Page 259 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES- BATTLE OF CAMBRAl
231
west of Ypres. As the railway and the road leading from Ypres to
Poperinghe crossed each other at this point, the camp came in for
a good deal of attention from German aircraft and artillery. During
the three days which the battalion spent here, the officers visited a
model of the scene of the forthcoming attack which had been made
at divisional headquarters, and also went up to Call Farm, close to
Wieltje, to take a distant view of the ground itself across the valley
of the Hanebeek. Its nature was thus described in a letter written
by an officer of the battalion :-
"Imagine a slightly undulating country with the foreground and the
middle distance wearing the brown -and rough appearance of ploughed land
with occasional clumps of half-truncated and blasted trees; and in the
distant background, as yet untouched by successions of hurricane bombard–
ments, villages apparently intact and quantities of green trees. In the middle
distance are several derelict tanks ; and through one's glasses one sees
little parties of men winding their way forward or back over ground where
they could apparently get no cover but where in reality, owing to a slight
hollow, they were we)) protected from view. One landmark was a little sort
of hut, up against which was propped the tailpiece of a German aeroplane
with its yellow background a nd b lack cross: this hut was known as Hindu
Cot.
It
is extraordinarily difficult to spot what one is looking for on this
ground-for everything within a mile and a half or more in front of you is
simply brown, churned-up earth...."
On the evening of 17th September the battalion moved up to the
old German front line near Wieltje. Late that night a dug-out near
battalion headquarters caught fire . It contained a quantity of
ammunition, smoke candles and similar combustible matter. But
the risk of enemy artillery fire being drawn to the blaze was lessened
by the smoke generously produced by the candles. The chaplain,
the Reverend
R.
E. G. Newman, M.C., helped to get all the occupants
out and then, with the aid of Private G. Owen, a signaller, extin–
guished the fire. Battalion headquarters and "C" Company advanced
to Capricorn Keep, five hundred yards behind the front line, on the
following evening, the company going on to Pond Farm Galleries
and taking over part of the line. During the night a German serjeant–
major deserted and gave himself up to the company. The battalion
had captured an escaped German serjeant-major
in
the back area a
few weeks before, as has been mentioned several pages previously.
When it captured another serjeant-major at the very beginning
Of
its
attack on 20th September, it began to think it was a kind of fly–
paper for senior German N. C.Os .! The final preparatory moves were
made on the evening of the 19th, when battalion headquarters went
forward to Pond Farm Galleries, about one hundred and twenty
yards from the then front line and four hundred and fifty yards from
the first objective. At 8.30 p.m. "A," "B" and "D" Companies
began to march up from the old German front line to their assembly
positions, in an ill-defined line of shell holes, which had been marked
out with tapes, the flanks of platoons being marked with boards .
It
was learnt afterwards from a prisoner that the tapes had been seen
by the Germans who were consequently fully expecting an attack.