2

Metz-en-Couture Cemetery

Metz-en-Couture Cemetery https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/metz-en-couture-cemetery The New Zealanders battled the Germans back and forth over this ground, with intense fighting. Ngā Tapuwae Trails https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/sites/default/files/stop/media/Western%20Front-Road%20to%20Le%20Quesnoy-Metz-en-Couture-Alexander%20Turnbull%20Library-12-013603-G.jpg

The New Zealanders battled the Germans back and forth over this ground, with intense fighting.

WF_LeQuesnoy_Loc_MetzEnCoutureCemete.mp3
Read this story

Metz-en-Couture Cemetery

You’re standing in Metz-en-Couture Cemetery, and this section is the Commonwealth War Graves Extension to the communal cemetery that’s behind you. The road running past the cemetery runs from Metz-en-Couture down into the dip in front of you and up on to the next ridge which is the Trescault Spur. Beyond that is the village of Gouzeaucourt, and on 9 September 1918, the New Zealand Division had worked its way through Havrincourt Wood - behind you, and faced this ridge line which was held in strength by the Germans.

Over the next three days in September, there was intense fighting all along this ridge. Just beyond Gouzeaucourt Wood was the old British frontline and the New Zealanders had now worked their way back to those trenches again. This time, they’re manned by Germans who are determined to hold them while they repair and occupy the Hindenberg line.

The New Zealand Rifle Brigade attacked the ridge in front of you to take the trenches beyond the woods. They grabbed them, but were counterattacked by the remaining German forces. The Germans used everything they had, attacking with flame-throwers, grenades and giving it all they’ve got. Fighting was intense all along this spurline. The New Zealanders lost, then took the ground gain, finally holding it on 12 September.

It’s here that Sergeant Harry Laurent went forward with a party of 12 men to take the African trench, which was the strongest trench on the crest. By this stage the artillery bombardment had reduced the trench to a cratered maze, and Laurent and his men went right through it, almost reaching the village of Gouzeaucourt itself. Just before the village he came across a defended trench. He realised that he’d gone too far - but he decided to have a go anyway. He and his 12 men attacked and quickly found that it was occupied by a company of Germans - around 120-strong, but he took them on anyway. What followed next was absolute madness.

After a brief fire-fight, followed by hand-to-hand fighting, Laurent and his squad killed 30 of the enemy, captured an officer and took over 100 prisoners. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for this remarkable achievement.

The cost of this fighting can be seen all around you in this cemetery. There are 40 New Zealand graves in total, and almost all of them are from the Rifle Brigade. If you look at their ages, you will see soldiers ranging from 22 to 40. Look at the graves of the NCO and the officer. They are both originals who, came across with the Rifle Brigade in 1915, first to Egypt, and who now finally, died leading their men in this advance on the Hindenburg line.

How to get here

Getting there

Continue along the D5 towards Havrincourt. You will come to a T-junction, turn right towards Trescault onto the D15. At Trescault you’ll come to an intersection, turn right onto the D17 towards Metz-en-Couture.

When you arrive at the crossroads at Metz-en-Couture you will see a signpost to Metz-en-Couture Cemetery. Turn left onto the D7 towards Gouzeaucourt, you will come to the cemetery on your right.

Where to stand

Enter up the steps into the military cemetery, walk up to the memorial cross and turn left walking towards the cemetery wall. Face towards the wall, away from the headstones looking at the wooded area on the skyline.

GPS
50°3'43"N
3°4'34"E
Decimal GPS
50.06197
3.076144
  • German prisoners from the Jaeger Regiment, escorted by New Zealand soldiers, walk past Havrincourt Wood, France. 16 September 1918.
    German prisoners from the Jaeger Regiment, escorted by New Zealand soldiers, walk past Havrincourt Wood, France. 16 September 1918.Credits

    Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-013603-G. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23130859

  • A painting by George Edmund Butler. 'A silhouette of Gouzeaucourt' 1918.
    A painting by George Edmund Butler. 'A silhouette of Gouzeaucourt' 1918.Credits

    Archives New Zealand, Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA Q454, http://warart.archives.govt.nz/node/553

  • A portrait of Sergeant H.J. Laurent, V.C. 1918.
    A portrait of Sergeant H.J. Laurent, V.C. 1918.Credits

    Reproduced courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa under a CC BY-NC-ND licence (GH001056)

  • A sap - running from the Hindenburg Line, west of Trescault. The area was captured in the Battle of Cambrai, 10 December 1917.
    A sap - running from the Hindenburg Line, west of Trescault. The area was captured in the Battle of Cambrai, 10 December 1917.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 7843)

  • British soldiers march past the ruins of the village of Metz-en-Couture, 2 January 1918.
    British soldiers march past the ruins of the village of Metz-en-Couture, 2 January 1918.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 8384)

Stories & Insights

After the Germans were cleared from the walls, Averill was sent forward to investigate.

'Diggers on the Rhine'. New Zealand soldiers on leave in Cologne, Germany. January 1919.

Stationed in Cologne, New Zealand soldiers acted as occupiers, but got on well with the German inhabitants.

This charcoal-wash picture entitled "Stretcher Party" by George Edmund Butler was displayed in 1952 Exhibition of Official War Paintings by New Zealand Artists.

Even with the war nearly over, and the Germans near exhaustion, casualties still mounted.

Leslie Averill (pointing) at the dedication ceremony for the New Zealand memorial at Le Quesnoy, France, 1923.

After the capture of the town, a special bond was formed, which continues to this day.

Like many soldiers during the final weeks, McKenzie had been anticipating Germany’s surrender.

Before Le Quesnoy fell, Nimmo helped mop up German defenders, with a couple of close calls.

Useful resources for those looking for more information.

A selection of First World War vocabulary and common phrases.

Take the next trail

The next Ngā Tapuwae trail is Brockenhurst. Proceed to St Nicholas Church.
Link to the first stop

Decimal GPS:
65.02188017973471
-108.28962187499997
Sequence:
1
Decimal GPS:
61.22573429520632
-101.5576450625
Sequence:
2
Decimal GPS:
68.38910634696182
-74.29393290625
Sequence:
3
Decimal GPS:
75.30629972519277
-50.21918915624997
Sequence:
4
Decimal GPS:
64.15802586841806
-1.7293801250000342
Sequence:
5
Decimal GPS:
70.15281214467677
-0.7782849062500645
Sequence:
6

Stop Images

Sequence:
1
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.11001
3.0678
Sequence:
2
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.06197
3.076144
Sequence:
3
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.10447
3.247571
Sequence:
4
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.24017
3.591846
Sequence:
5
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.24619
3.631948
Sequence:
6
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.24718
3.638219