Page 166 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME,
1916
139
At 8.15 a.m. Lieutenant-Colonel Magniac ordered the Stokes
mortars to open a rapid burst of fire, under cover of which Caseby
was to lead forward some seventy-five men who had been collected,
with a view to gaining a footing in the northern end of the village,
where the ground was higher and promised a good field of fire. The
party dashed forward with great bravery, but were caught by
machine-gun fire as they topped the crest a few yards from the
sunken road and were mown down, only Caseby, Lieutenant
I.
Gorfunkle and about ten men reaching the German wire.
It
was by then evident that the battalion could not succeed in
its task and, though the brigadier issued orders for a further
attack at I2.30 p.m., with an artillery bombardment, he immediately
countermanded them on learning that Lieutenant-Colonel Magniac
had by now only about seventy-five men and one officer in the
sunken road and some fifty in the front line and elsewhere, while
over one hundred wounded lay in the road. He ordered Lieutenant–
Colonel Magniac to reorganize his battalion, make sure of holding
the sunken road and watch his left flank. But before this fresh order
arrived, an attempt was made to comply with the original message,
Captain E. W. Sheppard doing very useful work in trying to collect
unwounded men; and at 12.30 p.m. Major Utterson advanced with
the only men he could collect, some twenty-five in all, with the
intention of attaching to himself the unwounded men in the sunken
road and pushing on to the German lines. Actually, he and four
men alone survived to reach the road.
The afternoon was spent in trying to organize the road for
defence. German shells caused more casualties; and snipers killed
a good many of the wounded as they moved or tried to put on their
field dressings. At 6 p.m. the sunken road was evacuated except
for a party of one officer and twenty-five men detailed to hold it
during the night. After dark all available stretcher-bearers and
other men searched for wounded. Throughout the night wounded
men crawled
in;
and about midnight Second-Lieutenants G. R.
Spencer,
I.
Gorfunkle, G.
R.
Craig and Caseby came in with about
twenty men, having spent the day in a small hollow just short of
the German wire, too weak in numbers to force their way through,
but able to make a useful contribution to the battle by keeping up
a flanking fire towards Hawthorn Redoubt .
. The day had cost the battalion many casualties: 7 officers had
been killed and I4 wounded; of the other ranks, 156 were killed,
298 wounded and
II
missing. The brigadier in his report recorded
his opinion that he did not think that any troops could have taken
the German line as held that day. Indeed, it was not captured
until I3th November, 1916, and then only by two brigades, with the
help of special artillery preparation and a new method of using gas.
Captain C. F. Wells, who, though wounded early in the day, remained
with his men for six hours until compelled by weakness to retire,
received the Military Cross, as did Captain G. P . Nunneley and
Second-Lieutenants W. R. B. Caseby and E. W. Sheppard. Military