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200
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
Collins with a platoon of twenty-two carried on, though by now
the Gennan rifle fire was so heavy that movement was very difficult.
Finally Collins, his platoon serjeant and two men got close to the
embankment. At
3.30
a.m. the serjeant was killed and Collins was
wounded. "D" Company, sorely depleted, was strung out over
about two hundred and fifty yards of ground with a firmly held
trench close
in
front of it.
In the meanwhile the rest of the battalion had also been getting
into position for an attack which was to take place at 3.45 a.m. on
3rd May.
"B"
Company, with "C"
in
support, was on the right,
south of the railway; "D," with
"A"
(Second-Lieutenant H.
Cardwell)
in
support, was on the left. The battalion's first objective
was the chemical works and Roeux station; its second, some
trenches about 1,400 yards farther to the north-east. The chemical
works were about five hundred yards from the starting line and
the station about half that distance. At zero the battalion advanced
behind a creeping barrage. Owing to its weakness, the length
of its front and the darkness, "D" Company, north of the railway,
was held up almost at once by the isolated trench and also by
machine-gun fire coming from some houses at a cross-roads three
hundred yards north of the station which had not been dealt with
by the artillery. Heavy losses were inflicted on it and on "A"
Company. An attempt was made to outflank the buildings, but
without success; and the remnants of these companies had to
take up a position in the original front line.
In the meanwhile,
"B"
and
"C"
Companies, south of the railway,
had met with little opposition and succeeded in pushing on under
cover of the barrage. They took the buildings immediately in front
of them and the chemical works. When the barrage moved on after
a short pause, they advanced in accordance with the time-table
which had been laid down and seem to have made considerable
progress towards the second objective. But owing to the darkness
and the height of the railway embankment, they were unaware of
the failure of the companies on the left . Moreover, the brigade next
on the right had failed to capture Roeux Chateau, about five
hundred yards south of the station; and when daylight came its
occupants made their presence felt with rifles and machine guns.
The result was that the Gennans were able to re-establish their line
between the station and the Chateau and that not one man of "B"
and
"c"
Companies came back.
The battalion's losses on this day were 4 officers wounded,
I
officer wounded and missing, and 9 officers missing; and 17 other
ranks killed, 84 wounded and 174 missing.