought stalwartly. In fact, the last Victoria Cross of the First World War was awarded to Hugh Cairns, a Sergeant with the battalion. 

On the left of the 46th, the 47th Battalion flanked around Mont Houy, and attacked Le Poirier Station. They encountered similar conditions to their compatriot Battalions - shattered defences with pockets of resistance. However, the pushed through, and reached their objectives at the Canal de L’Escaut by 10:20. 

The Canadians had captured the terrain south of the city, but stiff urban fighting still awaited them in the city of Valenciennes.