O n the morning of March 30th 1918 after spending the night in a park on the outskirts of the City of Arriens. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade with the Lord Strathcona's Horse leading, and with the Second Troop Co "B" Squadron at the head of the Brigade, we were ordered to proceed along what we were later told was the Arriens-Roye Road. This would be around Five o'clock in the morning. After riding along this road for five or six miles we met a small group of British troops, most of them sleeping at the side of the road, they seemed to be in a state of complete exhaustion and were under the command of a very young Lieutenant Major Flowerdew and Lieutenant Harvey V.C. I asked the Lieutenant where the enemy forces might be. He told me that they had become lost from their unit during the night and did not know where they were, also that the enemy was not too far away. We then proceeded along this road some distance when Major Flowerdew took us off the road in a more extended formation and advanced at an angle to the road. At this point he detailed our section to go out in front as an advanced guard. Two of the boys were approximately three hundred yards in front of the SQD and two of us about halfway between.
T he country here was of a slightly rolling nature. As the two advance guards reached the top of a very gradual incline they were at once fired upon by the enemy, who were crossing on an open piece of ground towards quite a large sized woods on our right flank known as the Marieul woods. They were luckily not hit and wheeling their horses very quickly galloped back to join the connecting links, who by this time had been joined by Major Flowerdew and Lieutenant Harvey who had come out immediately to get the position of the enemy. Upon being told the Germans were heading for this Wood Major Flowerdew at once gave the command to draw swords, and advancing to the top of this ridge which until now had kept us out of view of the enemy, he gave the command to charge. The Squadron was riding at full gallop with Swords in hand, and as we were trained to do everyone was shouting at the top of his voice. There was a narrow strip of this Wood that came out some distance from the main Wood. The enemy were very close to this part. Major Flowerdew signalled for our troop, which was in the lead to swing in behind this extended portion of the Woods to cut the enemy off from getting a foothold there. On reaching this position we hurriedly dismounted and took up our positions along this narrow piece of Wood.
T he other three troops swung around this point and were met by heavy machine gun as well as rifle fire. The shouting of the men and the whinnying of the horses who were being mowed down made rather a tragic picture. Some of the boys who escaped the first bout of fire were able to give a very fine account of themselves. Major Flowerdew went down at the head of his Squad for which he received the V.C.
T he total time involved in the charge itself could not have taken more than two minutes. Those who came through the charge made their way to the edge of the Wood where we held on until about five o'clock in the afternoon, when we were relieved by one of the British Regiments in our division. Lieutenant Harvey was severely wounded during the squirmish.
W e entered this scrap with approximately one hundred and thirty five men, and came out with I believe thirty-two. This is an approximate number.
T his is an account of the Cavalry charge on open ground made by "C" Squadron L.S.H.R.C. The capture of the Wood and holding same was of course accomplished by the other two Sqd of L.S.H. and the other Regiment of this Brigade.
T he R.C.D. & F.G.H. who also suffered heavy casualties during the day. It was a Brigade effort.
T he City of Arrien, which was approximately seven or eight miles distant, was the chief railroad centre supplying the northwestern sections of the front. If the enemy had captured this centre it would have been very difficult to supply the Canadian and British forces.
A fter being taken back in reserve, and having to more or less retrain a new Sqd, and to a great extent a new Regiment, we were out for some time. We were being trained and briefed on a new attack of which we knew little as to where and when.
O nce again we were ordered to saddle up very early on the morning of August 8th 1918. As we were preparing to off, a terrific artillery barrage was opening up on the distance. The Regiment moved up some distance behind the artillery, but were not sent into action until approximately 2 o'clock in the afternoon when again we went in as Cavalry, forming an escort for the R.C.H.A. who took the battery of light guns to the front lines for the Canadian Corp. One of our Sqd went so far in advance that they spent the night in a Wood behind the enemy lines. This was the first time many of us had been in action with the Canadian Forces. For several years we were attached to the British Army, 4th Army under Lord Rawlinson.
O n August 9th we had advanced beyond the point where we had suffered heavy casualties on March 30th. We were very close to Mariel Wood at this time and a small detail of troops were sent to look the ground over where the previous action had taken place. It was not a pleasant task as they found several bodies of our own boys and several of the enemy in a wheat field, it was their gruesome task of taking care of them. The remains of the Horses were still there, concentrated in a small area.
I n asking me to comment on conditions at Passchendaele Ridge, I can only relate our experience as a working party (Pick & Shovel Brigade). About 300 of us went in with the Canadian forces at Passchendaele to maintain a "narrow gauge railway" which was one of the means of getting men and supplies up to a reasonable distance from the Line. One of the big handicaps was the "Sea of Mud". A great part of this area could not be travelled except on what was known as "Duckboards", plank roads on the Narrow gauge railway. The enemy had most of these well spotted, and they required constant repair. Arial bombing and shelling kept us busy repairing this line as a great deal of the work had to be done at night in complete darkness. The mud was so deep that many shells failed to explode, and some of them exploded so deep in the earth, I believe they lost a lot of their effectiveness.
W e stayed on this tour of duty until the Canadian Corp withdrew after taking Passchendaele Ridge.
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