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The Final Advance In Picardy - Battle Of The Selle - 17/10/1918
Following the Allied breakthrough of the Hindenburg Line, German forces retreated across the natural defence line of the River Selle to hastily-prepared, but well-defended positions.

On Thursday 17th October, Fourth Army attacked along a ten mile front to the south of Le Cateau; despite a creeping barrage and under cover of a heavy mist, the British advance met determined enemy resistance. Alerted to a forthcoming attack by the increase in British activity, the Germans had reinforced their positions where a river crossing was most likely.

To the right, the attack met the least resistance and advanced to take Le Cateau by the end of the day. Over the following two days the main attack force of First and Third Armies, assisted by the arrival of the French troops originally promised for 17th October, forced the enemy back towards the Sambre-Oise Canal.

A night attack by Third and First Armies took high ground to the east of the River Selle and having allowed time for the supporting heavy artillery to catch up, all three British Armies were able to continue their advance, taking nearly 20,000 prisoners of war in one week. When Third Army began its attack on 20th October, 42nd (East Lancashire) Division moved out from the bridgehead they had established at Briastre to attack the objectives assigned to IV Corps.

The advance was to be carried out in three phases, 126th Infantry Brigade leading the first phase to capture the railway cutting from Solesmes, then 127th Infantry Brigade moving through to advance on to Marou and finally 125th Infantry Brigade pushing beyond Marou. The advance encountered stiff resistance along the whole route, that meeting the 5th Manchester Regiment on the right being particularly severe.

Marou was captured by mid-afternoon and a and after a counter-attack broken-up by the artillery, the advance continued to the outskirts of Romeries, a gain of around 2 miles. A further assault on 23rd October pushed the advance to the outskirts of the Foret de Mormal (Forest of Mormal) where they were relieved by the New Zealand Division.

Withdrawn into IV Corps Reserve, the Division halted around Beauvois until 3rd November when the advance was resumed. On 10th November the Division captured Hautmont and Fort Hautmont and at 11.00am on 11th November, when the Armistice came into effect, 42nd Division was halted around Hautmont, with its most advanced troops on the Maubeuge to Avesnes road.

Geoff P



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