Page 309 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
I9I4-I9I8
accurately registered by the German artillery. These and other
iactors complicated the problem of fixing zero, which was eventually
timed for I .55 a .m. on 2nd December. The positions held by the
enemy presented no well-defined line as an objective; and each unit
and company was given an area to deal with. There was to be no
creeping barrage, partly so as not to alarm the Germans and partly
because it was almost impossible to arrange one as the guns were so
sited that they could only fire from west to east, whereas the direction
of the attack was from south to north. The enemy's first line of posts
was to be rushed with the bayonet and without artillery support for
the first eight minutes. After that time, it was expected that
surprise would no longer be possible and a barrage was to be put
down on the German support positions.
The attack was to take place on a frontage of five battalions, the
15TH B N .
15th Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel H.
K.
Utterson, D.S.O.,
Dorsetshire Regiment) being lent to the 97th Infantry Brigade for
the occasion to act as the left flank guard. The battalion's frontage
in the assembly area was four hundred and fifty yards, but as it had
to pivot on its left and to link the original line with tht' position
gained by the rest of the brigade, its holding on the objective would
measure seven hundred yards. The orders provided that "A"
(Lieutenant W. ]. Brockman), "B" (Captain
R.
F. Greenhill) and
"c"
(Lieutenant G. H. Smith, D.C.M.) Companies should advance to
their allotted area in the objective, called the "Red Line," and that
"D" Company (Captain
L.
C. Mandleberg) should move in rear of
"A" Company and be prepared to support any of the leading
companies if they should need help to enable them to attain their
objective.
If
its services were not used in that capacity, "D" was
to consolidate in depth when the "Red Line" had been taken.
The battalion went up to the line late on 30th November. The
march was long and tiring, but was made easier by the fact that the
routes from the end of the duck-board tracks had been marked by
tapes and by wire mounted on screw pickets. DUling the same night
the assembly area was marked out with wire by Second-Lieutenant
J.
S. Scrivener and its position checked by a compass
in
daylight.
On the night of Ist/2nd December the wire was replaced with tape
and the flank of each platoon's position was marked with a white
disc. In addition, boards were put up in each company's area on
which were written
in
luminous paint the compass bearing and the
distance to the objective. Thanks to this careful preparation, the
assembly of platoons was carried out without a hitch and with few
casualties.
At I.55 a.m. on 2nd December the attack was launched. Prisoners
said afterwards that it came as a complete surprise to them and that
their orders were to hold their front line at
all
costs. As General
Shute expected, the attackers had seven precious minutes without
enemy fire. For it was not till 2.2 a.m. that the Gennan machine
guns opened fire and 2.7 a.m. before their guns put down their
barrage. The latter was not severe, but the machine guns, a large