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Wilfred Owen's Places: The Riqueval Bridge

The Riqueval Bridge

This is a recent photograph of the Riqueval Bridge spanning the St. Quentin Canal north of Bellinglise and which was captured intact on the 29th September 1918. The bridge which has hardly changed from that time, was in 1918 the main artery of supply for the German troops on the western side of the canal. Explosive charges had been placed along it ready to be fired as soon as the British forces arrived on the scene. However, the German sentries and pioneers who had been detailed to detonate the charges were sheltering from the British bombardment when Captain A.H.Charlton and nine of his men from the 1/6th battalion North Staffordshire Regt. arrived at the western end of the bridge.

A race ensued for possession the British attacking from the left hand (western side) of the photograph. Whilst Captain Charlton cut the leads to the explosive charges, the remainder of his party rushed forward, overwhelmed the sentries and pioneers and captured the bridge. The way was now open for the rest of the assault to proceed.

Wilfred Owen and the 2nd Manchesters crossed the canal a little way south of the Riqueval Bridge and by the late evening were in position at Magny la Fosse awaiting instructions for the forthcoming attack on the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme line at Joncourt.

The Riqueval Bridge from above

The above view from the Riqueval bridge was taken 75 years after the address by Brigadier-General Campbell to the men lining the banks of the canal.

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