Page 281 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
In the meanwhile the 2nd/8th, with elements of the 3rd/Sth,
were pushing on towards the "Blue Line," which they reached at
about 9.30 a.m. and began to consolidate. Patrols under Captain
P. T. Millers, of the 2nd/8th, and Captain F. M. Bentley, of the
3rd/Sth, went still farther and reached the outskirts of Passchendaele
itself, where the bodies of men of these two battalions were found
when the village was captured on 6th November. The process of
consolidation was not undisturbed, as the Germans launched two
counter-attacks during the morning; but owing to the state of the
ground and the rifle fire of the troops, these broke down. Neverthe–
less the parties on the "Blue Line" were heavily shelled, and both
their flanks were in the air as the units on the right and left had been
unable to advance so far. Orders were issued for a defensive flank
to be formed on the left, which involved the movement of several
sections to the rear in order to take up their correct positions. This
was mistaken by other men for a systematic withdrawal and all the
troops on the "Blue Line" retired, in good order, to the "Red Line"
at about 1.30 p.m.
Nothing had been seen or heard of the brigade on the left; and
at 2 p.m. the 2nd/6th were ordered to take steps to protect the left
flank. The "Red Line" was then firmly held by the 3rd/Sth, 2nd/8th
and 2nd/6th, in that order from right to left, though there was still
very much intermingling of units, as is shown by the fact that
Hillside Farm, near the right of the line, was occupied by officers
and men of all three battalions. Shortly before 3 p.m., the Com–
manding Officer and medical officer of the 2nd/6th were wounded
and the adjutant (Captain
J.
A. Ray) was killed, command being
assumed by Captain F. Chesnutt-Chesney. At about the same time
orders were received that the "Blue Line" was to be retaken. The
attack was ordered for 4.30 p.m., but the time was subsequently
altered to 5.15 p.m. There was to be a barrage lasting half an hour.
All arrangements were made and units reorganized as far as possible;
but at 5.13 p.m. the Germans began a heavy bombardment under
cover of which they launched a counter-attack. All idea of attack
was consequently abandoned. Indeed, in one or two places a
temporary retirement resulted. But the enemy assault was driven
off at 5.30 p.m. by rifle and artillery fire, and the line was restored
and st rengthened. Such is the necessarily brief outline of the work
of 197th Infantry Brigade this day; with the confusion which
reigned from the start, it is not possible to give a more detailed
account of the doings of battalions or companies. But the gallant
conduct of certain individuals can be recorded to some extent,
though particulars are lacking of many of the meritorious deeds
performed. Captain Bentley, of the 3rd/Sth, who has been mentioned
as having led a patrol into Passchendaele, was wounded
in
the leg
early
in
the day, but nevertheless stayed with his troops even after
the withdrawal from the "Blue Line" until he could no longer stand.
In the same battalion, Lieutenant
J.
A. Holdsworth performed
invaluable work as signal officer and as liaison officer with other