Page 306 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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By now the troops on the north side of the canal in front of
Masnieres were in a dangerous salient and were hemmed in on three
sides with only a narrow channel connecting them with the rest of
the division. They were very exhausted after two days of hard
fighting and they had previously spent twelve days in unusually
heavy digging of new defences after the attack on 20th November.
The Divisional Commander therefore recommended that the line
should be withdrawn to the south of the canal and of Masnieres. At
about 5 p.m. the orders were issued for this operation to be carried
out. The troops on the south bank of the canal were to retire first,
followed by the 16th Middlesex, who were holding the right of the
line north of it. Finally the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers were to leave,
platoons withdrawing in succession from the right. In spite of a
bright and unhelpful moon, this very delicate movement was
effected without a hitch and without detection by the enemy. All
the wounded were evacuated. Every man brought out with him
170 rounds of rifle ammunition and two bombs. The ammunition
which could not be carried was buried or dumped in the canal.
Barricades had been made on the roads leading from Masnieres
towards the enemy on the north of the canal; these were manned by
parties from battalion headquarters under Major Slingsby till the
rest of the battalion had passed through. Then they too marched
away, word being sent to the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers on the left
that responsibility for the line of the canal at this point had now
been passed to them. The withdrawal from Masnieres was complete
by 1.30 a.m. on 2nd December and the battalion marched back to
the Hindenburg Line and later to Ribecourt. Those who were not
asleep smiled as they heard the Germans heavily shelling the
deserted village of Masnieres later in the day before they attacked
it once more from the east and from the north.
The warmest congratulations poured in on the 86th Brigade for
its deeds at Masnieres from the Commander of the III Corps,
Lieutenant-General Sir W. P . Pulteney, KC.B., KC.M.G., D.S.O.,
and from the Fourth Army Commander, General Hon. Sir Julian
Byng, KC.B., KC.M.G., D.S.O. A message was also received from
the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, in which he said:
"Their gallant defence of Masnieres throughout two days of almost
continuous fighting has had the most important results upon the
course of the battle and is worthy of the best traditions of the British
Captains C. E. Loseby and C.
Rougier were awarded the
Military Cross for their gallant and able conduct during this period.
Although the left of the 55th Division was very roughly handled
on 30th November, the 2nd/5th Battalion was not called upon
to take any other share in dealing with the German counter-attack
than to take up a defensive position in front of Malassise Farm,
nine hundred yards south-east of Epehy, under the orders of the
16Sth Infantry Brigade,
readiness to stop any further penetration
by the enemy.