Page 248 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
19I4-1918
capture of Crosbie Craters in May, I916. The line which the battalion
took over was not a connected trench-system, but a series of posts
which had been established by the 8th Division on 31st July, when
most of the northern end of the Westhoek Ridge had been captured
but not the southern. The German positions consisted of a series of
isolated machine-gun emplacements built of concrete and partly
linked by lengths of trenches. Behind these was a more or less
continuous line of trenches which were held, while there were a
number of machine guns in shell holes. Advantage was taken by the
nth Battalion of the sketchy nature of the forward German dis–
positions to carry out active patrolling on the next few nights and to
advance the British line considerably, at the same time inflicting loss
on the enemy. On the first night, some ruins near the left of the
battalion's sector were occupied by "D" Company and a Lewis-gun
post was established there, two prisoners being captured; while
"A" Company sent patrols to a group of houses opposite the right of
the battalion and established a post in them. "D" Company's post
had to retire the next night owing to some shells in a British barrage
falling short, but a patrol from the same company under Second–
Lieutenant H. P. Grenier established a post consisting of a rifle
section, a machine-gun section and a Lewis-gun section in a deserted
gun-pit and a house even farther forward later the same night. On
the night of 8th/9th this post was bombed by a German, who was
shot. The main line of posts on the whole battalion front was
advanced fifty yards and dug-in in shell holes. This process was
repeated the following night.
The result was that, when an attack was ordered, originally for
the 9th and finally for the loth, to complete the capture of Westhoek
Ridge, the battalion might almost be said, in the words of a well–
known advertisement, to have won the battle the night before it
happened. Indeed, "A" and "B" Companies' outposts had to be
withdrawn fifty yards so as to be clear of the barrage. The attack
was launched at 4.35 a.m., and only on the extreme left was the
battalion required to advance any substantial distance beyond the
line it had already reached by its own unaided efforts. The enemy's
barrage came down quickly, but mostly in vain as it fell behind the
battalion. The first success was scored by No.
2
Platoon of "A"
Company under Second-Lieutenant G. MacL. Carruthers, which
seized some houses opposite the extreme right of the battalion's line
by 5 a.m. One house contained a machine gun and 14 Gennans, the
other a machine
gun
and 38 Germans. After the latter had sur–
rendered, the Lewis-gun team of the platoon went fonvard to seize
their machine gun. A scuffle occurred amongst the prisoners. One of
them must either have thrown a bomb or pulled a wire attached to
one: the result was that the Lewis-gun team and the German
machine gun were blown up. The nearest men of the platoon then set
on the Germans and killed those concerned, who were trying to take
advantage of the confusion to escape. The captures in the other
house were sent back to battalion headquarters without any trouble.