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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
five hundred yards farther north lay the formidable Zollern Redoubt,
with Zollern Trench running south-west from it; while six hundred
yards beyond that was Stuff Redoubt, with Hessian Trench running
to it from the east and in a curve south-west and west from it.
Diagonally across all these trenches lay Midway Trench, which had
originally been called Mouquet Switch because it joined Mouquet
Farm to Schwaben Redoubt and had evidently been intended as a
second line of defence in case Thiepval fell to attacks delivered
frontally against it.
The line which was taken over by the 9th Battalion and which
was to be its starting-line for the attack on 26th September was
known as Constance Trench; but it was a trench in name only,
for the troops found merely shallow slits, in some cases shell holes,
with wide gaps between them.
On 25th September Lieutenant-Colonel Da Costa gave out
his
plan of attack to his company commanders and the battalion
grenadier officer at a conference, confirming it with written orders
early the following morning, when he also went round the line and
discussed with them in detail their arrangements for the operation.
The battalion, in common with the 8th Northumberland Fusiliers
on the right and another unit on the left, had three objectives:
the first was High Trench, the second Zollern Redoubt and Zollern
Trench, the third Stuff Redoubt and Hessian Trench. The task was
not easy: Mouquet Farm was an awkward obstacle at the start,
and the fact that the objectives did not lie parallel to the starting–
line involved dangerous changes of direction during the advance.
It
was decided not to delay the whole operation until the farm had
been captured, but to keep its occupants down while the assault
passed over the ruins and to use the other troops to .. liquidate"
them later. At 12.35 p.m. a heavy barrage was put down on the
German position for four minutes, after which it crept forward on
a timed programme as a screen in front of the infantry. At
12.39 p.m. Lieutenant
J.
C.
B.
Harris, with his bombers and a weak
platoon of .. W" Company, dashed forward to deal with the farm,
leaving a party in Constance Trench to give support. One party
made for the northern entrance to the cellars which had been
stated by the brigadier to be in a rubble heap. They found the
Germans actually in position on the rubble heap, but successfully
engaged them and undoubtedly helped the right company to get
beyond the farm. Another party saw
DO
Germans. but threw bombs
down what they took to be exits from the cellar, and it was certainly
the case that no Germans emerged from them. After the com–
panies had advanced. Harris's party became involved in a confused
scuffle round the rubble heap. They suffered many casualties,
including Harris himself, who was wounded, and all the senior non–
commissioned officers. The survivors were eventually absorbed by
the IIth Manchester Regiment and the 6th East Yorkshire Regi–
ment which, with the help of a tank, finally induced the garrison of
I
officer and 55 men to surrender at 6.30 p.m.