he next tune in our continuing series of Tunes of the First World War takes us to the end of the war, during the Hundred Days Offensive. The tune, “The Seven Heroes of Moeuvres” commemorates a small, almost forgotten event in the war that shows the valor of the Highland troops.
The Hundred Days Offensive, as it would come to be known, covers the last 100 days of the First World War. It is the collective name for a series of battles and skirmishes starting on 8 August and ending with the Armistice on 11 November, 1918.
In March, 1918 German launched the Spring Offensive. Germany recognized that their only chance to win was with an overwhelming defeat of the allies before the entry of the United States into the war and the large influx of allied troops that were sent to the western front with the conclusion of the Middle East and Italian Campaigns.
The Germans experienced early success in the Offensive, with the greatest penetration of Allied territory since the beginning of the war. A French counter attack in early August halted the German advance and set the stage for the end of the war.
The British Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force proposed a plan to strike back at the Germans just south of the location of the Battle of the Somme (1916.) This location was chosen because it was where the British and French forces overlapped. It was also hoped that action here would draw German forces away from other strategic targets.
The Offensive started on 8 August, 1918 with the Battle of Amiens. Here, a large allied army (10 divisions supported by more than 500 tanks) achieved total surprise on the Germans. In one day, the Allies broke through the German lines and captured more than 17,000 prisoners.
In the days that followed, a series of Allied victories brought the armies closer to the Hindenburg line, the last line of German defense. The first Battle of the Hindenburg line took place on September 12, 1918, day 36 of the Hundred Day Offensive. It was a small, almost inconsequential battle called the Battle of Havrincourt.
Outside the village of Havrincourt three divisions of the British army attacked a numerically superior German force. Despite the strong German fortifications around the town the British were able to capture the town with few losses. This would be the first time the Hindenburg line would be pierced.
The Allies would continue their advance for the next several days. Fresh divisions were rotated to the front lines to replace worn out troops. On September 17, 1918, day 41 of the Hundred Days Offensive, Corporal David Hunter, of the 1/5 Regiment Highland Light Infantry was sent with 6 other men to take over a machine gun post. The post, in the village of Moeuvres, was near the German lines in an area that had been captured in the Battle of Havrincourt.
That night the Germans launched a counter attack and quickly over ran the village of Moeuvres. The Allies were forced to withdrawal, however Corporal Hunters machine gun post, essentially a deep crater, was overlooked and soon behind the enemy lines. For the next two days Hunters and his men fought off several waves of Germans.
When members of the 5 Regiment returned two days later they found the men alive surrounded by rings of German bodies. Not only did they withstand the German attacks they also came under Allied artillery fire when the village was retaken. They came to be known as the Seven Heroes of Moeuvres.
Corporal David Hunter was promoted to Sergeant and awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military award in the British Army, in October of 1918. The six other men with him were awarded the Military Medal, awarded for exemplary gallantry during active operations on land.
The tune “The Seven Heroes of Moeuvres” was composed by T. Menzies Rodger. It is a 2/4 march first published in book 8 of Logan’s Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music. The book was published around 1925 and was a War Memorial edition containing tunes written during or just after the war. One other tune, “Sheffield Pipe Band” was composed by Rodger and also published in book 8 of Logan’s Tutor.