Page 212 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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18 5
dug-outs, ruins and other likely places. Appreciating that a British
attack, designed to exploit the results of the Battle. of the Somme,
was to be expected early in the spring, Ludendorff decided to
anticipate it by withdrawing to the Hindenburg Line in March.
On 14th March patrols found the enemy lines near Sailly-Saillisel
empty; next day information was received which indicated that
the Germans were about to retire south of the Somme also. Orders
were therefore given for a general advance on the whole British front
south of Arras to be begun on 17th March. On that day the 16th
1 6 TH B K.
Battalion advanced two thousand yards and took up positions on
the Fouquescourt-Damery road; and the 17th pushed forward to
17TH
RN .
Hallu, sending patrols to Punchy. From then on the four battalions,
sometimes as the leading troops and sometimes in support or reserve,
moved steadily on: the 15th and 16th through Rethonvillers and
15TH AND
Nesle, across the Somme and its canal at Offoy, to the neighbourhood
16THBNS.
of Savy, some five miles west-south-west of St. Quentin; while the
17th, 18th and 20th advanced to Curchy, spent some days on labour
1 7T H ,
duties connected with clearing up the devastated area, and then
18TH AN D
moved forward by stages to near Fresnoy-Ie-Petit, about four miles
~~.
north-west of St. Quentin. In both cases the total distance advanced
had been about sixteen miles, through country deprived of all
shelter and in severe weather.
The Attack at Savy Wood
15th and 16th Battalions
Whatever the Allied commanders may have thought to the
contrary, the German retirement was voluntary and was carned out
at the enemy's pace.
If
he found himself being hustled, he fought a
rearguard action to gain time for the main Hindenburg Line to be
firmly occupied according to plan . For this reason he made a stand
on 31st March on the high ground which lies about four miles west of
St. Quentin between Savy and Holnon. An attack on his position
was ordered for 1st April with the object of preventing
him
from
"recovering his morale, bringing his guns into action and reorganizing
his defences." The 96th Infantry Brigade, which included the I5th
1 5 TH A ND
and 16th Battalions, was to take part
in
it.
~t"H
The only covered position
in
which the brigade could assemble was
1' ..
in
a valley near the chateau of the village of Pommery, which lay
about five thousand yards from the objective- SavyWood and a wood
close to it. From this valley the advance had to be made in full view
of the enemy throughout the whole distance. The 15th (Lieutenant–
Colonel H. G. Harrison) and 16th (Lieutenant-Colonel C. M.
Abercrombie, C.M.G.) Battalions marched to the assembly position
at about 7.30 a.m. on 1st April . The 15th was leading, with the I6th
behind, the two other battalions of the brigade being on the right .
The 15th was to take the south-west corner of Savy Wood and then
swing three companies forward to cover the north-east side of it as far