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112
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, 1914-1918
party had, therefore, to lie in pools of water till quiet was restored,
when they advanced towards the German trenches on a compass
bearing and, in spite of delays caused by flares, got within twenty
yards of the enemy line without being discovered. But another
furious burst of German fire was heard in the same quarter as before,
whereupon bombs began to be thrown near the party, followed by
machine-gun fire which swept No Man's Land and by artillery fire
on the British trenches which was so severe that Lieutenant-Colonel
Crosbie, who had refrained from calling for retaliation in the hope
that the enemy's fire would die
do~
and the operation would be
able to proceed, finally had to appeal to some six batteries of field
and heavy artillery to suppress the nuisance .
In
the meanwhile,
MacKinnon's party had been compelled to seek cover in the wet
ditch once more, and, the torpedoes getting wet and wire-cutting
being made impossible, this part of the enterprise had to be
abandoned.
"B" party, on the right, under Lieutenant H. H. Fowkes and
Second-Lieutenant A. M. Stephens, fared better. Their wire-cutting
had been previously carried out by artillery, so that when the party
left its trenches at
9.15
p.m. it had a fairly clear road before it; and
when at
9.40
p.m. the heavy German fire which had started the
difficulties of "A" party was heard, Fowkes rushed straight for the
German trenches. He found sunken wire in a trench about four feet
deep, but this was easily crossed by means of traversor mats.
Fowkes, with Corporal A. Grindrod, Lance-Corporal White .and
Private G. Singleton, outstripped the rest of the party and lay on the
top of the German parapet, Fowkes signalling back with an electric
torch to guide Stephens and the others through the gap in the wire.
Fowkes and Stephens then jumped into the enemy trench and led
their parties to their work. Stephens, with Serjeant T. A. O'Hara as
his second-in-command, worked to the right for fifty yards. Finding
the trench blocked with wire, he climbed on to the parados and,
seeing considerable fire coming from a support trench about twenty–
five yards away, led his party. across the open, partly by crawling, to
a position from which they were able to throw some eighty bombs.
There were vocal indications that casualties had been caused, but
further progress was prevented by a tangled mass of wire. Retalia–
tion was erratic but, as enemy bombing began from a reserve trench
and a man was wounded, Stephens deemed it time to withdraw,
which he did without further loss. In the meanwhile, Fowkes had
led his party to the left, towards a spot some twenty yards away
where Germans were heard shouting. Bombs were exchanged and
Singleton was wounded in the face and left eye; he refused all help
and made his own way back towards the British lines until he
collapsed and had to be helped in by Lance-Corporal White. Fowkes's
grenadiers bombed the Germans back and followed them fast; but
the enemy disappeared. The party followed down a communication
trench, but after fifteen yards was held up by a block. Fowkes then
left a blocking party at this point, took the remainder down the fire