Page 174 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME,
1916
145
spent in consolidating it, Shelter Trench (which had been badly
damaged by very accurate shooting by the enemy's 5.9 inch guns
and was thickly strewn with German dead) being prepared as a defen–
sive flank facing north-west and a post established in Quadrangle
Trench near its junction with Shelter Alley. Thacker reconnoitred
Quadrangle Trench as far as the outskirts of Contalmaison and
established a block in it. He was twice wounded before he would go
to the Regimental Aid Post. Lieutenant H. B. Pegrum came up
from battle reserve and took command of "C" Company.
On 6th July more posts were established. At
1
p.m. the Germans
bombarded the front line (which had also suffered from short
shooting by our own artillery) and attempted a bombing raid on
the junction of Shelter Alley and Quadrangle Trench.
It
was
unsuccessful, but Lieutenant W. S. Orpen was killed. During the
afternoon Lieutenant V. H. Clay led a party to reconnoitre Pearl
Alley. He met several enemy bombers, shot two of them with his
revolver, drove off the remainder with bombs and established a
block from which he repulsed several bombing counter-attacks.
The block was, however, driven in about
10
p.m. The enemy
seemed to suspect that an attack was impending as a patrol of the
9th Northumberland Fusiliers met a German raiding party on its
way to attack the British line.
Nor was the enemy wrong in his surmise. Orders were issued for
an attack to be delivered at
2
a.m. on
7th
July. As its first objective,
the battalion was to seize Quadrangle Support Trench, and establish
a defensive flank along Pearl Alley which ran northward about five
hundred yards east of Contalmaison. The battalion's second
objective was to capture (with the aid of four machine guns) Acid
Drop Copse, which lay in the angle made by Quadrangle Support
Trench and Pearl Alley, and to convert it into a strong advanced
post capable of all-round defence but especially of firing towards
Mametz Wood. The operation would have had the effect of driving
a wedge between Mametz Wood and Contalmaison and of affording
a good base from which to turn the flank of either.
Quadrangle Support Trench lay over the crest of a
hill
and was
invisible until troops had nearly reached it. Our artillery could
therefore get no observation on to it and fired short of it during the
preliminary bombardment. Its occupants were consequently unhurt.
The Germans were apparently about to launch a counter-attack,
and their trenches were strongly held.
The result was that, when the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers and
loth Lancashire Fusiliers left their positions at
2
a.m. and approached
Quadrangle Support Trench, they were received with heavy rifle
and machine-gun fire and driven back, though the two left companies
under Lieutenant H.
B.
Pegrurn managed to establish themselves
in Pearl Alley and to hold on until daybreak, though they could
make no contact with any troops on their right, so that their right
flank was completely "in the air." Two small parties, numbering
thirty in all, under Lieutenant D. Gale and Company Serjeant-
L