Page 154 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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TRENCH WARFARE, I9I5-I9I6
I27
THE
2ND/5TH BATTALION'S FIRST VICTORIA CROSS
Presumably as part of the measures taken to confuse the enemy
2ND / 5TH
as to the precise intentions of the Allies on the eve of the Battle of
BN.
the Somme, the 55th Division (Major-General H. S. Jeudwine)
arranged for gas and smoke to be discharged on 28th June, I9I6, on
a two-mile front, followed by raids in six different places by parties
from six units, including the 2nd/5th Battalion (Lieutenant–
Colonel
C.
J. B. Bridgewater, 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons). The
object of the raids was to find out the effects of the gas on the
enemy, take prisoners, bomb dug-outs and capture machine-guns.
A party of the 2nd/5th Battalion, consisting of 4 officers and 56
other ranks, under the command of Captain
L.
H. Bloy, carried out
a fortnight's special training behind the line. Between 24th and
28th June, heavy bombardments of the German trenches were carried
out in order to cut lanes in the wire; the enemy's billets and rear
trenches were also systematically shelled, as was being done further
south in preparation for the Battle of the Somme. After several
delays caused by an unfavourable wind, the gas (euphemistically
called "the accessory" in all orders and reports) was to have been
discharged from 5 p.m. to 5.25 p.m. on 28th June, though actually
it was still pouring out for at least ten minutes longer, as all the
Royal Engineers in charge of it became casualties before they could
turn off the taps of the cylinders. Artillery began a bombardment
of the enemy's front line at 5.5 p.m., lifting to the support lines
at 5.35 p.m., a smoke cloud being developed at the same time. At
5.35 p.m. the raiding parties moved forward. That of the 2nd/5th
Battalion, operating near Blaireville, south of Arras, was split into
three detachments, led by Captain G. C. Hutchinson, Lieutenant
M. H. Young and Second-Lieutenant H. M. Ainscow. Captain
Hutchinson was badly wounded on the way across; but, lying in the
open, he continued to direct the actions of his party and to cheer
them on. All parties suffered casualties in crossing No Man's Land.
The right party bombed its way along the German front-line trench
until it was stopped by a barricade of wood and sandbags; after
bombing two dug-outs it was attacked by enemy bombers who came
across the open, and was ordered to withdraw. Of the centre party,
Ainscow and five men succeeded in working up a German com–
munication trench for about forty yards; they were then likewise
attacked by bombers from the open and ordered to retire, though
not before Ainscow, in trying to establish a block, had shot three
Germans with his revolver but had received a nasty wound and was
taken prisoner. The left party, by now only nine strong, was led with
great dash by Young, who had accounted for a German officer
before he fell mortally wounded. Private J. Hutchinson then led
the way and did excellent work with his bayonet. This party met
a block similar to that which had held up the right party and it was
noticeable that the positions of these two blocks corresponded
exactly with the flanks of the lanes cut in the wire by the artillery.
Nothing daunted, the party climbed over the block and bombed