Page 318 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE EARLY WEEKS OF
1918
Once more the pendulum of interest swings back to the north,
where three raids were carried out in March. The first was near
Poelcappelle, where at 4.15 a.m. on 7th March, Second-Lieutenant W.
Watt, with Second-Lieutenant
R.
C.
R.
Robinson and forty other
ranks of "X" Company of the 17th Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel
17TH BN.
F.
J.
F. Crook, D.S.O.), raided the enemy defences round Colibri
Farm, close to the Turenne Crossing which was the scene of an
operation by the 18th Battalion on 15th February. The forming-up
of the party was covered by a patrol of twenty men under Second–
Lieutenant ]. C. Grime which kept No Man's Land under control in
front of the assembly position. Unfortunately, some of the batteries
which were to provide the covering fire began to shoot several
minutes before the time laid down. This appears to have alarmed
the enemy, who were seen to leave their posts hastily as the raiders
approached. They may thereby have escaped from the latter, but
they must have been caught by the protective barrage. The enemy
posts and shelters were found to have been severely damaged by
shell fire; and the work of destruction was completed with bombs.
Watt then led his party back, with the loss of only three men
slightly wounded.
The second raid was delivered by the 15th Battalion (Lieutenant-
15TH BN.
Colonel H.
K.
Utterson, D.S.a.), on the outskirts of Houthulst
Forest as before, though a few hundred yards to the west of the
scene of the raid of 18th February. At
II
p.m. on 20th March, "C"
Company (Captain
K.
1. F. Leeming) on the left and "D" Company
(Captain
L.
C. Mandleberg) on the right, both under the command
of Major A. Stone, advanced under a barrage with the object of
entering the enemy's trenches at the edge of the Forest. "D"
Company were very soon held up by wire stretched across a road.
Two Bangalore torpedoes inserted in it failed to explode, whereupon
Mandleberg personally directed the laying of a third one under
heavy machine-gun fire. Three sappers were, however, killed and
it proved impossible to explode it. Mandleberg at once reconnoitred
for some other way of passing the wire and attempted to work
round the flank of the machine gun, but without success. At this
stage, Major Stone came forward and under heavy fire moved up
and down examining the wire. Coming to the conclusion that it
could not be crossed, he ordered the company to withdraw, which
it
did at 12.15 a.m. under his supervision in good order, Mandleberg
carrying back with him the body of one of the men killed at the wire
in spite of the heavy fire at close range which followed him. "C"
Company had meanwhile been slightly more fortunate; for though
they found a strong belt of wire there were no signs of the enemy
near it. They accordingly crossed it and advanced to another belt
of wire. Here they were met with very hot machine-gun fire and
eventually came upon two "pill-boxes" which prevented any
further progress. They did, however, succeed in inflicting a number
of casualties on the enemy and captured an officer, killing two
orderlies who were with him. The company withdrew to its original