Page 276 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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and 4th Divisional Headquarters, the Area Commandant at Proven
(who absorbed four men) and a rest camp.
is small wonder there–
fore that each company consisted of three platoons instead of the
normal four.
The weather broke on 5th October, but the rain stopped just
before the battalion moved off on 7th October to relieve the Ist
Hampshire Regiment in the line close to the western edge of
Poelcappelle, so that a fine day was enjoyed on the
with a good,
drying breeze. Unfortunately, towards the evening of that day, rain
came down again and made the final preparations almost as difficult
as they were for the Ist Battalion. During the night of Bth/9th,
tapes were put oul by the Royal Engineers, and the companies
formed up between I a.m. and 3 a.m., all being ready by 3.20 a.m.
"A" Company (Second-Lieutenant C. U. Lloyd) was on the right and
"C" Company (Captain
Judd) on the left, with "B" Company
(Captain G.
Elkington) and "D" Company (Lieutenant A. D.
Macdonald, M.C.) in support. One platoon of "B" Company and
one of "D" were detailed as "moppers-up" for "A" and "C"
Companies respectively. The battalion's first and second objectives
were a continuation in a south-easterly direction of those laid down
for the 1st Battalion; but it had a third objective about seven
hundred yards beyond its second.
At 5 a.m. Major Watkins and his headquarters moved up to
I9 Metre Hill, within a few yards of the front line, so as to be close
to the attacking waves with which they moved forward-a position
maintained throughout the greater part of the attack. Twenty
minutes later the attack began, under cover of a thick barrage
provided by a great variety of guns ranging from IB-pounders to
9.2-in. howitzers. The German barrage came down on the support
line three minutes after the attack started and caused the support
battalion to move up rather too fast and to become mingled with
the rear waves of the 2nd Battalion, just as had happened in the
case of the 1st Battalion. But the attacking troops reached their first
objective up to time at 5-45 a.m. and with very few casualties. As one
officer put it, "for the first five or six minutes, it was like a practice
attack on parade. " The difficulties began as the advance towards the
second objective started and particularly when the light railway
running alongside the Poelcappelle-Houthulst Forest road was
reached. The division on the right had been held up in the ruins of
Poelcappelle and consequently German machine guns were still able
to fire down this road from the north-west end of the village. There
were also a number of snipers who had escaped the barrage and who
were very active near Landing Farm and Compromis Farm (both
north of Poelcappelle) and from Millers Houses, on the dividing line
between the ISt and 2nd Battalions. It was from the Houses that the
first serious check came, with the result that the barrage was lost and,
when the troops were finally able to cross the main road, they were
no longer protected by the artillery but had to jump from shell hole
to shell hole.