Page 302 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES-BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
271
carried back all the wounded and brought in a badly wounded
officer, in spite of being attacked by an enemy party which he drove
off with his revolver. Company Serjeant-Major V. C. D. Fraude,
M.M., also did good work in rallying his men and organizing a party
with which he held a strong point against a counter-attack. By
midnight all three companies were back in their original places.
But the venture had not been entirely
in
vain, as it had procured
much valuable information as to the strength and dispositions of
the enemy. Cassidy was awarded the Military Crass and Froude
the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The battalion was relieved at 5 p.m. on 24th November and
withdrew to cellars and other shelters in Masnieres, with the
exception of "A" Company, which occupied three strong points
covering the right flank of the brigade's position to the north-east
of the village.
The Riposte
Two days later, however, the 1st Battalion (Major T. Slingsby,
1ST BN.
M.C., in temporary command) was back in the line again, though
this time it took over a sector farther to the east-between the
Masnieres-Rumilly and the Masnieres-Crevecoeur roads-with "A, "
"B" and
"c"
Companies in the line and "D" in support. The next
two days passed quietly, but on the night of 28th/29th November
the Germans shelled Masnieres very heavily, causing some casualties.
This was not, however, allowed to interfere with the work of making
the battalion's line almost continuous and digging communication
trenches to it. The daytime of the 29th November was also quiet,
but again during the night the British battery positions were
heavily shelled.
This activity on the part of the German artillery was not without
method. During the last few days of the month it had been noticed
that the German guns were registering on a number of new targets,
and it was also evident that a considerable number of new
batteries were registering on important places of which the old
batteries knew the range. Much activity was noticeable behind the
line and hostile aircraft were very active.
In
short, it was evident
that the Germans were planning a counter-attack.
It
came on 30th November, a misty morning. After a night of
severe gas shelling of batteries and the forward area, a very heavy
barrage fell at 7 a.m. on Masnieres and on the front of the division
on the right, and lasted for three-quarters of an hour. With it came
Richthofen's "circus" of some two dozen aeroplanes of various
brilliant colours which signalled to the German artillery and
machine-gunned the trenches and streets of Masnieres, untouched
by the hail of bullets sent up at them. All telephone lines were cut.
At about 8 a.m. a powerful infantry attack was launched from the
east, which penetrated so far behind the line which the 1st Battalion
held at Masnieres that the headquarters of the 29th Division at
Gouzeacourt, six miles behind its own front line and two and a half