Page 215 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

188
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
with converging attacks. The original plan provided for the capture
of the high ground' north and south of the village by the 18th and
20th Battalions, but it was never carried out owing to rapid changes
in the situation of which advantage was skilfully taken by com–
manders on the spot.
At 6 a.m. on 14th April two officers' patrols of the 17th Battalion
were sent forward to reconnoitre Gricourt and occupy it if it proved
to be only lightly held. A German post in Fresnoy cemetery, which
lies about half-way between Fresnoy and Gricourt, opposed the left
patrol, and sharp fighting took place in which four Germans were
killed. The right patrol, from "X" Company, after establishing a
post, reached the outskirts of Gricourt, which it found strongly held,
and had to fall back, leaving one man in the enemy's hands, though
he was released during the advance later in the day. The Germans
in the cemetery tried to cut off this patrol and its fate was for some
time in doubt; but at about 11.30 a.m. Second-Lieutenant G.
MacKereth crawled about a hundred yards across .the open and
succeeded in reaching the patrol, reorganizing it and getting it safely
back. At about 12 noon a message was received from brigade
headquarters that the enemy had been seen massing south-west of
Gricourt and that a counter-attack against the junction of the 32nd
and 35th Divisions was to be expected. Major F.
J.
F. Crook, D.S.O.,
was sent to the front line with orders to hold it at all costs and to
cover the flank of the 32nd Division, using two companies of the
23rd Manchester Regiment in addition to the companies of the 17th
Lancashire
Fusiliers
if
necessary. By I.5 p.m. the attack of the 3znd
Division had begun to develop and the Germans made several
attempts to reinforce their threatened front; but each time they
were frustrated by two Lewis guns, posted at the south-east corner
of Fresnoy, which fired at a range of six hundred yards. A quarter
of an hour later the Germans, caught by the 32nd Division's barrage,
tried to retire on to Gricourt. Again the two Lewis guns opened fire
and stopped them. three men being killed and the rest surrendering
to the 32nd Division.
At 2.30 p.m. a large patrol, supported by two Stokes mortars,
was pushed out towards the strong point in the cemetery, the garrison
of which, after a hurricane bombardment from the mortars and
finding its retreat threatened by the post established in the morning,
surrendered to "Z" Company to the number of a warrant officer and
fifty men. "Z" Company was then ordered to establish a position
east of the cemetery. which it did by 2.45 p.m. Major Crook there–
upon on
his
own initiative instructed "X" and "Z" Companies to
push on towards Gricourt at 3.30 p.m.• "W" and
"Y"
replacing them
in the line at Fresnoy. A footing was soon obtained on the outskirts
of Gricourt and the flanks were manoeuvred with a view to
enveloping the village. The left soon came under heavy enfilade fire
from the direction of Pontruet and could advance no farther than
the Gricourt- Pontruet road. where it established itself about
seventy yards north of the former. In the meanwhile the right