Page 246 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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front of the division on the left. As the latter had not been able to
make as much progress as the 55th Division and as the left of the
German attack was directed on Wurst Farm, there was a grave
risk of the survivors of the 2nd/5th being cut off. A withdrawal was
therefore ordered to Winnipeg Farm, about seven hundred yards in
rear, where an attempt was made to form a defensive flank. When
this proved to be impossible, a position was occupied on Jew Hill,
to the east of St. Julien, by about 2.15 p.m. In the meanwhile,
German artillery fire had become more intense; and, under cover of
this and of machine-gun fire , counter-attacks were delivered by
several battalions from both flanks , preceded by four aircraft which
flew low over the advance positions, firing lights and machine guns.
Immediate steps were taken to prepare the "Black Line" for defence
while a further withdrawal to it took place, covered by small parties
using every round of ammunition they could find and even taking it
from derelict tanks and casualties. A small strong-point near Schuler
Farm (about 1,000 yards east of St. Julien) was held by one hundred
and thirty men of the 2nd/5th and of the 1st/8th Liverpool Regiment
(Liverpool Irish ) under Bodington. They beat off repeated
attempts to envelop them but finally, after the loss of eighty men,
the survivors were compelled to withdraw and fight their way
back to the " Black Line," which was reached by ten men.
Great gallantry and skill were displayed at this stage by Second–
Lieutenant H. Beesley and Corporal E . Lawson, both of whom,
though wounded, continued to hold their positions and use their
Lewis guns till the last possible moment. The rearguard action of
this body enabled the right of the brigade to withdraw safely.
Battalion headquarters were at this time at Spree Farm, in the
"Black Line," and received very short warning of the approach of
the enemy, who followed close on the heels of the rearguard and tried
to penetrate the "Black Line." Lieutenant-Colonel Best-Dunkley
collected all available men and personally led them to the attack,
which succeeded in driving back the Germans. The artillery came
to the rescue about 4.30 p.m. with a heavy barrage which effectually
prevented the enemy from obtaining a footing in the "Black Line."
But at about this time the adjutant, Lieutenant
Andrews, was
killed, and shortly after the Commanding Officer was wounded. At
that time also rain came down in torrents and continued; shell holes
filled with water ; mud became slime; the conditions were com–
pletely discouraging. As there was then no officer known to be alive
or unwounded, the Orderly Room Serjeant, Serjeant F. Haworth,
took command of the survivors and organized a defensive position,
helping with their fire to deal with attempted German attacks. He
brought the remnants of the battalion out of the line at about
9 a.m. the following day, 1st August.
Of the 19 combatant officers who went into action, 3 had been
killed, 2 so severely wounded that they later died of their wounds,
wounded and 2 missing, a total of 18 casualties. Out of 593 other
ranks, 473 were casualties.