Page 194 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME,
1916
assembly trenches at
2.3
p.m. and must have seen that they were
crowded with troops.
At zero the two right companies, "A" (Lieutenant M. Robinson)
and"B" (LieutenantV.F. S. Hawkins) decided to leave their trenches
and to lie in shell holes; they did so with few casualties. "C"
(Second-Lieutenant
J.
W. Watkins) and "D" (Captain W. D. P.
Mansell) Companies stayed in their trenches till 2.25 p.m., by which
time the enemy machine guns were firing furiously ; they were
caught in this fire the moment they advanced. Hawkins noticed as
soon as he advanced that there was a small isolated trench between
the lines, manned by about twenty Germans with two machine guns,
which had escaped the barrage. This party inflicted very heavy
casualties and held up the advance as it could pour enfilade fire
along the right companies and cause considerable damage to the
left. Small isolated parties of "B" and "C" Companies in the centre,
including one very gallantly led by Second-Lieutenant W. C. Bolton,
managed to get past this trench and pushed about two hundred
yards farther on and dug in at about 3 p.m. Unfortunately, they
were later cut off and either all killed or captured. The situation
at this time was graphically described by Hawkins :-
" 2. 50
p .m. Fifty per cent. of company already down. Whole Brigade
appears to be held up. L./Cpl. Fenton, one of
m y
Lewis gunners, has
got his gun going in a shell hole on my left. Awful din, can hardly hear
It.
Yelled at Sjt. Manin to take the first wave on. He's lying just behind
me. Hodgkinson says h e's dead. Sjt. Mann on my right, of 7 Platoon,
also dead . Most of the men appear to be dead. Shout at the rest and get
up t o take them on. Find myself sitting on the ground facing our own line
with a great hole in m y thigh . . .. H odgkinson also hit in the wrist.
Awful din still. Most of the Company now out. . .. I put
m y
tie round
my leg as a tourniquet. Fortescue about five yards on my right still alive.
. . . Yell at him to come over to me. Show him my leg and tell him to
carry on. He gets into a shell hole to listen while I tell him what to do.
Shot through the heart while I'm talking to him. Addison also wounded and
crawling back to our lines. That's all the officers and most of the N.C.Os.
Can't see anything of Serjeant Bolton and 8 Platoon. . .."
Company Serjeant-Major Laverick took command of Hawkins's
company, but could only collect about twelve men.
Elsewhere Watkins with about fifteen men were doing their best
to hold on to what they had. Second-Lieutenant S. W. Howarth
reported at 5.25 p.m. that he was in a shell hole a hundred yards in
front of the starting-line with four men, a Lewis
gun
and two
rifles. At about the same time, Serjeant W. Russell reported
that he had about forty men, but no N.C.Os., of "D" Company
eighty yards in front of this line; at 6 p.m. he reported that the
Germans seemed to have been reinforced and that he had only
eleven men left.
At 7.30 p.m. the brigade commander ordered a combined raid
to be made that night to expel the enemy from the small trench
which had held up the advance and to clear up the situation. Major
Willis pointed out at 8.50 p.m. that he now had only two officers