Page 265 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES-BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
237
]. C.
B.
Harris) on the right and "W" Company (Lieutenant
C.
F.
Melling, M.C.) on the left to carry out the assault, with "Y"
Company (Captain A. Parke) in support and "Z" (Captain A.
B.
Rowlerson) in reserve. Specific platoons and sections were detailed
to capture all known strong points.
"W" and "X" Companies began at 3.I5 a.m. to evacuate their
front line in order to take their places on the forming-up tapes,
leaving only a small covering party in each post which was in turn
withdrawn a quarter of an hour before zero. By 4.45 a.m. the whole
battalion was in position without incident, except in the case of "Z"
Company, one of whose platoons lost a large proportion of its strength
through one shell which landed in its midst on the way up from the
canal. The troops, once in position, lay hidden in shell holes until
zero. At 5.30 a.m. the Germans sent over a light barrage. Most of it
fell behind the assembly positions and did no harm, though shortly
before zero Parke and Second-Lieutenant T. Harper were wounded,
but remained on duty and led their men to the attack. Zero was at
6 a.m., when the creeping barrage opened satisfactorily except for a
few shells which fell short. Four trench-mortars did very useful
work on various points and dealt successfully with numbers of
Germans in shell holes. The answering barrage from the enemy's
guns was not slow in coming, both sides of the Stroombeek receiving
attention. But the majority of the battalion's casualties were due
to machine-gun fire. The medical officer (Captain
R.
H. Spittal) and
the chaplain (Reverend S. F. Clarke) were killed shortly after zero.
The first objective-the "Dotted Red Line"-was successfully
captured, but not without some losses. Two company commanders
had been wounded, Parke and Melling, the former for the second time
that day; and Harper, who had also been wounded, was killed. As
Parke came past battalion headquarters on his way to hospital, the
Commanding Officer, Major
J.
Milnes, came out to ask him for
information as to the progress of the attack, and was himself badly
hit. Nevertheless he insisted on carrying on until the final objective
was taken, when he handed over command to the adjutant,
Lieutenant G. H . Pemberton.
While the troops waited on the "Dotted Red Line" for the
barrage to move forward towards the final objective, the enemy
were seen massing near Terrier Farm as if for a counter-attack. But
they dispersed as soon as the barrage approached them ; and the
second stage of the advance was carried out in perfect order and with
little opposition, thanks to the help of four tanks, except at Gloster
Farm. Here the Germans put up resistance, but when a trench
mortar had been sent for and brought into action against them they
were soon ejected. Nine machine guns and a considerable number of
prisoners were taken during this phase and many German dead
were seen on the captured ground.
By about
12
noon the final objective was in British hands. But
ten officers, including the commanding officer, the signalling officer
and all four company commanders, had become casualties. Brewer,