Page 288 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THIRD BATTLE OF YPRE&-BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
257
of the 20th Battalion was ordered to occupy the original front line
as a defensive position. The situation on the brigade's front then
was that the I7th Battalion was in touch with the unit on its left on
the main road and held about two hundred yards of its objective;
that its right was bent back in a south-south-easterly direction, but
was not in close contact with any troops on this flank; that the
I8th Battalion held some part of their objective and were beginning
to form a firm line in continuation of that held by the 17th; and that
two companies of the 20th completed the position to the starting
line, which was held by the rest of the latter battalion.
Early in the afternoon, as the state of affairs became clearer to
them, the Germans opened artillery fire on these positions and
seriously delayed the arrival of "X" Company of the 20th Battalion
at its allotted position in reserve. At about 2 p.m. the brigade major
brought an order from the brigadier that the battalions were to
consolidate on approximately the line just described, but with posts
well to the front of it. The 20th Battalion was to be responsible for
the sector from Aden House to the huts, the 18th from the huts to
the junction of two rides in the Forest, and the 17th thence to the
main road, the 23rd Manchester Regiment being withdrawn to reserve.
About two hours later word came back to the battalion head–
quarters that the Germans were massing in the Forest with the
evident intention of counter-attacking. The artillery were warned
by telephone, by runner and by pigeon messages, and very quickly
opened their counter-preparation. Nevertheless the Germans
succeeded in launching their stroke. The forward companies of the
17th Battalion brought heavy rifle and Lewis-gun fire to bear on the
attackers, who were also caught by the guns and were soon broken
up and sent back once more to the shelter of the Forest. Company
Serjeant-Major
R.
Moyse, of the 20th Battalion, also played a useful
part in the repulse of this assault. Part of his company had become
detached, but he reorganized it and led it forward to fill a gap in the
line under heavy fire, and by his skilful dispositions and good
leadership contributed much to the repulse of the Germans. On the
left, however, the enemy met with more success. The unit next to
the 17th Battalion had suffered severely and lost almost all the
officers of its leading platoons. Owing to some misunderstanding,
the men began to retire. Some of them joined "W" Company of the
17th, but in general the line fell back several hundred yards. "W"
and "X" Companies of the 17th were thus left in a most critical
position. They occupied a salient over half a mile deep and some
three hundred yards wide; and their outer flanks were in the air.
At about 6 p.m. therefore, Kitchin gave orders for them to withdraw
to the support line held by "Y" Company and for the latter to swing
back to its left flank so as to regain touch with the next brigade, and
its right flank so as to link up with the 20th Battalion near the huts.
Heape behaved with the utmost coolness and determination during
this critical phase
in
the action; and although slightly wounded he
insisted on remaining at duty until the last of his men had withdrawn.
s