Page 254 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
interfere with the preparations. At 3.30 a.m. these parties closed in
and became a covering party for the forming-up of the attackers.
"w"
Company (Captain W. D. Cheshire) on the right and "X"
Company (Captain
L.
Kitchin) on the left formed the first wave;
"Y" Company found the flanking and mopping-up parties as the
second wave ; and battalion headquarters constituted a third wave.
The whole formed up in silence by 4.IO a.m. without being discovered
by the Germans. The essence of the plan was surprise. For this
reason no bombardment was undertaken until at 4.25 a.m.; just
as the first light began to appear in the east, a heavy and accurate
barrage of high explosive, smoke and machine-gun fire was suddenly
put down. Under cover of it, the battalion advanced, and suffered
few casualties, as the German counter-barrage was slow in being
brought into effect. The leading wave reached the German wire
three minutes before the barrage was due to lift from it and lay
down in front of it. At 4.34 a.m. the barrage lifted and the advance
was resumed, but was immediately held up by wire. This was
much thicker than had been expected, consisting as it did of three
belts, of which the first two were very strong; and it was
all
uncut.
A sharp fight with bombs and rifles ensued while the attackers
were forcing their way through this obstacle. Several casualties
occurred and Captain G. MacKereth, M.C., the adjutant, was badly
wounded as he was supervising the placing of a "traverser" mat.
In spite of the difficulties, the stretcher-bearers succeeded in bringing
back to the British lines
all
who were killed or wounded during the
operation, no mean feat when the extent of
~o
Man's Land is
remembered.
"w"
Company, on the right, was the first to effect an entry into
the German front-line trench, thanks largely to Cheshire's coolness
and determination. A few of the enemy were found there and they
were dealt with. Cheshire then led his men on towards the bank
which formed his second objective. Here several prisoners were
taken and four dug-outs were bombed and then blown in by means
of Stokes mortar shells. At 4.50 a.m. the recall was sounded and the
raiders withdrew. Cheshire and Second-Lieutenant P. Forman were
the last to leave: they brought back with them the body of Serjeant
W. Watts, which they carried back to the British lines.
In the meanwhile, "X" Company had encountered greater
difficulty in cutting a path through the German wire and, by the
time they had succeeded in penetrating into the German trench, its
occupants had taken refuge in Canal Wood. The company had not
sufficient time to go on to its second objective before the bugle blew
and it had to withdraw.
The battalion's retirement had to be carried out under a heavy
German barrage, but few casualties were incurred. Eleven prisoners,
of the 16th Bavarian Infantry regiment, were brought back; and
many more had actually been taken, but it was found necessary to
despatch them during the withdrawal. A large number of dead and
wounded Germans were left in their trenches. The battalion ' s