Liberating Le Quesnoy in 1918

It is the hundred year anniversary of New Zealand troops liberating the French town of Le Quesnoy in the closing stages of World War 1.

NZ History: New Zealand and Le Quesnoy

Just a week before the end of the First World War in November 1918, the New Zealand Division captured the French town of Le Quesnoy. It was the New Zealanders’ last major action in the war. To this day, the town of Le Quesnoy continues to mark the important role that New Zealand played in its history. Streets are named after New Zealand places, there is a New Zealand memorial and a primary school bears the name of a New Zealand soldier. Visiting New Zealanders are sure to receive a warm welcome from the locals.

The Germans held Le Quesnoy for almost the entire war, from August 1914 through to its dramatic liberation on 4 November 1918. The New Zealanders scaled a ladder set against the ancient walls of the town and took the remaining Germans as prisoners.

Capture of the walls of Le Quesnoy by George Edmund Butler, 1920.

The liberation of Le Quesnoy was just one of the many campaigns that New Zealanders fought on the Western Front, the line that stretched across northern France and Belgium. The majority of New Zealanders killed in the First World War lost their lives in the battles that raged there from 1916 to 1918. More than 12,000 New Zealanders died on the Western Front in two and a half years fighting; this was more than in the entire Second World War.

New Zealand casualties in and around Le Quesnoy: 122 killed, 375 wounded.

German casualties: 43 killed, 255 wounded (2000+ captured)

French civilian casualties: 0

This was the last major action for new Zealand in World War 1.

Many New Zealanders today will have some link via relatives to the liberation of Le Quesnoy.

My grandfather was there in a supporting role, serving as an engineer. Like many soldiers he kept a diary. This is whay he wrote about the liberating of le Quesnoy:

New Zealand casualties in World War 1: 16,697 killed, 41,000+ wounded (a 58% casualty rate).

About a thousand died men over the next five years due to injuries sustained during the war.


  1. Ray

     /  November 4, 2018

    Nice PG
    Just tracked this down this morning, I knew Chris died near the end of the War but not this close.
    He was my mother’s cousin.

    Wounded today, 100 years ago, during the the attack on
    Le Questnoy, the last action of WW1

    HURST, Christopher John; 22803 Sergeant, 2nd Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment; Died of wounds 6.11.1918 aged 23 years; Son of Christopher H and Sarah E Hurst, Te Kiri, Taranaki; Caudry British Cemetery .

    Needless to say this branch of the family has almost died out, unlike the rest of us.

  2. Blazer

     /  November 4, 2018

    such brave men…the end of compulsory military conscription was a huge step forward for the man in the street’.

    • Corky

       /  November 4, 2018

      Notice how the French show their appreciation. Not so in New Zealand..not in the same way.

    • Pink David

       /  November 4, 2018

      “the end of compulsory military conscription was a huge step forward for the man in the street’.”

      No conscription means wars are more likely to be fought, will last longer, and will be less successful.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  November 5, 2018

        Corky’s remark is pointless. There has never been the equivalent of WWI in NZ. The people of Le Quesnoy had been occupied by the German army for four years. This is likely to have meant that they were half starved with the Germans taking the best of everything. It was a military occupation.

        How can anyone know what would have happened had this been a town here ?

        As far as I know, men are still liable to be called up in times of war.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  November 5, 2018

      Yes, a book of memoirs of WWI Kiwi ANZACs said that saluting wasn’t their favourite thing or greatest skill.

      The US officers who expected the Kiwis to salute them were, to say the least, unpopular. I suspect that they were ‘saluted’ when they’d passed by….