At 8:00 a.m. on 2 September 1918, the troops of the 4th Canadian Division, after breaking the Drocourt-Quéant line, advanced over Mont Dury into furious, accurate, and devastating German fire. They faced this fierce resistance unsupported by an artillery barrage that the Canadian high command suspended to allow Brigadier-General Brutinel’s Independent Force to charge down the Arras-Cambrai road. This force was to capture crossings over the Canal du Nord by a coup de main. Due to the lack of artillery support, the 4th Division could not advance, and it suffered crippling losses and disorganization.
That at least is the account supplied in the respected G.W.L. Nicholson’s 1962 Canadian official history and subsequent historians have treated it as canon. Nicholson based his narrative on comments provided in 1961 by Andrew McNaughton, the Canadian Corps’ Counter-Battery Staff Officer in 1918. The official historian’s narrative was clear, concise, convincing, and wrong.
The purpose of this presentation by Dr Bill Stewart is to advance a different explanation of what happened to the 4th Division, and why the official history garbled this event.