Page 300 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THIRD BATTLE OF ¥PRES-BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
269
attacking Addie's party in Beel Avenue from its left flank, killing
the officer and killing or capturing the remainder with the exception
of two men who escaped. The Liverpool Irish on the right had been
confronted with uncut wire and had been therefore unable to come
up on the 2nd/5th Battalion's right, which consequently was in the
air. A determined effort was made to make some progress in this
direction, but very strong opposition was encountered and the
company commander (Bowell) was killed. Blamey was now the only
company commander left. Three times, owing to the losses, he was
compelled to give up ground won and try to consolidate a shorter
line; but the casualties mounted up. Shortly after 7.30 a.m.,
Blarney received a report that the Irish were withdrawing; the
same information was received at battalion headquarters at 7.52 a.m.
from a signaller who had observed the movement; and the adjutant
(Captain A. H . G. Griggs, M.C.) went forward with a view to
collecting spare men and pushing on. Blarney decided to make
another attempt to clear the trenches on his left front and if possible
to gain possession of the vital Nameless Trench, without which his
hold on even Tiger Trench would be impossible in the end. The
attack was made, but it was unsuccessful and costly.
Blamey came to the conclusion that he must either withdraw or
lose the few men he had left, as he was overlooked from the front ,
both his flanks were exposed and the enemy's rifle grenades continued
to arrive accurately. Accordingly at about 8.25 a.m. he decided to
withdraw. He ordered two Lewis-gun teams to act as a rearguard
while he withdrew the survivors down a communication trench
towards the original line. One of the guns was manned by Serjeant
]. Singleton, who had previously displayed great gallantry in
handling it; he used it to great effect at this stage and, when his
turn came to retire, he helped to bring back a wounded man. A
touch of comedy relieved the strain of these anxious moments. As
soon as the withdrawal was ordered, the noble Saxton realized that
his "cookers" would not only not be wanted where they were but
were in considerable risk of capture if the enemy should counter–
attack. He sent back for the horses to pull them to safety but, in
case they were too late, fastened slabs of guncotton to the wheels,
determined to destroy his engines rather than suffer the dishonour
of allowing them to fall into German hands. Fortunately, the teams
arrived just
in
time.
By 9.20 a.m. the original front line had been reoccupied and the
last of the wounded brought in. Major-General H. S. jeudwine,
C.B., commanding the 55th Division, ordered that no further
attacks should be made and came up himself to battalion head–
quarters to express his appreciation of what had been done. Besides
those already mentioned, many officers and other ranks performed
brave deeds on 20th November. Foremost was Private F. Coker
who, although one of his feet had been blown off by a German bomb
soon after he reached Tiger Trench, refused to leave the line and
went on with the work of consolidation for an hour . When a stretcher