The War Diary of Lieutenant William L Hayes M C


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1918 Oct —  Dec

Canal Du Nord, IWUY

 and a Military Cross

WLH was awarded a Military Cross in the action at IWUY

MC citation: Hayes, William Lucas, Lt., 28 Bn, Inf Edinburgh Gazette notice 12/3/19 Citation published in London Gazette 1/10/19 and Edinburgh Gazette 8/10/19 Noted in 28th Bn WD 19.12.18

At Iwuy on 11 October 1918 during an attack his company came under particularly severe fire and all the officers were killed or wounded. Although himself wounded, he took command, and when the advance was held up by an enemy machine-gun post in a house, he crept forward alone and bombed the house, rushing the post, and himself killing the entire garrison. He displayed splendid courage, and his example inspired all his men.

1-2 Oct. attempted movement towards enemy lines at Blecourt and Cuvillers. Under heavy fire and many casualties. Enemy aircraft very active over lines.

3- 5 Oct Bn in line SW of Blecourt

IWUY was a small town on the junction of a major canal and river; also a junction of several normal and light railways, all heavily defended. The Battle here is a little known but vital part of the war.

‘1918 Battle of Iwuy is one of the most interesting and original of the essays in More Fighting for Canada, Five Battles - 1760-1944, Graves, Donald (Ed), by virtue of the fact that almost no one has ever heard of the action. Combining elements of all-arms fighting, the last Canadian cavalry charge, and the only engagement of Canadian troops with German tanks during the First World War, this is a singularly well-chosen battle study.’

10.10.18 orders for Bn to ‘cross the River Erclin and occupy the village of IWUY and the high ground to the East of same. ' The attack by the 28th Bn was successful and for some time only little resistance was encountered. Attack held up at 10.30 on a line SW of IWUY which was strongly held.

11.10.18 'At 9.00 hours the attack was launched under a stiff barrage’ from the South Eastern end of the village. ‘With splendid dash the Companies advanced to the attack and the hardest fight in the history of the Battalion ensued. Immediately at zero the enemy barrage opened with much severity on the attacking troops and the village was contested inch by inch. At 11.40 hours information was received that the Battalion had mopped up the entire town...The fighting was particularly severe and it was not until the 27th and 31st Battalions coming up, that the strain upon the exhausted Officers and Men of the 28th Battalion was relieved.' Then information received that the enemy was counter attacking and that the Bridge Head had to be protected. So the Battalion reformed and took up a line along the railway in preparation for a charge. 'This attack carried out by exhausted troops will rank highly in the deeds of the Battalion…’  'There were 143 casualties that day among Other Ranks 1 officer killed and three wounded.’

11 Oct 18 Wounded (remaining at duty) Lieut W L Hayes (gun shot wound in upper arm)

Canadians enter Cambrai

Where was WLH at the Armistice 11.11.18? Although being granted 14 days leave on 4 November, it appears that he did not embark on this immediately. In fact all men were ordered back to their units on or before the 11th. If he had begun his leave he was recalled. There is an oblique reference against this leave on his personal papers bearing the date 19.11.18. As he returned to his unit on 2/3 December, this matches perfectly with an absence of 14 days.

It is likely therefore that he was with his unit and D Coy at the historic moment and began his leave a week later.

November 1918, 28th Bn War Diary

11 Nov 1918 Frameries ‘...information was received that Armistice had come into effect and that all Details would rejoin Units.’

12 Nov 1918 Havre ‘The Civil population did all that was possible in caring for the comfort of the troops’ ‘Killed in action… 1 OR’

19.11.18 Havre ‘Administrative Instructions for march to RHINE issued to all concerned.’

(21 Nov Haine St Paul ‘Battalion received by village population and band playing the National Anthem’)

(25.11.18 Wanfercee Boulet ‘Soon after arrival Hun officer and 23 Other Ranks found on guard over dump of material. Guard placed on the material and the enemy guard disarmed, pending orders from Brigade. Later it was found that the dump was out of the Brigade Area and the arms were returned to the enemy guard.’)

3 Dec 18 Bovigny ‘From Leave… Lieut W L Hayes’

12 Oct reorganisation: Lieut W L Hayes posted to D Coy.

Fighting continued.

18 Oct ‘Bridge thrown across CANAL at PONT RADE...One Platoon of D Company under Lieut Hayes will stand by at PONT RADE Bridge Head in support.’

19 Oct 28 Bn WD 'Leave has been increased and the Battalion is now sending 6 men per day on leave.'

23 Oct Bn proceeded to Villers au Terthe 28th Bn WD 'Troops will be again warned of the consequences entailed by looting. In addition it will be brought to the notice of the troops that churches and places of worship though deserted by the Civilian Population should be treated with proper respect. In the new area it will be observed that the enemy has committed acts of sacrilege in the Parish Church - all Troops should therefore be scrupulously careful to avoid offending the civilian population in this regard.'  'The town has not been touched much by shell fire, but was found to be in a most filthy condition. Battalion put to work to clean up the area and the streets.' 'Village has apparently been systematically looted and left in a most unclean condition. 2 cooking ovens were found in the Church.'

See Nicholson, p 459

Canadian Engineers at Canal du Nord