Page 312 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE EARLY WEEKS OF
1918
279
28th January the 2nd/6th Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel W. Wike)
2ND/ 6TH
had several valuable pieces of work to record, Second-Lieutenants
BN.
J.
B. McCabe and J. D. A. Bell with two men carrying out a day-
light reconnaissance which obtained useful information about the
enemy's defences and organization. McCabe also took out six men,
under the protection of a covering party commanded by Second–
Lieutenant
R.
Dowson, and attempted to take a German "pill-box"
near Passchendaele, but found it too strongly held to be able to
achieve anything. The month ended with a raid carried out by the
loth Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel G.
L.
Torrens, D.S.O.) near
10TH BN.
Graincourt-Iez-Havrincourt, in the Cambrai district. Second–
Lieutenant
J.
M. Hamilton and twenty-two men, including two
sappers, left the front line at 6.45 p.m. on 30th January and crawled
three hundred yards to a position about thirty yards east of an
enemy post. When Hamilton gave the signal, the party rushed this
post . Five men, who had been detailed beforehand for the task, at
once turned to their right and worked up the German trench with the
obj ect of establishing a block in it so as to prevent interference by
the enemy. These men immediately met three Germans, who threw
a number of hand-grenades. A scuffle followed in which two of the
enemy were killed, one with the bayonet and the other with a
bullet. In the meanwhile, the remainder of the raiders found that
the post had been abandoned and engaged in a duel of rifle fire
against German rifles and machine guns in the main trench. Enemy
mortars then began to shell the post; and as the machine-gun fire had
by now become very heavy, Hamilton decided to withdraw his
party, which he did with the loss of only three men wounded. Before
he withdrew he left a number of propaganda leaflets in the German
trench.
At the end of January and the beginning of February, 1918, the
Regiment suffered the loss of four battalions. For some time the
manpower situation had been growing worse; and increasing
difficulty was found in keeping fighting units up to strength with
fit men. (As has been mentioned, men of the highest category were
transferred from the less combatant units to the front line.) For
this and other reasons, it was decided in January, 1918, to reduce
the number of battalions in an infantry brigade from four to three
and to disband one battalion in every four, using the officers and
other ranks thus rendered surplus to fill the ranks of weak battalions.
In consequence of this decision, the 9th Battalion (Lieutenant-
9TH BN.
Colonel J. F. T. P. Ward-McQuaid) was broken up on 25th February
and its personnel distributed amongst the IIth, 15th and 16th
Battalions, roughly II officers and 200 other ranks going to each.
On 7th February the axe fell on the 20th Battalion (Lieutenant
2 0TH BN.
Colonel C. E. Jewels, M.C.), 16 officers and 325 other ranks being
posted to the 17th Battalion and IS officers and 294 other ranks
to the 18th, the transport section, consisting of Captain W. S.
Wrinch and 33 N.C.Os. and men, being attached to the head–
quarters of the l04th Infantry Brigade and retaining its own title.