Page 297 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

266
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
I9I4-I9I8
The Dummy Attack
2nd/5th Battalion
The precise extent of the main assault was disguised by the
2ND/5TH
launching of dummy attacks on the two flanks. The 2nd/5th
BN.
Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel G. S. Brighten, D.S.O.) took part
in
the southern distraction and had more hard fighting than many of
the units in the real thing.
After a year's service in the Ypres Salient, ending with the battle
which began on 20th September, the 2nd/5th went by train to
Bapaume, whence it marched to Ytres for a short period of rest and
re-equipment. It moved up early in October and spent the rest of
the month in routine work in and out of a sector of the line north–
east of Lempire and close to the St. Quentin Canal. The front, the
scene of activities by the 17th, 18th and 20th Battalions a few
months before, consisted of a series of strongly made and heavily
wired posts, loosely linked by a trench system which was not
continuous. The German trenches constituted the outposts of the
Hindenburg Line and were as far as 1,000 yards from the British
positions in some places. On the whole, the district was peaceful,
but near Lempire there had been raids and fighting at Gillemont
Farm, 1,500 yards west of Bony, and at a small heart-shaped
eminence called the Knoll, about the same distance south-west
of Vendhuille. These places continued to be bones of contention;
and when the 55th Division was ordered to attack on 20th November,
1917, with the primary object of distracting attention from the
main attack and of preventing the enemy from moving any troops
to deal with it, it was decided that they should be captured and held,
if (but only if) this could be done without serious loss. The units
taking part in the attack did not know that their attack was only
subsidiary and that it was not intended to press it in the face of
strong opposition.
The 2nd/5th Battalion spent some days at Tincourt practising
attacks on these two points and moved back into the line on 19th
November. As the 55th Division was holding the very wide frontage
of 8,000 yards, only one brigade (the I64th) could be made available
for the attack. Its orders therefore were to concentrate on taking
Gillemont Farm and the Knoll but to exploit any successes by
means of bombing attacks outwards from both places in the hope
of being able to link them up in a new and more advanced line. The
2nd/5th Battalion was the left of the three attacking battalions of
the brigade, with the Liverpool Irish on its right. To it was allotted
the Knoll as its objective. The German trenches at this point were
on the reverse slope of the hill, as was so often the case in the
Hindenburg Line. They formed a slight salient at the Knoll, and in
the northern arm of it the foremost position was called "Tiger
Trench," with "Nameless Trench" and "Lion Trench" a short
distance behind it. The northward continuation of Tiger Trench was
known as "Tombois Trench," and of Lion Trench "Tombois