4-6 December 1917 – The Battle of Cambrai Ends

Construction of the Masnières Newfoundland Memorial in 1925.
Credit: The Rooms. Thomas Blair Browning fonds. Fonds MG 24, Item B 20-132, 1925.

The story of the defence of Masnières and of the part which the Newfoundland Battalion played in it is one which, I trust, will never be forgotten on our side of the Atlantic.” – Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the first Battle of Cambrai (20 November – 6 December 1917). By the time the battle ended, the British had relinquished much of the territorial gains made on 20 November. An attack that had seen church bells rung in England to celebrate its initial success, was now ended with a general withdrawal. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

The exhumation of the bodies of Newfoundlanders Lt. Walter Green and 2nd Lt. James Tobin, whose epitaph we shared on 22 November.
Credit: The Rooms. Gerald Joseph Whitty collection. Collection VA 157, Item VA 157-20, [after 20 Nov. 1917].
The Battle of Cambrai had a significant impact on the Newfoundland Regiment, so much so that they erected one of their six Caribou memorials at Masnières. In total, Newfoundland suffered 352 wounded and 110 dead in the attack, and subsequent defence, during the Cambrai offensive. Two weeks after the battle, King George V granted the prefix title of “Royal” to the Newfoundland Regiment, one of only three times the honour was bestowed while Britain was still at war (Nicholson, The Fighting Newfoundlander, p. 423).