Courtrai

First World War

Date

14-19 October 1918

Geographical parameters

Dottignies – Comines – Messines: thence along the ridge to Passchendaele: thence a line to Moorslede-Lendeslede

Context

A battle honour formally entitled the “Battle of Courtrai” and itself forming part of “The Final Advance”.Footnote 1

Description

By mid-October 1918 trench warfare was a memory as the Allied armies continuously pushed the Germans back. British forces advancing east from Ypres had reached Courtrai where their advance was temporarily stopped. The British outflanked the city by taking Roubaix and the Germans then evacuated the area without further fighting. North of Courtrai the British Second Army, now under the operational command of King Albert I of Belgium, had paused in its advance in order to rest, re-inforce and re-organize. On 14 October the advance was resumed, encountering stubborn resistance in the form of machine gun emplacements, fortified houses and pillboxes. Taking out these positions required skilled teamwork, enterprise and not a little courage. During the advance on 14 October the Newfoundland Regiment found itself held up by a stream too wide to jump and covered by artillery fire. The location of the enemy battery was determined and a small band of soldiers found a way to outflank the position. The group's Lewis gun section assaulted the battery position which was protected by machine gun emplacements. Just short of the battery the Lewis Gun ran out of ammunition. One member of the team, 18-year old Private Ricketts, volunteered to return for additional ammunition. Braving the enemy's intense fire he succeeded to both going back 100 metres and returning to the position with the precious ammunition pans. The assault then resumed and the position was captured yielding a total of four field guns, five machine guns and eight prisoners. Private Thomas Ricketts was awarded a Victoria Cross.

Awarded to:

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