Page 294 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THIRD BATTLE OF YPRE5-BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
263
pass through, capture Masnieres, Marcoing and the Bois des Neuf
(about three-quarters of a mile north-west of Marcoing), cross the
St. Quentin Canal and occupy part of a system of trenches north of
those villages which was known as the Beaurevoir Line.
It
would
then be the turn of the cavalry. The 29th Division was attacking
with all its three brigades in line, the task of the 86th Infantry
Brigade, on the left, being to capture and consolidate a position
running from the canal close to Marcoing to Noyelles-sur-l' Escaut.
As the time for its advance depended on the capture of the frrst
two positions by the other divisions, the signal for movement was to
be the Middlesex Regiment's regimental call, followed by the
"Advance," sounded on the bugle. Each battalion was to repeat
the order, using its own call. The four battalions of the brigade were
to advance in diamond formation, the 16th Middlesex Regiment
being at the point and the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers (Major T . Slingsby,
M.C., in temporary command) at the rear, with seven hundred
yards separating the nearest platoons of the two units. The object
of this method of advance was to ensure that, if the leading battalion
was held up, the flank units could still move straight forward and
turn the enemy's position, a system which proved most effective
on this occasion. Within each battalion, the companies were
similarly disposed and for the same reasons. The 1st Battalion was
responsible for the complete mopping-up of Marcoing to the west
of the River Escaut, after which the whole battalion was to dig in
west of that place and be in brigade reserve, ready to counter-attack
if required. "B" (Captain
C.
L. Rougier) and "D" (Captain T. Newton
M.C.) Companies were detailed for the mopping-up task.
At 11.30 p.m. on 19th November the battalion marched off
through Fins to the brigade assembly point, which it reached at
5.30 a.m., after a long halt at about I a.m. and other delays caused by
the moving up of tanks. Companies then shook out into artillery
formation and waited for zero. The morning was very misty and it
was impossible to see more than a hundred yards; but arrangements
had been made to march on a compass bearing of 4I degrees
magnetic. At 6.IO a.m., the tanks emerged from their hiding places
and moved forward. Ten minutes later, a short bombardment of a
great number of guns, whose presence had been skilfully concealed,
opened on the enemy's lines; and the battalion began to advance
across country. The operation was carried out with entire
precision and steadiness without any interference by the enemy's
artillery; and at 7.30 a.m. the battalion had its frrst halt, on the
sunken road between Villers-Plouich and Beaucamp, where equip–
ment was taken off and hot bacon and tea were served out. The
frrst phase of the battle had been a complete success. The Germans
had been totally surprised and the Hindenburg Line on the frontage
of attack had been captured very quickly without much opposition.
In consequence, large numbers of prisoners began to come past the
battalion, which was naturally encouraged by the sight.
Orders for a further advance, to the Plouich line of the old British