Page 244 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, 1914-1918
were lightly held and the main resistance centred round concrete
strong points, known to the British Army as "pill-boxes," which
contained machine guns. Riflemen and light machine guns were to
make use of shell-holes between these miniature fortresses in order
to delay the progress of an attack, reserves being kept in hand to
deliver immediate counter-attacks against troops which had
penetrated the forward positions. The bulk of the artillery was
placed farther back than formerly, so as to be less vulnerable to
counter-battery bombardment but well placed to support the
counter-attacks. On 12th July, 1917, the Germans for the first time
used mustard gas, which caused considerable casualties.
The opening of the offensive was finally fixed for 31st July, 1917,
and was preceded by an intense bombardment lasting for ten days
and using four and a quarter million shells of a total value of
£22,000,000.
The weather broke on 25th July.
THE OPENING OF THE BATTLE: LIEUTENANT-COLONEL B. BEST–
DUNKLEY'S VICTORIA CROSS
"PILCKEM"
2nd/5th and 11th Battalions
The Regiment was represented on the opening day of the great
2~D1 5TB
offensive by one battalion only, the 2nd/5th (Lieutenant-Colonel
BN.
B. Best-Dunkley) in the 164th Infantry Brigade of the 55th Division.
It
had been in the Ypres sector since October, 1916, and had, as has
been told, done its share of raids and patrolling.
It
had, however,
enjoyed a spell of rest and training in June and returned to Ypres at
the beginning of July. While in reserve it had its first taste of the
new mustard gas on the 12th, from which it lost 3 officers and II4
other ranks. On 29th July it moved to Cate BeIge near the
Vlamertinghe-Ypres road and at about 8.30 p.m. the following
night moved to its assembly positions in trenches known as
"Congreve Walk" and "Liverpool Trench" close to Wieltje, arriving
without loss at 1.30 a.m. Zero was at 3.50 a.m., when the other two
brigades were to advance abreast and capture the "Blue Line"
(about seven hundred and fifty yards from the original line) and the
"Black Line" (about a mile farther on and running roughly south–
east from St. Julien). At 10.10 a.m. the 164th Brigade was to pass
through the leading brigades and capture part of the "Green Line,"
the German third line system of defence, roughly a mile beyond the
"Black Line." The initial attack went well and by 9 a.m. the whole
of this objective had been taken with the important exceptions of
Spree Farm and Wine House, which lay to the south-east of St. J ulien.
In the meanwhile, the 2nd/5th Battalion had climbed out of its
assembly trenches at 8 a.m. and formed up in front of them in artillery
formation on a two-company front, "C" (Captain
L.
R.
Mordecai)
and "D" (Captain J.
R.
Bodington) Companies in front with "A"
(Captain W.
L.
Briggs) and "B" (Second-Lieutenant T. Dickinson,