Page 286 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES-BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
255
to the east towards Staden and Passchendaele. Within the division,
the lo4th Infantry Brigade was to attack on the right and the IOSth
on the left . The I04th Brigade's objective was a line running nearly
east and west through Houthulst Forest and about five hundred
yards within its southern edge. Its frontage, from Aden House near
the Ypres-Staden railway to the main road leading from Poelcappelle
to Houthulst and on to Dixmude, was eight hundred yards in extent.
But its share of the objective, which lay 1,000 yards from the starting
line, was 1,300 yards; and this increase in the area to be covered
constituted a serious problem in the organization of the attack.
Brigadier-General ]. W. Sandilands, C.M.G., D.S.O., commanding
the lo4th Infantry Brigade, solved it by arranging that the 23rd
Manchester Regiment on the right and the 17th Lancashire Fusiliers
(Lieutenant-Colonel F. ]. F. Crook, D.S.O.) on the left should begin
the attack and that the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers (Lieutenant-Colonel
R.
A. Irvine, C.M.G., D.S.O.) should at first be in close support
and should come between the two leading battalions as the advance
progressed and the frontage widened. The 20th Battalion
(Lieutenant-Colonel E. Vaughan, D.S.O., Manchester Regiment)
was to be in reserve. The advance lay over open country, com-
. manded by the bulk of the Forest, into the marshy outskirts of
this great wooded area. But the risks of exposure were to be over–
come by taking advantage of the half-light of dawn for the launching
of the operation.
The brigade formed up in its assembly positions by 2 a.m. on
22nd October, and at zero, 5.35 a.m., the waves moved off in perfect
order.
In the 17th Battalion, the first and second waves consisted of
17TH
Bs.
"X" Company (Captain
L.
Kitchin) on the right and "W" Company
(Captain
R.
S. Heape, M.C.) on the left, with "Y" Company
(Lieutenant]. Goodier) as the third and "Z" Company (Lieutenant
H. G. Leaver) as the fourth waves. At 6 a.m. a message was received
from Heape saying that he had captured Colombo House, which lay
on the main Poelcappelle-Houthulst road about four hundred yards
from the starting line, and adding "Best sport going-Right in our
own barrage." This closeness to the barrage led to his finding
himself considerably ahead of the unit on his left and to his being
compelled to take two strong points in their area in order not to have
his outer flank enfiladed. By about 6.30 a.m., Heape, Kitchin and
Goodier were all established on their objective and between them
had captured a machine
gun
and some twenty prisoners. Up to this
time no news had come in from any other part of the line. Suddenly
those at the 17th Battalion's headquarters at Egypt House, on the
main road about four hundred yards behind the starting line,
became aware of a straggling crowd of men coming towards them
from the right. What had happened was that something had gone
wrong with the arrangements of the division next on the right and
its units had not been able to advance. The right flank of the 23rd
Manchester Regiment had thus been exposed and the leading