Page 277 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
By
10.30
a.m. only six officers were left with the companies,
"B" Company having none, and the casualties had been about 120.
When Major Watkins realized the position, he and his intelligence
officer (Captain S. Clarke) at once went to the most forward positions
and began to reorganize the troops-a process which was badly
needed as men from the 2nd Duke of Wellington's, the 1st King's
Own, the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers and other units had become mixed
with the 2nd Battalion. Moreover, owing to the appalling state of
the ground which had been cut to pieces by shell fire, it was almost
impossible for any officer or N.C.O. to handle more than half a
dozen men. Watkins and Clarke, however, succeeded in collecting
a party of various regiments with a view to an attack on Millers
Houses. Detachments went round both flanks, co-operating on the
left with some men of the 1st Battalion. The fate of the garrison
of this troublesome place was sealed by Serjeant
C.
A. Watch, who
took three men and rushed a machine gun which had been holding
up the advance, put it out of action, and induced the garrison of
two officers and some thirty Germans to surrender at about rr a.m.
Watkins's act ion had cleared the path for a further advance but,
owing to the condition of the ground, to heavy shell fire and to
continuous sniping, he was unable to reach the advancing companies
or to influence their action further. He saw the enemy massing for
a counter-attack near Senegal Farm, on the 1st Battalion's front,
but was powerless to help.
The advance towards the second objective was very slow. Judd
displayed great gallantry and initiative in rallying parties of men
and leading them forward from one shell hole to another as far as he
could. Serjeant W. Sidlow and Corporal F. G. Deeley both showed
pluck and determination in rushing enemy posts and, between them,
taking a number of prisoners. But by noon it had become evident
that the attack had, through no fault of the troops, lost its
momentum; and Major Watkins ordered the leading troops to dig
in where they were. They had managed to reach a position half-way
between the first and second objectives and had advanced about
four hundred yards on the right and six hundred yards on the left,
where touch was gained with Le Mesurier's party of the 1st Battalion
under the supervision of Clarke, who performed most useful work in
organizing a line of posts under heavy sniping fire. Serjeant Watch's
adventures were not yet over, however. When the stand-fast order
was given, he and his party found themselves in the enemy's lines
and had the unpleasant sensation of experiencing the nature of the
British barrage which was put down to cover the consolidation of
the position which had been gained. Nevertheless, as by a miracle
they survived and succeeded in making their way back to the
battalion's lines. The credit for the safe delivery of the order to
consolidate was due mainly to Corporal E. Stockton, who throughout
the day carried messages from battalion headquarters to the
companies in spite of heavy fire and of all the difficulties which have
been described. Never once did he fail to deliver a message to the