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272
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
miles from the nearest part of the line, were nearly captured. The
battalion itself could see masses of Germans, the rear waves led by
officers on horseback, moving in behind them towards Les Rues
Vertes, on the outskirts of Masnieres and on the south side of the
canal. The enemy were kept at a distance from the bridges over the
canal by machine guns and by two Lewis guns which fired into their
flank from battalion headquarters. They were finally driven out of
the Les Rues Vertes by squads of men organized by Captain
R.
Gee,
M.C., Royal Fusiliers, the Staff Captain of the 86th Infantry Brigade,
whose deeds earned for him the Victoria Cross.
An equally powerful attack developed against the battalion's
front , down the road leading from Cambrai to Masnieres. Its t arget
was chiefly "C" Company (Captain T. Newton, M.C.), but although
the attempt was renewed five or six times, the waves never managed
to approach nearer than one hundred yards to the British line.
Each time they were driven back with great loss by rifle, Lewis-gun,
machine-gun and trench-mortar fire. A gap did, however, occur in
part of the line; but it was filled by a small party of signallers and
orderlies led forward by Captain C. E. Loseby who, although
wounded, stayed with his men until the position was
secu~e.
Even
after the repulse of this frontal attack, the situation remained very
critical, as the Germans were still on the edge of Les Rues Vertes
and it seemed as if the 86th Brigade might be cut off. Towards
evening, however, more elbow room was secured south of the
canal to the east and south of it towards Marcoing. Nevertheless
the battalion stood to arms throughout the night, which proved to
be quiet.
The next day, 1st December, opened with a severe and accurate
bombardment of the battalion's trenches by artillery and trench
mortars, which caused some casualties. But it was not until the
afternoon that any further assault developed on this part of the
front . At 3 p.m. the Germans put down a very heavy barrage on the
canal bank; and at about 4.15 p.m. they attacked on both sides of
the canal-towards Les Rues Vertes on the south and towards a
sugar factory, which lay to the east of Masnieres, on the north. The
assault was so strong that at one time the enemy held almost the
whole of Les Rues Vertes and most of the south bank of the canal t o
the east of it, though they were partially dislodged later. But when
the Brigade Commander, Brigadier-General G. R. H. Cheape, M.C.,
came forward to find out what was happening, he found (as he put it
later) that the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers were calm and determined to
hang on at all costs. Shortly afterwards he heard that the Germans
were trying to cross the canal from south to north by the footway
over some lock gates to the south of the sugar factory. Rougier was
therefore ordered to send a platoon of "B" Company to reinforce the
16th Middlesex Regiment, who were already heavily engaged near
that building. He personally supervised the organization of a
defensive position by this platoon after a reconnaissance at con–
siderable risk, and was himself seriously wounded in so doing.