Page 198 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME,
1916
171
17th, and "C" Company remaining in until the attack on 21st
October. On the 17th Second-Lieutenants H. C. Stead and
H. F. Heath took out patrols to examine the state of the
enemy's wire in front of the objective, and obtained useful
information. Stead found himself right through the German wire
without knowing it until bombs were thrown at him. On the
following night similar patrols were taken out by Captain
H.
H.
Fowkes, M.C., and Second-Lieutenant G. A. Potts. Like Stead.
Fowkes penetrated the German wire without realizing it, and actually
got into the enemy's trench before he grasped the situation. He
was then spotted and pelted with bombs. A man with him was
wounded and taken prisoner. He himself. finding that he was not
followed, turned back and searched for the man for about an hour,
being again spotted and bombed, so that he had to abandon
his
attempt.
As we have seen, Thiepval had fallen and the line ran roughly
east and west along the Thiepval-Courcelette ridge. In the right
sector of the trenches, held by the 25th Division, in which the nth
Battalion was, the British had observation over the Ancre Valley
towards Grandcourt. But on the left, from Stuff Redoubt west–
wards, the Germans were on the crest of the ridge and therefore had
the observation. Stuff Redoubt and Hessian Trench had been
captured, but the situation was still unsatisfactory. The operations
of 21st October were therefore designed to take Regina Trench.
which would give the British the desired domination. The starting–
line was to be Hessian Trench, which had been the objective of the
9th Battalion in the Battle of Thiepval Ridge on 26th September.
1916. The distance between Hessian and Regina Trenches varied
from two to five hundred yards. The attack was to have taken place
on 19th October, but, owing to heavy rain throughout the night
before, the trenches and ground surfaces were in such a bad state
that
it
had to be postponed till 21st October.
The nth Battalion's objective was a stretch of Regina Trench
five hundred yards long. As Hessian Trench east of Stuff Redoubt
was very narrow, the battalion was drawn up at Ovillers Post on
the afternoon of 20th October in the order in which it was to attack.
The first wave was to consist of
fiB"
Company (Captain H. H.
Fowkes, M.C.) in line on the right, and "C" Company (Captain
]. C. P . E. Metcalie, M.C.) in line on the left ; the second of "A"
Company (Captain W.
I.
Edwards, M.C.) in line with half the battalion
bombers on each flank; and the third of "D" Company (Captain
R.
F. MacKinnon, M.C.), also in line with two reserve Lewis-gun
teams and two sections of the 74th Brigade Machine Gun Company.
Two trench mortars were allotted the task of dealing with strong
points on the right of the objective.
After organizing itself thus, the battalion, which numbered four
hundred, drew bombs, sandbags and similar stores from "K"
Dump at Ovillers. Thence it made its way to Hessian Trench.
the last party reaching its position about 3 a.m. on the 21st. The