Page 208 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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the manpower of the country, it became more and more difficult to
preserve the special characteristics of individual battalions. Officers
and men who had been invalided home with wounds or sickness had
to be used as a pool for the reinforcement of any battalion which was
short in strength and they frequently found themselves posted to
units other than their own. Pre-war Regulars were sent to Terri–
torial and New Army battalions and
vice versa.
For instance, on
loth December, 1916, the 19th Battalion, which spent the winter
19TH BN .
in working on trenches near Arras and near Laventie , received a
valued draft of seventy men, most of whom originally belonged t o
the 1st Battalion and had served in Gallipoli. Other battalions were
not so fortunate; and efforts to preserve the "bantam" character
of the 17th, 18th and 20th Battalions (in whose trench relief orders
17 TH ,
in the early days had recurred the phrase "Two sandbags per man
for filling and placing on the fire-step will be provided : parapets
2 0TH NS .
are not to be lowered" ) had resulted in sending to them a great
number of unfit men. The climax was reached when the Army
Commander one day met a very short-sighted man and a man so
deaf as to be a positive danger in the front line where the enemy' s
approach by night was as likely to be heard as seen . Thorough
medical inspections were carried out during the winter months :
the 17th Battalion lost about 170 N.C.Os. and men, the 18th about
190 and the 20th about 135; and orders were received that "the
bantam standard must be disregarded for good and all" when the
consequent incorporation of new drafts took place.
Once again during this winter the IIth Battalion (Lieutenant-
Colonel L. G. Bird, D.S.O.) showed the Germans that they were
not to be trifled with. Early on the morning of 22nd January,
1917, the battalion took over a sector of trenches at St . Yves,
near Ploegsteert. At 1.45 p.m. the enemy opened a heavy bombard–
ment with medium and field guns, heavy, medium and light
trench mortars, and rifle grenades, continuing throughout the
afternoon. A great deal of damage was done to the front line
and several communication trenches, numerous casualties were
caused and several Lewis guns were buried. The bombardment
increased in intensity at about 5 p.m. and shortly afterwards three
parties of Germans advanced. The first, about thirty strong, was
seen in No Man's Land opposite the extreme left of the battalion' s
line, but was quickly dispersed by Lewis-gun and rifle fire. The
second, also about thirty strong, split up into small groups and ,
after making an attempt to advance through a ruin (known as
Broken Tree .House) which was stopped by a Lewis-gun team,
in making a detour and entering the British lines at a
point which had been very badly damaged by trench-mortar bombs.
The Lewis gun was thereupon moved to a shell hole behind the t rench
from which effective fire was brought to bear on the enemy in the
trench. The third German party, slightly stronger than the other two,
also found a severely damaged place at which to enter the front line
and began to work along it in both directions. Second-Lieutenant