Friday, January 3, 2014

The Attack on Rifle Wood (Part 2)

A newspaper of the day boasted of mounted riders attacking with sabres, putting German batteries out of action. To see the quote, click here.

The reality was far different. There were certainly no "sabres flashing in the sunlight." Lieutenant Sam Williams was one of only four Strathcona officers available, and the only one not a casualty after the battle at Rifle Wood.
Sam Williams and fellow Strath officers
In his meticulous and detailed book, Stand to Your Horses, he recounts how the members of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade who had survived Moreuil Wood took Rifle Wood. They advanced not in the saddle but on foot, under heavy machine gun fire, against a determined enemy supported by artillery. Williams took the precaution of borrowing a bandolier so he would not be so easily spotted as an officer and sniped. During the advance the man to his left went down, as did the man to his right.
The Fort Garry's were ahead of Williams and the Strathconas,and they paid a heavy price.
Even before reaching the wood the senior Strathcona officer in the party had been wounded, leaving Williams in command. Of the two remaining Strath officers, one was killed and the other wounded.
Of the 165 other ranks and four officers of the Strathconas that took part with the Garry's and the Dragoons at Rifle Wood, three officers and 79 men were killed or wounded.
Sam Williams was awarded the Military Cross for his efforts that day.

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