Page 280 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THIRD BATTLE OF YPRE5--BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
249
guides were provided. But the tracks had been used all day by pack
animals taking forward food and ammunition and had, moreover,
been heavily shelled, with the result that they were
in
a very bad
state. The weather and the shelling had turned the whole area into
a sea of mud, and where one track crossed the Zonnebeke stream,
mud "of a very adhesive nature" came well over the knees of the
infantry. Men were often up to their waists in water which had
collected in shell holes and there seems little doubt that several were
actually drowned through sinking down into the water from the
weight of their equipment and sheer exhaustion. Moreover a certain
number of troops were coming back along the tracks and this
hampered movement in the forward direction. Several of the guides
disappeared and, as the tapes had been broken by the traffic and the
shelling, platoons had great difficulty in finding their way. On the
top of all these serious causes of delays, sleet came down. By about
12.30 a.m. it became evident that the brigade would not reach the
tapes by zero, which was at 5.20 a.m., much less by 3.20 a.m. as laid
down in orders. Every available staff officer was sent forward to try
all possible means of getting the troops forward more quickly, with
orders to push on all men who were able to move with any speed,
irrespective of unit , and to leave those who were exhausted to come
on later. Throughout the night men struggled forward as best they
could , but at zero the situation of the brigade was that the head of
the 3rd/5th was on the tapes, the 2nd/8th was about four hundred
yards short of them, the 2nd/7th was coming over Hill 40, close to
Zonnebeke, and the 2nd/6th (which should have been ahead of the
2nd/7th) was on the west side of the
hill.
Just as the march ended,
the Commanding Officer of the 2nd/8th was wounded and Captain
B. Macpherson took command. In the meanwhile orders had been
sent to Lieutenant-Colonel Bates at his headquarters in the front
line to take command of all troops there, to send forward whatever
parties of the brigade were at hand and if necessary to use the
2nd/7th Manchester Regiment which was still in the line. The 3rd/5th
went straight on as soon as they reached the starting line. A mixture
of other units began to arrive by driblets at the tapes at 5.50 a.m. At
6 a.m. the leading elements of the 2nd/7th advanced, very weary
after the eleven hours' exhausting approach march but full of
determination. The 2nd/8th advanced soon after and by 7.20 a.m.
the "Red Line" had been captured with a number of prisoners. The
2nd/6th reached the tapes in single file at 7.30 a.m. and at once
deployed and moved forward. "B" Company (Captain H. C. Gill)
went to the right and eventually joined up with the 3rd/5th at about
9.30 a.m. "A" (Second-Lieutenant
J.
B. Gartside),
"c"
(Captain F.
Chesnutt-Chesney) and "D" (Lieutenant W. B. McCulloch) Com–
panies took up a position on the right of the East Lancashire Regi–
ment of the 198th Brigade and to the left of Augustus Wood which
lay in the "Red Line." Finding that there was a gap to their right,
they moved across and filled it so as to make certain of the firm
holding of that line.