Page 289 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
"z"
Company had already established itself in a strong-point
covering the right rear. This new line was consolidated during the
hours of darkness.
Never was night more welcome or more fully used. Rations,
water and ammunition were brought up over the difficult ground
behind the line by special parties; and most of the troops received
a rum ration, which was much appreciated as many of them had
lain all day in shell holes up to their waists in water. A number of
wounded were brought in who had had to be left out during day–
light owing to the shortage of stretcher-bearers and the continual
sniping of the Gennans. Desultory shelling went on throughout the
night; and the infantry also were active. Patrols from "Y" Company
of the 20th Battalion tried repeatedly to get into touch with the
brigade on the right, though they did not succeed in doing so until
noon on the following day. A more ambitious venture was carried out
by twenty men of
"z"
Company of the same battalion under Second–
Lieutenant H. A. Harris. The brigadier suspected that the huts
which have been mentioned were harbouring the machine guns that
had caused such havoc to the Manchesters, and he ordered that they
should be occupied if possible. The party was supported by a
platoon of "X" Company unqer Second-Lieutenant R. S. Parry,
destined for the occupation of the huts
if
they were taken. The
expedition set out at 2 a.m. on the 23rd, preceded by Lance–
Corporal W. Grundy and two men as scouts. These surprised a
Gennan machine gun in a shell hole, bayoneted the gunner and
brought back the gun and four unwounded prisoners of the II9th
Infantry Regiment. But when the main body approached the huts.
the enemy sent up his
"s
0
S" signal; and a hot artillery and
machine-gun fire was opened, the latter coming from both flanks as
well as from the huts themselves. Considerable casualties occurred,
both the officers being hit, and it was found to be impossible to
occupy the huts. Valuable infonnation had, however, been obtained.
particularly that the huts contained at least four machine guns.
The general conditions became steadily worse during the 23rd.
The Gennan artillery put down a series of barrages; and at one
period a number of hostile aeroplanes flew low over the 18th
Battalion, directing the guns and firing with machine guns into the
positions held by it. To make matters worse, heavy rain fell. The
men were in shell holes or behind small mounds of earth hastily
thrown up: but whatever hollows they put themselves in were soon
full of water. Owing to the great scarcity of cover and in order to
economize in means of communication, the headquarters of 17th,
18th and 20th Battalions were
all
located at Egypt House, which was
conspicuous and well known to all the men. The result was that all
the wounded were brought there and that the enemy, seeing constant
movement round the pill-boxes, shelled them continuously.
It
was
almost impossible for anyone to come out of Egypt House to help the
wounded, and it was not possible to carry a stretcher through the
narrow doorway.
It
was a ghastly scene.