Page 176 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME,
1916
147
a coincidence, it was the battalion next
in
numerical order, the IIth,
IITH BN.
which now comes on the scene.
After its capture of "Crosbie Craters" on Vimy Ridge in May,
1916, this battalion had been withdrawn into divisional reserve
at Orlencourt.
It
lost its Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel
J. D. Crosbie, on his promotion to command the 12th Infantry
Brigade, in which the 2nd Battalion was serving. His place was
taken for a short time by Major G. H. Cotterill and then by
Lieutenant-Colonel L. G. Bird. The battalion moved south on
14th June and spent a week training behind the Somme area, paying
particular attention t o physical training and bayonet fighting . .On
25th June it began to move forward by stages, reaching Bouzincourt
on 4th July. Here the majority bivouacked in a field, while a few
lucky ones went into huts. Before everybody had fully settled
down, a heavy thunderstorm broke-the same that made life so
very uncomfortable for the 2nd Battalion, sent up to wait for an
expected German counter-attack which never came-and most of
those who were not under cover were soaked to the skin. On
6th July the battalion marched through Albert to bivouacs in dead
ground behind the original British reserve line to the south of the
Albert-La Boisselle-Pozieres road, arriving at about 4 p.m. All
the ground between the ridge which lay in front and the River Ancre
behind was covered with troops bivouacking and with batteries of
various kinds
in
action, " presenting a scene like Hampstead Heath
on a Bank Holiday." Fortunately, enemy aircraft were not allowed
to see this scene and his artillery refrained from she.lling the area.
The situation on this part of the front at that time
was
that the
attacks on 1st July directed against La Boisselle, Ovillers La
Boisselle and the high ground beyond them had failed except for
a very small lodgement south of La Boisselle. Attacks on the
succeeding days had given the British possyssion of the village of
La Boisselle, but no more. The 74th Infantry Brigade, of which
the nth Battalion formed part, was placed under the orders of the
12th Division to help it in the capture of Ovillers on
7th
July.
The ground was entirely new to the brigade, and only the
hastiest reconnaissance of the newly captured positions in La
Boisselle was possible to Commanding Officers, who did not arrive
there until after dark. The IIth Battalion, except "B" and "D"
Companies, which were kept in brigade reserve in order to carry
rations and ammunition, moved forward at II p.m. on 6th July
to some reserve trenches on the northern edge of the village of
La
Boisselle. The Germans were shelling the old No Man's Land
south-west of the village fairly heavily at the time, and some
casualties were suffered as the troops crossed the former British
front line and entered the ruins of the houses. At 1 a.m. on
7th July the battalion took over a line of trenches from the 2nd
Royal Irish Rifles. Throughout the night the British artillery kept
up a heavy bombardment which reached its greatest intensity
between 7 and 7.30 a.m. At 8 a.m. the 9th Loyal North Lancashire