Page 165 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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itself. Between this and the British front line lay a sunken road.
between ten and fifteen feet deep and running north and south,
shallow at its northern end but overhung and lined with trees at
the southern. Tunnels had been dug from the British front line
to this natural trench, and one of these was opened up on the night
before the attack, whereupon at 3.30 a.m. on 1st July "B" and "D"
Companies, with the Brigade Bombing Company avd eight Stokes
mortars, occupied the sunken road. Battalion headquarters moved
thither at 7 a.m., at which time the Germans began shelling the
road with field guns, having apparently noticed the communication
trench made by the tunnels. Hot breakfasts were issued to all
ranks; and several photographs were taken in the sunken road by
Mr. Malins, the official photographer. Officers were dressed like
the men. The latter each carried 120 rounds of ammunition, two
days' rations and two bombs; the leading companies carried
fifty shovels and ten picks each; each platoon carried two trench
bridges; and men of the rear companies carried engineer stores.
Few could get much sleep before the attack owing to the incessant
roar of the bombardment.
At 7.20 a.m. the mine below Hawthorn Redoubt exploded, and
B " and" D " Companies lined up for the attack while the 86th
Stokes Mortar Battery opened a hurricane bombardment. At
7.30 a.m. the leading sections of those companies moved forward and
A" Company began to leave the front line to support them.
The first two lines of " B " and " D " Companies had not moved
many yards when enemy machine guns opened fire. Their third
and fourth lines were almost annihilated as they left the sunken road,
and only a few wounded, including the two company commanders
(Captains G. P. Nunneley and
F. Wells), succeeded
back into it. "A" Company also suffered heavily in its advance
to the sunken road, but Captain E. G. Matthey managed to reach
its northern end with a few men and to push on a short way before
he fell mortally wounded.
Company was caught by machine–
gun fire as it left the front line, Captain E. M. Dawson and Company
Serjeant-Major Nelson being hit as they stood up to give the
order to advance. One platoon was blocked by wounded in the
communication trench leading to the sunken road. But Second–
Lieutenant W. R. B. Caseby and about sixty men reached the
latter, though they were so encumbered with coils of wire and tools
that many of them rolled down its steep banks and half an hour's
delay resulted before the remnants of
could be reorganized for a further advance.
Serjeant Caulfield, a Lewis gunner, spotted a German machine
gun firing from behind some debris in the village and pointed
out to Lieutenant-Colonel Magniac, who ordered two Lewis guns
to engage it. But no sooner had they opened fire than they were
shelled by field guns, one gun being hit-a tribute to the quickness
and accuracy of the German observation. The machine gun, however,
did not again fire from the same position.