Page 26 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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LE CATEAU AND THE RETREAT FROM MONS
13
platoon of "A" Company behind a small bank and "B" Company
(Captain
J.
A. Davenport) near a road, with a high bank on the
enemy side of it, which led towards Esnes. The transport was at
Longsart Fann.
It
included a very peculiar, large, barrel-shaped
vehicle which did duty as a "cooker" (travelling kitchen), but was
smashed by Gennan shell-fire later in the day.
It
was the brigadier's intention that a company of the King's
Own, which was to come up on the right , should take over part of the
trenches dug by the battalion. The King's Own arrived at about
5.45 a.m., halted in quarter column in a root field about fifty yards
to the right of "A" Company and close to the Haucourt-Cattenieres
road and, on the strength of a report from some French gendarmerie
or cavalry (the 4th Division had no cavalry at this time) that no
Germans were at hand, were proceeding to pile arms and dress the
ranks when Gennan machine-gun fire and shrapnel burst upon them,
causing 400 casualties in a few minutes. A company of the King's
Own which was moving over to the left to take over part of the 2nd
Battalion line, and part of "A" Company which had been sent to
draw tools for the battalion from wagons which had been brought up
by Captain O. H. North, Lancashire Fusiliers, Staff Captain of the
12th Brigade, were also caught and suffered some loss.
I
or did the
forward companies escape; for the enemy machine guns turned
from the King's Own to the Lancashire Fusiliers. At the same time,
an attack developed against the whole of the front held by the Bat–
talion. Second-Lieutenant W.
K.
Humfrey quickly got his two
machine guns into action in a trench between "A" and "D" Com–
panies; and although one jammed almost at once and had to be
taken to the rear by Serjeant Roch and Private Hartney, Humfrey
did good work with the other with the help of Second-Lieutenant
J.
K.
C. Cross, at whose suggestion he moved the gun into the
trench occupied by the latter's platoon whence he was able to
tackle the enemy more effectively. In the meanwhile, Captain
J.
A.
Dav~nport
collected the men nearest to him and took up a
position on the east of the sunken road, where he was joined by
Major Griffin. Although the actual delay was doubtless inevitable, it
seemed to be between
10
and
II
a.m. before any artillery support was
forthcoming. When it did come, it was self-sacrificing and as generous
as the meagre supply of ammunition allowed.
As no troops were visible to the left of the battalion's position,
though "B" Company (Captain W. M. C. Vandeleur) of the 2nd Essex
Regiment was in support slightly in rear of the left of Ward's com–
pany, some anxiety was felt as to the situation there; and Captain
Roffey went over to see how matters stood. The enemy, having a
greater number of machine guns, had begun to work round the
battalion's left and to enfilade it. Ward had therefore withdrawn his
company a short distance. Ro[fey considered that a further retire–
ment was imperative; but as he was crossing over to the Essex to
arrange it with them, Vandeleur was killed and Roffey was so
seriously wounded in the mouth and neck that he was not recognized