Adam Murdie Hogg - Part 5
Back to War
Just before Adam rejoined the battalion, on 21 March 1918 the Germans had launched their massive spring offensive, known as the Kaiserschlacht, their desperate bid to win the war before American troops arrived in force. This massive attack pushed back British forces by up to 20 miles, but did not break through, and by 5 April, the day before Adam rejoined the battalion, the attacks petered out.
For about the next four months up until the August attacks that led to the last '100 days' of the war and final victory, the 85th were not engaged in major battles. However, they were not idle. There was always work to be done in digging trenches and dugouts, and putting out barbed wire entanglements in front of the trenches.
British forces on the Western Front were encouraged to always adopt an offensive attitude and to constantly harass the enemy by shelling or sniping. Trench raids were another way to harass the enemy. Typically 40 men, sometimes more, sometimes less, would attack a small length of the enemy trench with a view to capture or kill as many enemy as possible, destroy enemy equipment, gather information and then get back to their own lines as quickly as possible. The Canadians were particularly adept and keen on trench raids, but they were dangerous and the raiding party would often incur casualties. We don't know if Adam took part in any trench raids, but he would certainly have known about them.
During this relatively quiet time, between the all out German spring offensives and the Allied final assaults the opportunity was taken to make new defensive systems in the back areas, and to practise and train for the open warfare that was about to commence. Also during this period the Battalion was issued with kilts for the first time!
Adam proudly wearing his kilt.
On 8 August British forces launched a massive attack which came to be known as the Battle of Amiens, the beginning of the end of the war. It was a massive all arms attack with the infantry, tanks, artillery and air forces all combining and closely co-operating to form an irresistible force. Adam's Battalion took up positions at Demuin, south east of Amiens and during the first day fought their way forward about eleven miles. Having lost many officers and men, including the CO and second in command, the Battalion was relieved on 12 August and placed in reserve at Caix Wood. The 85th had fought bravely over the four days, relieving the threat to Amiens, and in total, British forces captured 21,250 prisoners and 400 guns.
The Canadians now moved north to prepare for their next attack. On 30 August the Battalion received orders for an attack on the Hindenburg Line, a formidable defensive system consisting of three lines of trenches and a support trench, all protected by heavy belts of barbed wire and well sited machine guns. They were ordered to attack the Drocourt-Queant Line (part of the Hindenburg Line), and to capture Mount Dury just south of Dury. The attack commenced at 4.20am on Monday 2 September, with the first 300 yards of the charge costing the lives of 23 men of the 85th Battalion. Their objective had been reached by 6.15am and the seemingly impregnable Hindenburg Line had been breached.
Promotion and Cambrai
The next day, 3 September, Adam was promoted Lance Corporal and on 4 September the Battalion moved into reserve at Cherisy where training continued and new drafts were absorbed to take the place of those who had fallen. Part of the training was undertaken at the Gas School at Wailly where their gas masks were tested for leaks. During this period of training Adam passed a Lewis Gun training course, finishing on 26 September. His tutor wrote "Grade B. Capable and reliable fellow who would make a good No 1. An enthusiastic L.G. man."
Adam's Lewis Gun course confirmation form - click image to enlarge
The 85th now prepared itself for the next battles, to capture Bourlon and Cambrai. The jumping off positions were just west of Inchy, and after marching through heavy rain, by 3a.m. on 27 September the Battalion was in place ready for Zero Hour. The creeping barrage commenced at 5.40a.m. and at 5.55 the 85th went 'over the top'. The morning was fine but a thick mist reduced visibility to 300 yards. The Canal du Nord was dry at the point of crossing, but the enemy had shelled this point with gas shells, which necessitated the wearing of 'small box respirators'. After crossing the canal the Battalion started taking casualties due to machine gun fire from Bourlon village and wood. Forward companies pushed forward so fast that they got ahead of their own barrage and had to take cover until the barrage had moved on. Three tanks assisting the Battalion were extremely useful, and by 9.45a.m. the 85th Battalion objective, Bourlon, had been captured. Canadian Engineers then went through the town to render harmless booby traps and mines. Enemy shelling continued throughout the day and counter attacks were beaten off.
