In November 1918, the last major engagement involving New Zealand troops took place. The town of Le Quesnoy was under the control of a German garrison. A medieval settlement, it boasted heavy fortifications dating back to the 17th Century and held a strong defensible position, guarding the way across a wide plain to the north-east.
In the early hours of the morning, the New Zealanders began a heavy artillery bombardment, giving several regiments of men the cover they needed to capture the nearby railway. Initial attempts to get close to the town itself proved difficult, as the German machine guns held the attackers at bay, but mortars soon opened fire and the defenders on the walls were forced to withdraw or be killed.
While the two sides exchanged fire, an officer in the New Zealand army named Leslie Averill was searching for a weak spot in the defenses. At last, he located a stretch of wall that appeared to be unmanned and was not under fire by the attacking forces. With the aid of a ladder, he boldly led his squadron over the top. Averill single-handedly held off the German sentries he encountered on the ramparts using only his revolver until the rest of his men could join him.
The garrison surrendered shortly afterward, and Le Quesnoy was liberated. To this day, one of the streets in the town is named after Averill, and a monument to the New Zealanders who fought there can be found near the area of the wall that he captured.
A thrilling re-enactment of the battle can be seen here, spread across two videos. A fictional recreation of the events, it was filmed in 2005 at the Classic Fighters airshow at Omaka Aerodrome, in New Zealand. The YouTube channel that hosts the two parts also contains a number of other informative and entertaining videos, with a focus on military planes and technology.
Click here to check out Part Two.