Page 221 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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back area for rest and training. On 7th April it moved to "Y"
Hutments at Etrun, three miles north-west of Arras in the valley of
the River Scarpe. The next day was spent in the final preparations
for the attack: grenades and stores were issued and the plan
explained. All ranks felt the greatest confidence and cheerfulness.
At night, while the officers were at dinner, the Commanding Officer's
privileged orderly, Private John Carr, came
in
and wished them all
the best of luck, adding that he had a good bandage ready for the
Colonel
in
case he happened to "stop one" next day! Reveille on
9th April was at 3.30 a.m.
An
hour later the battalion moved to its
assembly area on the north-western outskirts of Arras, where it
arrived at 7.25 a.m., to find itself
in
the midst of a number of heavy
batteries, while the hill in front was thick with medium and field
batteries. The shells from the howitzers could be seen going up into
the sky; and the men were further encouraged by the sight of a
great number of Germans passing into a prisoners' cage which was
also near by. They even forgot the rain that came down in a steady
drizzle during the long wait, which was, however, relieved by the
issue of a hot meal at 9.30 a.m. At last, at about 10.20 a.m., the
battalion moved off by platoons at one hundred yards distance. As
it did so the sky cleared and a German aeroplane came over, closely
followed by a number of shells which landed in the field which the
battalion had just left. Through the suburb of St. Nicholas,
along a track to the north of an oil factory, then in artillery
formation past the northern outskirts of St. Laurent Blangy,
the battalion made its way to a railway embankment at a spot
where the railway running north-east from Arras to Lens and Lille
turns from the Scarpe valley towards a spur running north and
south. During this approach march, which ended at 12.50 p.m.,
the battalion lost an officer and 18 other ranks, mostly near St.
Laurent Blangy cemetery.
The 9th Division had attacked north of the River Scarpe with
the object of capturing the "Black," "Blue" and "Brown" lines, the
last of which lay about three hundred yards west of the village of
Athies. The 4th Division was then to pass through to the fourth
German system and the village of Fampoux which lay just beyond
it and to press on to establish itself on the "Green Line," which was
about 1,500 yards east of that place. The 2nd Battalion's part in
this plan was to capture about five hundred yards of the German
fourth system as its first objective, pushing forward posts to a
sunken road east of it and if possible cutting off the enemy's retreat
from Fampoux; and, as its second objective, seize about four
hundred and fifty yards of the "Green Line" which lay in the fork
between two tracks which led north-east from Fampoux, sending
patrols forward to the top of the ridge just beyond so as to get
observation over the country to the east.
It
was to dig
in
on this
second objective, though it was to send strong parties forward to
capture any German artillery there might be in the vicinity and
to keep touch with the enemy.
o