Trench Map of Bourlon and Cambrai - Click image to enlarge
The next morning Saturday 28th, the Battalion, with a strength of 18 officers and 523 other ranks was ready for the next phase of the battle. At about 11a.m. the Battalion dug in close to the Raillencourt-Marquion road and was able to observe the fight for Cambrai. That night the men slept as best they could under improvised cover. The next morning they moved to attack the enemy at Sancourt, north of Cambrai, and suffered many casualties. By the end of the battle, on 1 October the Battalion was reduced from a strength of 25 officers and 605 other ranks, to 12 officers and 224 other ranks, a loss of 63% of its fighting force.
Withdrawn from the line, the Battalion received drafts of men, re-equipped and continued training ready for the next battle, even as newspapers were reporting that negotiations for an armistice were taking place, and the end of the war was in sight.
Whilst at the village of Sauchy-Cauchy, on 17 October 1918, the Battalion was inspected by the Prince of Wales, known as Captain Windsor, a Staff Captain in the Canadian Corps.
Over the next few days the Battalion closely followed the retreating German Army and in so doing encountered many civilians trying to salvage what they could from the deliberate destruction of their homes by the retreating German Army. In the towns and villages, after four years of occupation, the men received rapturous welcomes from the newly liberated French civilians.
As they neared Valenciennes, opposition stiffened and temporary pontoon bridges had to be positioned to replace bridges over canals that had been blown up by the Germans. By 1 November Valenciennes had been liberated, but the men had to be careful to avoid the many booby traps left for them. Although the war would end in ten days time, the relentless fighting continued until the bitter end.
Fosse 2 and Quievrechain
On 6 November at 5.30am, about three miles east of Valenciennes, the battalion launched an attack to capture Fosse No. 2 and the town of Quievrechain, with the river Aunelle and the Franco-Belgian border as the objective. This was to be the last battle for the 85th Battalion and casualties were heavy. Adam's 'A' Company had as its first objective, Fosse No.2. Two Platoons were sent to the right and two Platoons to the left of the Fosse, thus enveloping it. Having captured the Fosse, at 6.30am they proceeded towards the town of Quievrechain and by 7.58am 'A' Company had consolidated the right flank.
Trench Map of Quievrechain - Click image to enlarge
The following is a direct quote from the 85th Battalion history:
Lance Corporal Adam M. Hogg was in charge of a Lewis gun and Section and by determined and skilful handling of his gun caused heavy casualties to the enemy. On one occasion when several men of his platoon were in danger of being cut off by a party of the enemy with two machine guns this N.C.O. quickly out-flanked the enemy party and attacked them with such vigor that they abandoned their guns and were badly cut up in their retreat. Later while advancing with great determination against another hostile machine gun he was severely wounded.
Adam's wound was caused by a machine gun bullet entering his back and although he was evacuated to the 23rd Casualty Clearing Station at Brebieres and given the best medical attention available at the time, he died seven days later, on 13 November 1918, two days after the armistice. His nurse wrote from the 23rd Casualty Clearing Station that Adam was: "wounded in the groin with bladder and bowel involved".
Adam's original grave marker at plot E.4. at Brebières British Cemetery.
Adam's Headstone in the Brebières British Cemetery and some views of the Cemetery
Images courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2012
On 11 December 1918 Adam's Commanding Officer wrote to his parents in Elnora, Alberta:
Dear Mr. Hogg
Long before this letter reaches you, you will have been officially notified of the sad news that your son - 737966 (sic) L/Corporal A.M. Hogg - has died of wounds received in action.
Your son had established a long and most creditable record of services in France, of which you may well be proud. He came to the Battalion on the 17th March, 1917, and rendered excellent service through the summer campaign which terminated for this Unit at the famous battle of Passchendaele, where your son was wounded and was consequently invalided to England for a period of convalescence and rest. He came back to the Battalion again on the 6th April, 1918. For his good work in the operations at Amiens and on the Scarpe, he was made a Lance Corporal and sent on a Lewis Gun course in September.
