By Bob Grundy and Steve Wall 

[This article first appeared in Stand To! Issue 119 October 2020. Members receive Stand To! three times a year, along with our member magazine Bulletin three times a year]. 

Like everyone else the Camera Returns team were deeply shocked by the sudden death of our friend and mentor Jon Cooksey. We had worked with Jon for over 13 years and 39 Camera Returns articles for Stand To! It was Jon who added the maps and gave our contributions that professional feel and it was Jon always seemed to have the knowledge or knack of spotting something we had missed that could be added to the articles. We would like to dedicate this Camera Returns to Jon and send our sincere condolences to his family and many friends.

Cambrai 1918

Occupied in 1914 the Germans were to hold Cambrai for the next four years, until the 8th and 9th October 1918, when the town was captured by the 57th Division and 3rd Canadian Division.

 Google Street View > Place de la Porte de Paris © Google 2019

Capture of Cambrai by the British 57th Division. A patrol of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in the southern suburbs of Cambrai, 9 October 1918. ©  Q11369

Google Street View © 2019

IWM Q11369  is one of eight photographs taken by Second Lieutenant Thomas Keith Aitken as he followed a patrol, belonging to the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, entering the southern suburbs of Cambrai on the 9th October 1918. Whilst there is no clue to this devastation in Q11369 there are several scenes which show the northern entrance of the Porte de Paris with buildings burning in the foreground. 

In our ‘now’ photograph the end of the building immediately to the right of the gate appears to have been rebuilt without the last window. Perhaps this was as a result of wartime damage. One can can see the rear of a sign strung above the road in Q11369 but unfortunately we can find no photographs to prove what it was for.

We discovered that 2nd Lt Aitken had been standing in the Place de la Porte de Paris when he took this photograph. Once a walled city, Cambrai had six gated entrances, of which the Porte de Paris, seen below, was built during the 14th century to protect the southern entrance. However, the walls restricted development and they were dismantled before the end of the 19th century. 

Above the row of houses can be seen the tower and spire of Cambrai Cathedral, built between 1696 and 1703, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Cambrai. It was damaged during the war along with 1500 buildings, burned when the Germans retreated from the town.

The Imperial War Museum holds film of this destruction which can be viewed on line > Scenes in Cambrai 1918]

It shows the many buildings set on fire and the valiant efforts by soldiers to douse the flames. Whilst there is no clue to this devastation in Q11369 there are several scenes which show the northern entrance of the Porte de Paris with buildings burning in the foreground.

 Google Map and Street View 2020

 The smouldering ruins of a street in Cambrai, three days after the British entry, 10 October 1918. Note German notices indicating an air raid shelter and the direction to the citadel. IWM © Q11804

Taken on 10th October, Q11804 shows the aftermath. Rechtsfhren translates as ‘drive on the right’ and Unterstand as ‘Shelter’.

Avenue de la Victoire, Cambrai © Google Street View August 2019

As part of the 57th Division the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was formed in 1881, initially with two battalions. During the war this was increased to 21 Battalions. The Regiment was renamed the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) in 1921. In 1970 the Regiment was amalgamated with the Lancashire Regiment to create the Queens Lancashire Regiment and again in 2006 to form part of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (Kings, Lancashire and Border). Its Regimental depot since its formation has been at Fulwood, in Preston, although this is scheduled to close in 2027. 

Further photographs from the IWM Collection for 1918 and the Hundreds Days Offensive 

 Capture of Cambrai by the British 57th Division, Soldiers of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on return from a patrol in Cambrai, 9 October 1918. © IWM Q 11366


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