St Quentin on Fire During German Retreat,
8.15pm 21 April 1917
Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)
A sketch view across a flat landscape with a tree in the centre foreground, looking towards the buildings of Saint-Quentin ablaze after being set on fire by retreating German forces. A large cloud of smoke drifts skywards.
The Battalion moved up to Holnon, and relieved the 16th Northumberland Fusiliers (32nd Division.) in the support line, left sub-section; A Company in close support to the 2/5th Glosters.
From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)
It was hard to believe that any lofty eminence which overlooked our lines was not in constant use by the enemy for observation. The iron towers at Loos, the spire of Calonne, even the crazy relics of the church at Puisieux at different times contributed this uneasy feeling to the denizens of our trenches. But surely never was the sense of being spied on more justified than near St. Quentin, whose tall cathedral raised itself higher than all the roofs of the town and higher, too, than the ridges surrounding it for many miles.
On April 20, 1917, a German observer from the cathedral belfry could have seen the divisional relief which brought the 61st Division back to the line. All day small parties were moving in the forward zone, while further back larger ones crossed and re-crossed the ridge ‘twixt Holnon and Fayet, and in rear again, along the road through Savy to Germaine, columns of Infantry in fours followed by horses, vehicles, and smoking cooker chimneys, were passing one another, some coming, others going back. Those coming made a left-handed turn at Savy, hugged the line of single railway as far as a crucifix at a cross-roads, and were then lost to distinct view amid the abject ruins of Holnon. Those going were the 32nd Division, whose march carried them out of the cathedral’s eye or observation by German balloons.
Among the new arrivals were the 2/4th Oxfords, of whom all companies, followed until the end by cookers and Lewis-gun limbers, disposed themselves in or around Fayet, on whose north side stood a stone monument commemorative of local fighting in the Franco-Prussian War. Near to this monument was found a deep sunken road, broken with two huge craters. It was A Company’s position as support to the Gloucesters, who went into the line.
By G. K. Rose.