It was on the last day of the last operation in which the Battalion was engaged that he was fatally wounded by a machine gun bullet in the back, just as the Battalion was completing its task of driving the Hun back across the Franco-Belgian border, which paved the way for the final attack around Mons whereby the Canadian Corps finished its work in the world war. He was hit on the morning of 6th November during the advance with his Company ("A" Company).
It is especially sad to think that some of these boys, who have shared the pleasures and hardships with the Battalion for so long, should have been destined to leave us when our work was so near completion; and I want you to know that we miss him as well as you. His wound was immediately dressed by a Stretcher Bearer and he was hurried to the nearest Field Ambulance from whence he was taken to No.23 Casualty Clearing Station, where everything possible in the way of modern medical appliances and the most careful attendance was done for him, but his wound proved too serious and the poor chap passed away there at 2.30am on the 13th. You will please believe our sympathy for you to be very genuine and very sincere.
JL Ralston Lt.-Colonel
Commanding 85th Canadian Infantry Battalion.
(Nova Scotia Highlanders)
PS. May I add that since this letter was dictated we have received notice that the recommendation which was sent in that your son be
awarded given the military medal for Gallantry in the last operation has been approved and the decoration has been awarded. This is a (illegible) satisfaction to you - I know how proud your son would have been to wear it and I want to congratulate you on this official recognition of his worth - I only wish he could have known that this honour had come to him - The decoration will be forwarded to you and I know you will have solemn pride in receiving it.
Adam's Military Medal.
Adam would also have received the War medal and the Victory medal.
Adam's death certificate. Click Image to enlarge
On 4 January 1919 a friend wrote to Adam's mother from Clive House Hospital, Welshpool, North Wales:
Dear Mrs Hogg
I hardly know how to write to you concerning the loss of your son. Only that I knew him very well. In fact he was like a brother to me after the loss of my own brother in May this spring. Hogg (as we always called him) and I were always together both out and in the line for we were scouts together in the same section. Hogg knew my brother (Roy) perhaps he wrote to you about him for they were great friends. I shall never forget the morning I was wounded Sept 2nd 1918. We were going over the top through a very heavy barrage, your son was at my side when I went down. He did everything he could for me and as we shook hands and parted for he had to go on. He said cheer up old pal you will pull through yet. He also promised to write home a message to my mother in case I didn't for I was quite badly wounded through the chest.
I didn't hear of the death of my dear friend until a few weeks ago. It was like loosing another brother to me.
Hogg was a son any mother would be proud of with his straight forward good natured manly ways and a great favorite among the boys.
You have my heart felt sympathy for the loss of your dear son who gave his life for a noble cause. Perhaps your parting will not be for long for your son was a true believer in God and lived a stainless life while I knew him.
Your Son's Comrade in Arms
Arnold Guy McLellan
The next of kin of all who were killed received from the British Government a Bronze Memorial Plaque
sometimes known as the 'Soldier's Penny'.
Adam's Memorial plaque.
In addition to the memorial plaque, the Canadian Government gave to mothers and wives a silver memorial cross. Adam's cross cannot be located, and it is believed that it probably remained with his mother at the time of her funeral.
Canadian silver memorial cross.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2011
Had he survived the war, Adam would no doubt have married his beloved Elizabeth, but of course it was not to be. In 1928, ten years after the war had ended, Elizabeth married Adam's brother James and they went on to have twin girls, Jay and Mary. They both live in Elnora and Jay lives in the original homestead.
This article was written by Clive Gilbert © 2011
With grateful thanks to Adam's niece Jay Richardson (one of the 'twins')
and Great niece in-law Karen Richardson in Canada.
Unless otherwise stated all images courtesy of Adam's family
'The Eighty-Fifth in France and Flanders' by Lt. Col. Joseph Hayes, DSO, CAMC.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
85th Battalion Canadian Infantry, War diary.
'Buried Treasures' by Jim Hogg