Rendez-vous at Le Quesnoy New Zealand Memorial

  • Le Quesnoy New Zealand Memorial - Pas-de-Calais (62) - Nord-Pas de Calais

    Le Quesnoy New Zealand Memorial - Pas-de-Calais (62) - Nord-Pas de Calais

    © S.Dhote

Rendez-vous at Le Quesnoy New Zealand Memorial Remparts - accès par la rue Jeanne d'Arc - ou par l'avenue des Néo-Zélandais 59530 Le Quesnoy fr

After resisting the German offensive in the spring of 1918, the Allied Armies (including American troops) under the command of General Foch launched a counter-attack along the length of the Western Front, in what was to become known as the Hundred Days Offensive. On 21st August the British Army launched the first of a number of attacks on the Western Front in the sectors under its control: Amiens, Albert, Arras and Bapaume. The Allied troops advanced up to the Hindenburg Line which they breached at Saint-Quentin Canal on 5th October and at Le Nord Canal three days later. Lille and Douai were liberated on 17th October and the British Army pressed on towards the Belgian border while the New Zealand Division was given the job of liberating Le Quesnoy.

The 18th century Vauban fortifications protecting the town encouraged the Germans garrisoned there to hold out against the Allied advance; however the precision of the New Zealand artillery disrupted the organisation of the German defence. In the general confusion Kiwi soldiers managed to set up a ladder on the south side of the town and enter through a sluice gate. Led by Lieutenant Leslie Averill, the New Zealanders completely surprised the Germans who, after much fighting in the streets, surrendered the town on the evening of 4th November. The Armistice was signed a week later.

In the aftermath of the liberation of Le Quesnoy, the inhabitants of the town and the Kiwi soldiers and their families went on to forge strong links. The extraordinary use of ladders in the assault of the town, akin to the techniques used in the Middle Ages, ensured that this attack would remain an outstanding and memorable episode of the Great War.

Every year on ANZAC Day (25th April) the New Zealand Ambassador to France presides over a ceremony in Le Quesnoy to commemorate all the New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives in the Great War. Every 4th November the town returns the honour by paying tribute to its Kiwi liberators.

 

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