Page 162 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME,
I9I6
I35
it met with a little more success than the other two. Like them, it
had spent
all
its time in France in the sectors near Authuille. From
24th to 27th June it was billeted at Warloy Baillon preparing for
the big attack; on the 27th it moved to shelter trenches at the
southern edge of Aveluy Wood; and on the evening of the 28th it
moved back to Senlis until the 30th, when it moved forward again to
dug-outs at Black Horse Bridge, on the outskirts of Authuille,
which
it
reached at about 2 a.m. on Ist July.
The right assaulting brigade of the 32nd Division was the 97th,
its task being the capture of the German first-line system at Leipzig
Redoubt, at the toe of the enemy position on Thiepval ridge and
about six hundred yards north of Authuille Wood. Its attack was
based on a timed programme whereby three of its battalions were
to capture the front line and at 8.30 a.m. the fourth, IIth Border
Regiment, was to pass through to the German trenches immediately
behind. The 14th Infantry Brigade, to which the 19th Lancashire
Fusiliers belonged, was then to pass through and capturethe German
intermediate line, about a mile farther back, from Mouquet Farm
northwards. This brigade was organized in three columns, the left
of which included the I9th Battalion and the Ist Dorsetshire
Regiment, and was under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel
Graham.
At 7.IO a.m. the I9th Battalion moved off behind the Dorsetshire
in column of fours, with a hundred yards between platoons, and
marched south along the bank of the River Ancre for a thousand
yards, turning then east into Authuille Wood and moving slowly
along one of the tracks leading through it. The 97th Brigade
attacked at 7.30 a.m. and, though a lodgement was made in a vital
part of Leipzig Redoubt, the bulk of the attacking troops were held
up. The IIth Border, advancing at II.30 a.m. according to the
timed programme and unaware of this, were caught by heavy
machine-gun fire, most of which came from a German strong point
on the south side of the valley which flanks the Thiepval ritlge.
This unit was practically wiped out. At 8-45 a.m., again according
to programme, the 1st Dorsetshire emerged from Authuille Wood,
having received no counter-orders or any information that all was
not going well in front. They too were struck by the same fire
which had destroyed the Border, and only about two officers and
sixty men of the leading companies managed to reach Leipzig
Redoubt, the remaining companies getting into such shelter as they
coultl in the wood or in the British front-line trench.
The 19th Battalion, following the 1st Dorsetshire, arrived at the
edge of Authuille Wood. Having had no news of what had happened
in front, Lieutenant-Colonel Graham halted the battalion and
viewed the ground which was being swept by shell and machine-gun
fire . He decided to change his plan and to continue by platoon
rushes. "A" Company (Lieutenant H. W. Huxley) were sent on by
this method but seemed to melt away. The Commanding Officer
therefore arranged for a smoke screen to be put down by Stokes