Page 307 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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When it was last mentioned, the 9th Battalion had moved to the
Lens district in October, I9I7.
spent a winter of routine there,
but one incident should be recorded. It went into the line at Loos
on I9th November for a normal spell. On the night of 22nd/23rd
November, a patrol visited a brickstack which lay a short distance
in front of the trenches. Finding it empty, two men, Private
Muncaster and Private Reid, of
Company, established them–
selves in it as observers and remained there from 8.30 p.m. on 22nd
till 3 p.m. on 23rd. They used the hours of darkness to make several
loopholes in the stack and to turn their hiding place into a really
good observation post which was much used subsequently, while
they spent the day in watching the enemy's activities and noting a
great deal of valuable information. They were congratulated by the
I Corps Commander.
Three days later, and a few miles farther north, the nth Battalion
C. de R. Martin, D:S.O., M.C., King's Own
Yorkshire Light Infantry) was involved in a patrol affair. The
battalion was in the line near Cambrin, close to the La Bassee
Canal, and was ordered to send out patrols on 26th November, under
cover of gas and smoke, to surprise enemy posts opposite to them
and to take prisoners for the purposes of identification. Gas was
discharged from projectors at 8 p.m. At 8.2 p.m. a patrol consisting
of Second-Lieutenant W. Stelfox, Second-Lieutenant
and 20 N.C.Os. and men left its trenches and advanced towards some
craters, known as Railway Craters, which lay in front of the German
trenches. The enemy, put on his guard by the gas, opened artillery
and machine-gun fire. The craters were found to be unoccupied, but
the main trenches were strongly manned. As the party tried to
cross the German wire, it was spotted and many bombs were thrown
at it. At least three machine guns opened fire from the flanks, while
rifle fire came from the trench close in front. The raiders took refuge
in holes made by trench-mortar bombs near Railway Craters; but
as a successful rush on the enemy's trenches was obviously im–
possible, they withdrew at 8.55 p .m. under considerable rifle and
machine-gun fire.
About ten minutes after Stelfox's patrol had advanced, a
similar party under Second-Lieutenant T. Wood moved direct on
the German front-line trenches . For about an hour it lay within
fifteen yards of them, waiting till the disturbance roused by the other
attempt should have died down. When
was quiet they advanced,
only to be met at once by rifle fire and bombs from many points. The
party promptly dropped back into the shelter it had just left and,
after waiting till II.30 p.m. under persistent fire, made its way back
to its own lines, taking with it two men who had been wounded.
There seems little doubt that the gas discharged from projectors
fell on the German support trenches and that the occupants in the
front line were not only fully warned but able to dispense with gas
masks and so handle their weapons the more accurately.