Norman Joseph Pilon 
July 21, 1886 - November 6, 1918

Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry
War Diary
September 1918
Appendix "C"

(National Archives of Canada microfilm roll T-10704)

Operations of the P.P.C.L.I. from September 27th until October 1st 1918, Inclusive

Reference Maps:
Sheets  51A S.E.
51A S.W.
57C N.E.
57B N.W.

1. Preliminary Including September 27th, 1918.

The Battalion moved from the DAINVILLE Area, where it had been resting, on the night of September 26th, 1918, embussing at DAINVILLE for the move to the Assembly Position in the forward area, the Transport moving independently.

Each Company had five Officers with seven Officers attached to Battalion Headquarters. Lieut-Col. C.J.R. Stewart D.S.O., being in Command with Company Commanders as follows:

No.1 Coy. - Capt. E. MacG. MacBrayne
No.2 Coy. - Capt. G.W. Guieu M.C.
No.3 Coy. - Capt. J.N. Edgar
No.4 Coy. - Capt. F.L. Shouldice

Company strengths averaged about 115 with sixty other ranks attached to Battalion HQrs.

Debussing at BULLECOURT in the early hours of the morning of September 27th, the Battalion marched to the preliminary Assembly Area, slightly to the North of QUEANT, where they remained until 8:20 a.m. They again moved forward through INCHY and crossed the Canal, taking up a position near QUARRY WOOD, where they remained until six o'clock in the evening. From this point they worked their way forward, until at about 3:30 on the morning of September 28th, the Battalion was assembled in the rear of the 85th Battalion of the 4th Division.

2. Narrative Covering September 28th, 29th, 30th and October 1st.
September 28th:
The R.C.R. having attacked the MARCOING System in F.5 and 11, and being temporarily checked, the P.P.C.L.I. was diverted slightly to the left and ordered to assist in clearing up the situation of the left of the Divisional Boundary, about the villages of RAILLENCOURT and SAILLY.

This situation offered no great difficulty and was seen put right by Nos.1 and 4 Coys assisting the Right Battalion of the 4th Division.

During the morning, while the R.C.R. was engaging the MARCOING System, the Commanding Officer Lieut-Col. C.J.T. Stewart D.S.O. was killed and Capt. G.W. Guieu M.C., in Command of No.2 Coy and Lieut. A.P. Linnell were wounded. Lieut. A.J. Knowling was also killed. Capt. J.N. Edgar of No.3 Coy, took command of the Battalion.

During the afternoon, preparations were made for an assault by the P.P.C.L.I. on the Left __ 49th Battalion on the Right co-operating with the Battalion of the 4th Division on the Left of the Brigade, for an attack across the CAMBRAI-DOUAI Road, the Railway Cutting and Embankment, towards the Final Objective of the Division.

The attack was launched at 7:00 p.m. under a most effective barrage with Nos.2 and 3 Coys in the Front line, the attack being immediately successful as far as the heavy wire on the South-West side of the CAMBRAI-DOUAI Road. This wire, which was an unforeseen obstacle, proved insurmountable, and eventually orders were given that the Battalion should withdraw to the Railway running through X.30 slightly to the North-East of SAILLY. This withdrawl was carried out during the night of September 28th to 29th.

In this attack Lieuts. Triggs, Robins and Ramsay were killed and Lieuts. Robb, Workman and Leptsen wounded, the latter dying during the day of the 29th.

September 29th:
The Battalion spent the day in the Area of X.30, no attempt being made to push forward.

Capt. G.W. Little assumed Command on the afternoon of September 29th with instructions to at once prepare for an attack on the Railway Embankment in S.20 and the village of TILLOY in S.21 and 27.

September 30th:
Orders were issued in the early morning of September 30th for the Battalion to move to an Assembly Area in S.19 and prepare to jump off at 6:00 a.m. The plan was that the P.P.C.L.I. having crossed the Railway, should swing to the East and South-East and make good the Railway Cutting, the village of TILLOY as far forward as the main TILLOY-BLECOURT Road, from the fork roads in S.21.b. to the Railway Embankment, to gain the high ground in S.22 and to push forward patrols with a view of siezing the bridgehead-PONT D'AVE, being decided upon.

