Page 245 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THIRD BATTLE OF YPRE&-BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
217
M.C.) in support. At
8.30
a.m. the advance began at the rate of a
hundred yards in four minutes. Many German prisoners were met ,
but progress was otherwise without incident until the Hanebeek
stream was reached, when the battalion came under scattered rifle
and machine-gun fire, though there was very little shelling. But on
reaching a point between two and three hundred yards short of the
"Black Line," the battalion met with very heavy rifle and machine–
gun fire from many directions, chiefly from strong points at Wine
House, Spree Farm, Pond Farm and Hindu Cot. Companies at once
shook out into extended order, but the fire inflicted so many
casualties and caused so much confusion that correct formations
were never regained throughout the actioll. Nevertheless, the
commanders of the leading troops took prompt steps to deal with
Wine House, Spree Farm and other parts of the "Black Line" which
were giving trouble. When
all
the officers of
"c"
Company had been
knocked out, Lieutenant-Colonel Best-Dunkley himself dashed
forward, took command of its leading wave and personally led them
on through intense machine-gun fire. After stiff fighting, in which
much gallant leadership was displayed by commanders of all ranks ,
the "Black Line" was eventually taken in its entirety and the
battalion could begin its proper attack.
It
had by now lost half its
strength and was in a very disorganized state. But it was imperative
not to lose the creeping barrage, particularly since this was not
thick enough to prevent German machine guns from firing through
it and the tanks allotted to the operation had been unable to help
owing to the bad condition of the ground caused by rain and the
bombardment. (This on the first day of the battle!) The advance to
the "Green Line" was therefore begun without delay and, after
some sharp fights to eject Germans from strong points, the objective
was reached with a few further casualties at about noon. A carrier
pigeon released at Wurst Farm at 1.45 p.m. with this information
reached divisional headquarters at 11.45 a.m. next day. Consolida–
tion was put in hand and outposts were pushed forward to cover it.
At this stage, Second-Lieutenant
J.
Agnew, who had been shot
through the knee during the earlier part of the attack but had
continued to lead his platoon to its objective, was again wounded
and had to go back. He was wounded a third time, but although his
wounds were severe he refused to take a stretcher, in order that more
serious cases might be dealt with. Second-Lieutenant T. Dickinson,
M.C.,
who had frequently (as has been related) distinguished himself
in patrol work in the earlier part of the year, was wounded in the arm,
but carried on till he reached the objective, when he was shot through
the head.
It
was a very attenuated body which had reached the battalion 's
final objective. On the left, Bodington's "D" Company reached
Wurst Farm, just beyond the "Green Line," with ten men , of whom
eight soon became casualties. The battalion had been in possession
of its objective for less than an hour when the first German counter
attack was delivered, from a north-easterly direction and across the