Page 298 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES-BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
267
Support." Joining the northern ends of the two "Tombois" lines
was a communication trench called "Beel Avenue" which led to the
outskirts of Vendhuille village. The battalion's attack was organized
in three waves. The first, consisting of "B" Company (Second–
Lieutenant E. P. Bowell, a former London Metropolitan policeman)
on the right and "A" Company (Second-Lieutenant
R.
A. Macfie)
on the left, was to capture Tiger Trench. The second, drawn from
the same companies, was to push straight on and take Nameless
Trench, Lion Trench and Tombois Support. The third comprised
"C" (Captain
K.
T. Blarney) and
"D"
(Second-Lieutenant A.
J.
E.
Carnpbell) Companies and was to swing to the left, take Tombois
Trench and bomb along Beel Avenue and neighbouring trenches.
Blarney was made responsible for co-ordinating the action of both
companies in the third wave.
On the night before the attack, Serjeant
Y.
Saxton, the serjeant
cook, made up his mind that hot food should reach the troops early
and planned to send tea up to the Knoll while consolidation was in
progress. With this end in view, he on his own initiative took two of
his "cookers" out after dark into a hollow in No Man's Land where
they would not be seen from the German lines in daylight, and when
the attack was launched prepared food within half a mile of the
objective and some distance in front of the British lines!
The attack on Gillemont Farm began at 6.20 a .m. on 20th
November-at the same time as the main attack farther north. The
German barrage came down in reply a few minutes later, but left the
2nd/5th Battalion's front almost untouched. At 6-44 a.m. the
battalion began its advance, under a barrage of shells and of flank
protection on its left consisting of 170 smoke bombs and 335 thermite
bombs discharged from mortars. A few shells came over and caused
some disorganization as the leading waves were making their way
through their own wire, one 4.2-inch shell scoring a direct hit on a
Lewis-gun team and destroying it and its weapon. Another shell
landed at the entrance to the battalion headquarters dug-out and
killed the intelligence officer, Second-Lieutenant
J.
B.
Lupton, who
was just emerging in order to go to an observation post.
Once clear of the wire, the companies advanced steadily and in
perfect formation. The first few hundred yards of the advance lay
partly across dead ground and casualties were few. But on corning
up the western slope of the Knoll, the waves were exposed to the fire
of German machine guns and lost about seventy men. Nevertheless at
7 a.m. an entry was made into the enemy's trenches a little to the
north of the point of the salient. They were found to have been
evacuated except for a few small parties, who were promptly
killed, but to have been badly knocked about by shell fire. The
front line was also seen to be commanded by the support line–
Nameless Trench, Lion Trench, and Tombois Support. While the
troops were moving into and along Tiger Trench, the Germans put
down a barrage of rifle grenades which continued during the whole
time that the battalion was in the enemy's lines.
It
was extremely