October 1918

Since August 1918 there had been a steady shift in the balance of power on the Western Front, as the Allies began to successfully push forward and put the German Army into a gradual retreat. Towards the end of September 1918, troops from 20th Division made their first contribution when 7th DCLI were involved in the capture of enemy trenches south-west of Acheville. The following week, the beginning of October, the whole 20th Division front moved forward in a steady series of attacks. Captain Pemberton returned to 11th DLI from a Catering course with the rank of Major on 7 October, just as the battalion moved out of the line for three weeks of training near Monchy Breton. As the month went on there was a drip feed of new recruits, both other ranks and officers. The latter included 2/Lts R.B. Marsham, R.E. Forster, R. C. Robinson, Lt C.C. Page, while 2/Lt G. F. Martin rejoined from Pioneer course.

The training included infantry experience in attacking strongpoints, which indicated an expectation that the Pioneers would be playing as much of an attacking role as a supporting one, that is, taking up their alternative role as infantry rather than as Pioneers. There was specialised training regularly for Lewis Gunners, Signallers and Stretcher Bearers. Each Company in turn was given training in attacks, even the transport section getting practice on the use of pontoon bridges.

On 30 October, without much forewarning, the Division was despatched via Fremicourt to Cambrai as part of General Byng’s Third Army. It was an area with which they had been previously familiar a year before and where the Division, including the Pioneers of 11th DLI, had acquitted themselves well in trying circumstances. Things would be very different this time.