Page 136 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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TRENCH WARFARE,
1915-1916
10
9
THE
INITIATION OF
THE NEW
BATIALIONS
The next few months were, for the 2nd Battalion, a time of
welcome relaxation in the routine of trench warfare; for the newly–
formed units they were a time of instruction and becoming used to
utterly strange conditions of which none had dreamt a year before.
But, for all, the circumstances were very much the same: in the
line, uncomfortable trenches, nightly patrols, insufficient ammuni–
tion and stores, insufficient and often obsolete artillery, and every
week some casualties; out of the line, training, occasional shelling
and very occasionally one or two bombs from enemy aircraft. Even
so, there were several incidents which should be recorded.
The distinction of earning the first decorations awarded to a
10TH BN .
war-time battalion of the Regiment in France fell to Company
Serjeant-Major ]. H. Rogers and Serjeant E. Baker, of the loth
Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel T. S. H. Wade). On the night of
IIth/12th August, 1915, Major Hugh Speke (who had been curate
of St. Michael's, Bromley-by-Bow, vicar of Curry Rivel, Somerset,
and a missionary in Southern Alberta and Athabasca before the
war) went with Baker on patrol towards the German lines near
Vierstraat, a few miles south-west of Ypres. The patrol stayed out
about an hour and a half and obtained some very useful information.
But on its way back Speke was killed by several shots through the
head and his body became entangled in the barbed wire. On their
own initiative, Rogers and Baker sent for wire-cutters, waiting for
them half an hour under fire, released his body and carried it back
across two lines of barbed wire, still under considerable fire. For
this gallant proof of their devotion to a much-loved officer, Rogers
and Baker were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. During
the whole of this period the casualties were unexpectedly high both
in the front line and in the reserve trenches.
An
unfortunate
incident which befell "A" Company on 5th September created
something of a sensation at the time. A party of another regiment
marching along a skyline drew the enemy's artillery fire on to a barn
where two platoons were quartered, with the result that 14 men
were killed, 6 mortally wounded and 27 wounded by a single shell
which fell among them.
Though no battalion of the Regiment fought
in
the Battle of
10TH BN .
Loos on 25th September, 1915, the loth Battalion took an indirect
part in it. Early that morning a demonstration took place on a
wide front in the Ypres area with the intention of playing upon the
fears of the enemy and, by leading him to expect an attack there
as well as at Loos, of inducing him not to move his reserves in the
latter direction, at any rate for some hours. Trusses of straw were
placed in front of the front-line trenches and, at the time fixed,
were lit, the smoke being intended to imitate the clouds of gas which
were being released at Loos, while a heavy artillery and small-arms
fire was kept up in bursts as if an assault was impending. Un–
fortunately, as at Loos itself, the wind developed a perverse sense
of humour and, veering just after the straw had caught well alight,