|The morning of 9 April found the CEP's 2nd Division with its 4th Brigade (Minho Brigade) in the frontline at the North, its 6th Brigade at the Center and its 5th Brigade at the South. In a rear position, the 3rd Brigade (left as a reinforcement by the 1st Division) was in reserve.At about the 4am, the Germans started the Battle of the Lys with a violent bombardment, that lasted about two hours, |
made by 1700 artillery guns concentrated in front of the Portuguese sector. Despite the tremendous disadvantage, the Portuguese artillery immediately responded to the fire with their 80 guns.
At 7am, eight German divisions (35th Infantry, 42nd Infantry, 1st Bavarian Reserve and 8th Bavarian Reserve in the first wave and 8th Infantry, 117th Infantry, 81st Reserve and 10th Ersatz in the second wave) attacked the Portuguese line, with a manpower of around 100,000 men against the 20,000 Portuguese defenders.The 4th Portuguese Brigade (defending the northern sector, with the 8th and 20th infantry battalions in the front line, the 29th in support and the 3rd in reserve) was attacked by the 42nd German Division. The 8th Battalion, reinforced by the 29th, valiantly resisted in the first line to the assault. By the 8am, the left flank of the Portuguese forces started to be enveloped by the Germans, that penetrated by the gaps opened by the collapse and fall back of the 40th British Division's 119th Brigade. Under the German pressure, the Portuguese retreated to Laventie (4th Brigade's HQ), where
they made the last stand, being overran by the 11am.The 35th German Division assaulted the central sector, defended by the 6th Portuguese Brigade, quickly overruning its battalions in the front line (1st and 2nd battalions).The southern sector was assaulted by the 1st and 8th Bavarian Reserve divisions. The 8th Bavarian Reserve overruned the 17th Battalion of the Portuguese 5th Brigade in the front line and the 11th Battalion of the 6th Brigade, which was in support.The 5th Brigade's 10th Battalion in the front line and the 4th in support were able to hold and slow the progression of the 1stBavarian Reserve Division. Finally, the 1st Bavarian Reserve was able to reach the 5th Brigade's HQ in Canse du Raux,overruning it at 1pm, with the brigade commander, Colonel Manuel Martins, being killed in the combat.By the 10:30am, the Portuguese artillery batteries – which never stopped to fire even after the infantry positionsthat defended them have been annihilated – started to be overran by the German forces. Most of them were ableto resist and continue to fire until 11am.The bulk of 2nd Division ceased to exist as a fighting formation, retreating in such disarray that the divisional HQ had to relocate twice on 9 April.
***The remnants of the CEP were withdrawn for rear-area pioneer and security duties, though the 1st Division would later be returned to the front line for a short period. On the 16 June 1918, the 1st Division, complemented with British units, replaced the 14th British Division in the defense of the Liliers-Steenbekque line.
In September 1918, already under the command of General Garcia Rosado, the remnants of the CEP started to be reorganized in order to reenter combat. The objective was to form three brigades, composed of nine infantry battalions, that were to be organized with the remnants of the former CEP's original infantry units. By the end of October, four battalions were already combat capable. These four infantry battalions (I, IV, VIII and IX battalions), together with several artillery, engineers, heavy machine guns and other remaining CEP's units, participated in the Hundred Days Offensive.The last Portuguese combat action in World War I happened on the same day of the armistice. On the 11 November 1918, under the command of Captain Barros Bastos, the 4th Company of the IV Infantry Battalion (former 23rd Battalion of the 1st Division) made the last assault against the Germans on the passage of the Scheldt river, Belgium.