Page 135 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

serious disaster would have occurred if Spooner, although already
wounded, had not picked them up and thrown them into the
canal. He also remained at duty in command of the battalion until
relieved about 3 p.m. by Major P.
Foster of the Warwickshire .
Shortly before 3 p.m. the enemy developed an intense shrapnel
bombardment of our lines, and repeatedly attempted attacks on the
centre of the battalion's front, but was beaten back each time. One
sap was occupied by the Germans as well as by the Lancashire
Fusiliers. Again and again during the battalion's four days in the
line, the enemy sought to bomb our troops out of it. Again and again
they were thrown back with the aid of the newly issued Mills bomb,
in whose use no instruction had been given, so that as many
casualties were caused by its faulty handling as by the enemy.
F. W. Penny, Serjeant A. Weatherall and Private
Walker, under the leadership of Lieutenant G. C. Martin, par–
ticularly distinguished themselves by their gallantry and by their
persistence in organizing fresh parties of bombers as new detach–
ments, with more bombs, were sent up to replace casualties. Walker
himself repulsed many attacks and held out till he was wounded.
Penny, Weatherall and Walker received the Distinguished Conduct
Medal for their exceptionally fine work; Walker was also awarded
the French Croix de Guerre.
There were further indications of an impending general attack
at 6 p.m. on 7th July, but it did not materialize though shelling
continued intermittently throughout the evening and night-and
the ghastly fight went on in the sap.
At 9.0 a.m. on 8th July the enemy were seen massing near the
centre and at
a .m . they were observed advancing to the right of
the battalion. In both cases their attack was stopped by artillery
fire. Early in the afternoon a heavy bombardment came down,
causing heavy casualties to the battalion and severe damage to its
trenches and forcing battalion headquarters to move to the west
side of the canal. But when the enemy tried to attack, the defenders
were still ready for them and drove them back yet once again with
artillery, rifle and machine-gun fire.
The casualties had, however, been so heavy that at 9.30 p.m. that
night "B" and "D" Companies had to be relieved by two companies
of the 1st Hampshire Regiment and moved back to a farm near
Elverdinghe, where they undertook guards on the roads and liaison
with the French. On the following night "A" and
Companies and
the Hampshire companies were relieved by a Territorial battalion of
the York and Lancaster Regiment. The battalion marched to
Proven, where the troops already billeted there spontaneously
turned out and paid it the unique compliment of presenting arms
to it in recognition of its fine defence.