Page 296 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

THIRD BATTLE OF YPRE5-BATTLE OF CAMBRAl
265
them a German machine gun and twelve boxes of ammunition which
they had captured.
The 21st opened quietly, though the nosecap of a British
6o-pounder shell by some strange mischance ricocheted into the
quarry occupied by "B" Company, hit a bag full of rifle grenades
and exploded one, with the result that five men were wounded. At
II
a .m. orders were received that one company was to be sent to
work with a company of the 2nd Royal Fusiliers in support of the
cavalry who were co-operating in a tank attack on Cantaing, about
a mile and three-quarters north of Marcoing.
"A"
Company
moved off at 12 noon under Lieutenant H. W. Milligan for this task.
One platoon under Second-Lieutenant A. S. Davison was at once
sent to help the cavalry to get possession of some lock gates north of
Noyelles; and the remaining two platoons of the company moved
towards Noyelles, which was to act as the deploying point for the
cavalry before they attempted to cut off the enemy east of Cantaing
as these were driven out by the tanks, while the infantry moved up
in support and formed a defensive screen, pushing forward strong
patrols as the cavalry advanced. This plan was based on the
assumption that Noyelles was clear of enemy, as had been reported.
But when "A" Company arrived there, accompanied by the battalion
intelligence officer, Lieutenant
J.
E. Cotgrave, who had come to
establish a forward liaison post at the southern end of Noyelles, it
found that the Germans were holding the village in force. Milligan
decided to try to make his way through and led his two platoons
forward. But the German resistance was too strong for
him
and he
could make very little progress. Cotgrave sent back a message
asking for the help of the tanks and two of them arrived at 2.30 p.m.
Followed by Milligan's men, they succeeded in dislodging the enemy;
and by 4 p.m. the village had been cleared right up to the River
Escaut, though unfortunately Milligan and Second-Lieutenant W.
Griffiths were killed and about twenty-five other ranks were killed
and wounded in the process. On the other hand, this minor action
succeeded in liberating
ISO
civilians, whose joy at being taken away
towards their own people in freedom after three years of German
occupation was pathetic to see.
That night the battalion was relieved by the 1st King's Shropshire
Light Infantry and the 8th Bedfordshire Regiment and moved to
cellars and the vault of the church in Marcoing, which was still
receiving very little shelling from the enemy-a different state of
affairs to that of ten days later. During these two days, the battalion's
casualties had been 2 officers and 5 other ranks killed, 2 officers and
37 other ranks wounded and one man missing. Private D. Doherty,
to whom these comparatively light casualties were largely due, was
awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.