At 6:00 a.m. the attack was made with Nos.1, 2 and 4 Coys front line and No.3 Coy in support. Rapid progress was made as far as the road running from S.21.b.60.80 to S.27.a.40.60 From this point the advance was still continued on the right by No.4 Coy, who reached their Objective at the juncture of the main TILLOY-BLECOURT Road and the Embankment. Nos.1 and 2 Coys on the Left and No.3 Coy in Support were suffering very heavy casualties from Machine Gun fire from the village and from the high ground to the North, and we were eventually forced to withdraw to the Railway. By this time most of the Officers and N.C.O.s had been knocked out and the Coys were badly disorganized. Capt. J.N. Edgar and Lieut. A.J. Kelly reorganized as far as possible, again pushed forward, this time being successful in investing the greater part of the village. Attempts were twice made to push forward through the village as far as the left portion of our Objective. These were unsuccessful in spite of material assistance supplied by one Coy of the 49th Battalion (E.R.), owing to the continued violent Machine Gun fire from the North.

By evening a line of posts had been established running from the juncture of the railway and the TILLOY-BLECOURT Road straight North about 500 yards along the road, thence bending North-West and West, so as to include TILLOY Farm within our lines.

This line was maintained during the night.

On this day, Capt. MACBRAYNE, Lieuts. Jones, Lee, Mackay an Paton were wounded and Lieut. Millyard missing.

October 1st:
On the morning of October 1st, Units of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade jumped off from a line slightly within our system of posts, our personnel being withdrawn behind the jumping-off position two hours before zero. After the attack had gone forward the morning was spent in re-organization and searching for casualties until about 2:00 p.m. when the Battalion was withdrawn to bivouacs west and North-West of BOURLON WOOD.
3. Remarks

Barrage work was most effective in all cases. Barrage did not prove satisfactory in the case of the wire in front of the CAMBRAI-DOUAI Road, nor the Machine Gun Nests in and to the North of TILLOY. The concentration for several minutes such as was employed on the Railway on the morning of September 30th appears to be absolutely necessary in such a case.


Tanks did not figure largely but the three in use on the morning of September 30th proved of little value as they went out of commission early in the attack. The Machine Gun nests which held up our Left would undoubtedly have been effectively dealt with had they remained in commission.

Machine Guns:

Various numbers of heavy machine guns were assigned to the Battalion during the different phases of the attack. Although quite willing to assist the Infantry, it seems that the Infantry have not sufficient understanding of the use that can be made of this weapon, and as the commanders of these machine gun groups usually depend on the Infantry Commander to take the initiative in offensive operations, many good opportunities for their employment were lost.

Lewis Guns:

Lewis Guns proved very effective but in themselves did not give a superiority of fire over a nest of heavy enemy machine guns.

Stokes Mortars:

Stokes Mortars did a large amount of damage on the railway on the morning of September 30th where they placed a heavy barrage. This weapon seems to be very accurate and effective in dealing with such places as sunken roads and cuttings.

Rifle and Bayonet:

The great reliance is placed on the fire of the Lewis Gun Sections. Men are not sufficiently trained to understand the value of covering fire, and as a Platoon Commander in the stress of the attack is unable to co-ordinate the work of all his sections, Lewis Guns are usually found to be acting on their own. The fact that great rifle power is in their own hands is overlooked - sections look to the Lewis Gun to supply the whole of it.

4. Captures etc.
(a) Large numbers of enemy were captured, but no attempt was made to escort them. They were immediately passed through our lines, becoming available for stretcher-bearing duty, or passing straight through to the rear. On this account no numbers are available nor the identifications.

(b) Guns, howitzers and machine guns, where encountered, were immediately over-run, and no notes of their numbers or positions were taken. A very large number of Machine Guns were over-run in this way in the railway and in TILLOY, but no attempt was made to record their number.

5. Casualties
Officers: 6 killed, 9 wounded, 1 Wounded at duty. 1 Missing Believed Killed.

Other ranks: Approximately 375 killed, wounded and missing. The proportions of these being not now available but the proportion of wounded is believed to be high.

6. Lessons Learned from Operations:
(a) It is not sufficient to rely alone on aerial photographs for the locating of wire, etc. Personal reconnaissance seems to be absolutely necessary. An extremely formidable belt of wire on the CAMBRAI-DOUAI Road appeared on none of the maps in use, although it had apparently been in position for a considerable length of time. It is recognized, however, that a personal reconnaissance is not now always possible.

(b) The closest possible liaison between Battalions is of great value. Battalion Hqrs of all Units were close together, and necessary information from participating Units was readily at hand. In this way, communications with Report Centres and Rear Hqrs are much more easily kept up.

(c) Orders written or verbal to Units should be as simple as possible. Headquarters of Coys and even Battalions are usually established where lights are not available and great difficulty is met with in the study of maps, orders, etc.

3rd October, 1918 George W. Little, Captain
Commanding P.P.C.L.I