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New Zealand and Le Quesnoy

Page 5 – Battle accounts, Private Nimmo

James Nimmo describes the Le Quesnoy attack

Captain James Matheson Nimmo was born on 22 September 1897. When he enlisted in 1917, he omitted his first Christian name for obvious reasons. He left New Zealand with the 37th Reinforcements in May 1918 and, after further training in England, he joined the 3rd Battalion, 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade on 27 September 1918. He took part in the final operations and the occupation of Cologne and was repatriated in 1919. He lived in Ngapara until shortly before his death in 1979.

This is the scheme of the operations as far as I can see it. We were after an old French fortified town completely surrounded by water and having only two entrances. One mob of NZ'ers went round one side, and another went round the other. In doing so they were to leave a triangle 1500 yards long untouched. This triangle was our real job. Up to where this piece started we were only in support. Before going through this piece we had a spell and it was there that I got time to read my letters. I'll make my comments on them again. The whole of the 1500 yards proved to be a series of orchards. Fences through which holes had to be chopped were very numerous. We had no trouble until the finish and we struck a machine gun there. Had just about got into position to bomb them out when another mob of our boys came round from the other side of the town to connect up with us. They were right on Jerrie before he saw them and he surrendered immediately. That was our job finished and we moved back and took up a position outside one of the entrances. The position at this stage was that we had surrounded the town, gone miles past it and were still advancing. Jerrie was still in the town. He hadn't time to be anywhere else, as I suppose he was surrounded 2 hours after we started.

When we got to the gate, a Corp, another chap and myself were sent into the village to try & find out where a patrol which had gone in earlier in the day was. How I am alive to write this today I don't know, or at the very least I should have been in Blighty. We got into the town and were simply overwhelmed by Civies. Laughing, crying, and just about mad with joy. It was ten minutes before we could get away from them. Then two of us searched everywhere near the gate but found no Jerries. We then found out by the aid of a word or two of French & by signs that one of our boys was down the street wounded. The Civies reckoned there were no Jerries round that part so we decided to go and get him. We expected to find out something about the patrol from him.

A civie took the lead, and we started off getting a pancake each on the way. Had just got a mouthful when the old boy opened out from 50 yards down the street. The civie got one through the hand. One of my mates got one through the leg and one in the arm. There was no shelter and there was nothing for us to do but run for it. A good hundred yards. Could see the bullets hitting the cobbles in front of us, and were getting pieces of brick from behind, but neither of us got hit. Half way along I saw a doorway and decided on a spell. I bounced into it in such a hurry that I bounced out again like a ball. I took it gently next attempt and had a few minutes in which to get my wind. Then it was a case of go again, and he opened as soon as I appeared and helped me along the final stretch. One poor little dog ran after us barking like blazes and had his leg blown clean off. Lucky! Yes the Corp & I were very lucky.

We got our mate out later on, & they also brought out the chap we had gone down to get. The civies had treated them very well. I can tell you I wasn't sorry to get out of the village again though.

That night the whole garrison surrendered. I don't know how many there were, but I think it was about 2000. They went out the gate. That was the hardest part of the lot. What a crowd of watches a chap would have salvaged if only they had come our way.

A few souvenirs would have come In very handy especially as it appears there won't be any more prisoners. Peace looks very close now. The official news today is that the German fleet is out. Mutinied, & the German Peace Delegates meet Foch today, so it's quite on the cards that the war will be finished by Xmas.

Letter written on 7 November 1918. From 'Somewhere in France: World War 1 Letters', compiled by Marian Young (2001).

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Battle accounts, Private Nimmo, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated