The Final 100 Days - September 28, 1918 - The Canal du Nord

The Battle of the Canal du Nord

By all measures, the Canadian assault on the Canal du Nord had been shockingly successful. From a plan initially denied by British High Command, Corps Commander Arthur Currie had seized the imposing Bourlon Wood, the Marquion Line, and the Canal du Nord itself. 

In an effort to stave off the Canadian attackers and hold the vital hub of Cambrai, 7 German Divisions were moved to the Arras sector through September 28th and 29th. 

The rapidity of the Canadian advance had seen the infantry outstrip the range of their supporting artillery, leaving the infantry to attack intact German defences.

Throughout the night, the 3rd Division under Frederick Loomis fell into the Canadian lines, assuming their positions between the 1st and 4th Divisions. Despite the added manpower, they made little progress - German artillery saturated their area of the front with poison gas & shrapnel, while machine gunners raked the front with a hailstorm of bullets. 

The 4th Division fared better. The 44th and 46th Battalions moved swiftly, capturing the fortified villages of Rallencourt and Sailly. As always, victory came at a cost - casualties for the 44th came in at 76 killed and 152 wounded. 

To the north, the 10th Battalion moved on Sancourt and Epinoy, moving in on a flat piece of land between the two towns. However, they encountered many of the same problems that the 3rd Division had - an absence of artillery support and uncoordinated assaults meant they made no real headway. In fact, a battalion report suggests they incurred “at least 50 unnecessary casualties” as they prepared to attack on the open plains. 

The recklessness of the assaults doomed the Canadians, and though gains were made, they were not worth the cost. However, Cambrai was in site. The Canadians prepared to move on the city.