Page 199 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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17
2
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
rest of the night was spent in improving the trenches and the means
of advance from them. The night was fine with a sharp frost
which left the ground hard. But by daybreak all was ready. As
the greater part of the objective could not be seen from Hessian
Trench owing to the shape of the ridge, bearings were taken on the
flanks of the advance and the central direction marked with old
rifles stuck in the ground.
Shortly after midday the artillery barrage opened and the
assaulting wave left Hessian Trench and moved up to it, followed
at a distance of thirty yards by the second and third waves. At
fixed intervals the barrage lifted until it finally settled on a line
about two hundred yards beyond Regina Trench. The waves kept
close to it and suffered a number of casualties in consequence.
When it lifted from Regina Trench, the leading wave rushed in. The
majority of the garrison surrendered and seemed to have been taken
more or less by surprise, as many had no equipment on and others
were found in "funk-holes" still covered by groundsheets. But the
enemy showed fight in two parts of the trench. On the extreme right
thirty men under an officer resisted with rifle and bomb. A Lewis
gun was brought into action against them on the parapet; and a
bombing party, led by Second-Lieutenant
R. K.
Beswick with
Corporal
J.
Skelhorn as his leading bayonet man, worked down the
trench. When about half the enemy party had been killed or
wounded, Beswick himself killing four, the rest surrendered and were
sent back to Hessian Trench. Beswick's party then resumed its
advance and joined up with a party of the 8th Norfolk Regiment
which had been co-operating on the right. The other centre of
resistance lay in the left centre of the objective, where a dozen
Germans held out. After a few bombs had killed some of them,
the remainder surrendered. During this fighting a large number of
German stick bombs were found and used against the enemy.
It
was now
12.50
p.m. and the whole objective had been captured
and touch gained with the Norfolks on the right and the 9th Loyal
North Lancashire Regiment on the left, thanks largely to the energy
of Lieutenant-Colonel Bird, under whose supervision Lewis-gun teams
and snipers were then pushed out about fifty to seventy yards in front
of the captured positions, five posts
in
all being established on the
battalion front, one or two of which had to be slightly withdrawn
later as they came under the British barrage. The work ef the
signallers had been excellent. When a man carrying a basket of
pigeons was hit
in
the open, another man recovered it and brought
the birds safely to Regina Trench, whence a message was sent to
divisional headquarters announcing the success of the attack .
Consolidation was begun at once and
Wai
not interfered with by
the enemy until next morning. He then began a constant shelling
which continued until 4 p.m., when the battalion was relieved.
Much damage and some casualties were caused by it. The men were
very short of water and food that day, but nevertheless they
continued to work cheerfully and were rewarded by some hot soup