Personal info

  • Name: Coulson Norman MITCHELL
  • D.O.B: 11th Dec, 1889
  • D.O.A: 9th Oct, 1918
  • D.O.D: 17th Nov, 1978
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Captain, 1st Tunnelling Company, 4th Battalion Canadian Engineers, 2nd Division, Canadian Expeditionary Force
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 2
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Canal de L’Escaut, north-east of Cambrai, France 8-9 October 1918

8-9 October 1918

More details about:
The First World War 1918 

Since the end of September 1918 British and Canadian troops had advanced into the salient of territory north of Cambrai formed by the junction of the Sensée Canal and the Scheldt. On the night of 8-9 October the Canadians planned to move south across the Scheldt east of Cambrai, thus threatening to encircle the town. It was vital to prevent the Germans destroying the bridges. Captain C N Mitchell, 4th Battalion Canadian Engineers, was sent to examine the bridges over the two mill-streams and the canal to Escaudoeuvres on the south bank. The bridge over one of the mill-streams had been destroyed but the main canal bridge was undamaged though mined. He succeeded in making it safe while under heavy enemy attack. Cambrai was to fall that day.

Citation

 For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the night of 8th-9th October, 1918, at the Canal de L’Escaut, north-east of Cambrai. He led a small party ahead of the first wave of infantry in order to examine the various bridges on the line of approach and, if possible, to prevent their demolition. On reaching the canal he found the bridge already blown up. Under a heavy barrage he crossed to the next bridge, where he cut a number of “lead” wires. Then, in total darkness, and unaware of the position or strength of the enemy at the bridgehead, he dashed across the main bridge over the canal. This bridge was found to be heavily charged for demolition, and whilst Capt. Mitchell, assisted by his N.C.O., was cutting the wires, the enemy attempted to rush the bridge in order to blow the charges, whereupon he at once dashed to the assistance of his sentry, who had been wounded, killed three of the enemy, captured 12, and maintained the bridgehead until reinforced. Then under heavy fire he continued his task of cutting wires and removing charges, which he well knew might at any moment have been fired by the enemy. It was entirely due to his valour and decisive action that this important bridge across the canal was saved from destruction. 

Eighth Supplement to The London Gazette of 28 January 1919. 31 January 1919, Numb. 31155, pp. 1503-04

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