Monument erected by the 48th Highlanders’ 15th Battalion CEF Memorial Project to commemorate the action that won the battle honour “Canal du Nord.” The memorial is located near Marquion, France
In March 1918 the German High Command commenced a series of large scale offensives along the Western Front. Although German forces achieved initial significant gains, the Allies eventually contained the breakthroughs. In July the French counter-attacked and on 8th August 1918 the British struck back on the Somme.
After winning a key victory at Amiens under the British 4th Army, the Canadian Corps joined the 1st Army in the Arras sector. The Canadian objective was Cambrai. On 26th August the Canadian Corps began its advance from Arras pursuing the retiring Germans through the “Hindenburg Line” and the “Drocourt-Quéant Switch”.
The Canadians were now confronted by the imposing obstacle of the Canal du Nord. In the north, above Ecluse No 3 at Sains lès Marquion, the canal had been finished and it was filled with water. From there, to the south, as far as Inchy the foundations were only half completed.
Sir Arthur Currie, commanding the Canadian Corps ordered the 1st Canadian Division to cross the canal at Sains lès Marquion.For the assault there were three objectives marked on the maps. The Red Line marked the first Objective, the Green Line, the second and finally the Blue Line. The date for the attack was set for the 27th September 1918.
The 15th Battalion, commanded by Major John Girvan, began its advance towards the canal at 0845 hours. German machine gunfire from Keith Wood had prevented the Canadian Engineers from building more than one bridge. Under constant fire, the Highlanders dashed across the canal and then the Agache River by making a plank
bridge. Major Girvan captured one of the machine guns himself, and the Companies spread out, taking different routes northwards between the canal and the main road.
No 3 Company advanced just to the west of Keith Wood while No 2 Company remained closer to the canal and entered Marquion on its western side near the bridge destroyed by the Germans.
A bitter struggle began for the streets with the German defenders fighting for every house. Major Girvan was once again in action helping to capture the Chapel. By 1330 hours, although Marquion had been taken, the attack was now behind schedule and the Highlanders were forced to continue on to Sauchy without artillery support. With the applied fire of their own machine guns, a further thirty minutes of fighting was sufficient to see them reach their final objective – the Blue Line.
During the day the 15th Battalion captured 300 prisoners and Major Girvan won his second DSO for outstanding leadership, But the cost had been 153 casualties. The Fallen lie in Sains les Marquion British, Quarry and Duisans British, Bucquoy British and Chapel Corner Cemeteries.