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186
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
as a halt on the St. Quentin-Peronne railway. The 16th was to send
two companies through the 15th to capture the north end of Savy
Wood and three platoons with the 15th as moppers-up, the remainder
of the battalion being in reserve . At the end of the operation, the
two units were to establish a long line of strong points covering the
north-east and north of Savy Wood.
The assaulting troops moved from the assembly position
at
about
I
p .m. On coming over the crest of the hill which protected
the valley, they immediately came under heavy shrapnel fire which
caused some casualties. The weather was shocking, snow, hail, rain
and a gale of wind continuing throughout the day. Through it, they
marched down the slopes leading to the village of Savy. As they
debouched from Savy they deployed with great steadiness, although
both flanks were exposed to machine-gun fire. They therefore shook
out into extended order, only to come under further machine-gun
fire from the front. But they pushed on under cover of the barrage,
which lifted at 3.30 p.m. and enabled them to reach Savy Wood.
The wood was found to be unoccupied but elaborately prepared as
an obstacle by fallen trees and brushwood. Both battalions pro–
ceeded to carry out their tasks, in the main with success, though not
without incident or difficulty, the latter caused largely by the
thickness of the wood and its obstructions. The 16th Battalion
early met with opposition as its men worked along the north-west
edge of the wood, for about sixty of the enemy appeared on some
high ground on the left and opened fire, only to be driven off with
Lewis-gun fire. Many acts of gallantry were performed during this
stage. In the 15th Battalion, Lieutenant A. W. Cantwell, though
normally in command of the headquarter bombers, took charge of a
company when its commander was wounded and led it to its
objective. Corporal F. W. Strath showed good initiative and great
bravery in assuming command of his platoon when its leader became
a casualty and similarly taking it forward to its goal, where he set
to work on the task of consolidation. Private E. Royles took charge of
a Lewis-gun section after its corporal had beenwounded; and, though
the rest of the team were soon after knocked out and he was under
heavy machine-gun fire, he managed to get the gun into action.
Later he went back for some ammunition and continued to fire
his
gun in spite of the fact that he was by then very exhausted. Some–
what similar was the action of Private
L.
Brabant who, when his
section commander was killed, inspired the section by his example
and coolness and led them forward to their position. But more
important was the action of Serjeant
J.
P. G. Smith in promptly
taking command of his company when its commander was wounded
and bringing them up to the objective, whereupon he busied himself
with supervising the work of consolidation until reinforcements
arrived. Nor was the 16th Battalion lacking in gallant individuals.
When his platoon commander, a serjeant, was wounded, Corporal
A. Heap promptly assumed command and set a fine example of
coolness and courage. Lance-Corporal G. Mather had the distinction