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288
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
In such circumstances, it could not be expected that detailed
records should be kept or that memories should be accurate. While
the main outline of each day's fighting is by now clear, it is still not
possible to give a full and exact account of the actions of each
battalion involved. Those who took part in the terrible events of
March, 1918, will without doubt find points in which the narrative
which follows is in error; they
will,
it
is hoped, forgive its short–
comings, for they
will
appreciate that it has not been possible to
consult every survivor and that versions are often in conflict.
Faced by such confusion, it seemed that the only satisfactory
method of handling the available material was to deal with the
battalions which were first drawn into the struggle and to follow
their fortunes as far as possible right to the end, and then to treat
the next battalion to be involved in the same way. The fact that
references to the 6th Battalion are more ample than to other
battalions is due to the very full account which was compiled by
Captain C. H. Potter, M.C., and Captain A. S. C. Fothergill in their
"History of the 2nd/6th Lancashire Fusiliers," published in 1926,
and which has been freely drawn upon.
The Annihilation of the I97th Infantry Brigade
"FIRST SOMME, 1918," "ST. QUENTIN." "R05IERES"
6th, 2nd/7th and 2nd/8th Battalions
The eve of the German offensive found the 197th Infantry
Brigade (Brigadier-General O. C. Borrett, D.S.O.) holding a sector
of the line very nearly a mile in length to the north-east of the
village of Hargicourt and about 2,000 yards south of the scene
of the dummy attack made by the 2nd/5th Battalion on 20th
2ND/8TH
November, 1917. The 2nd/8th Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel A. E.
BN.
Stokes-Roberts, M.C., Worcestershire Regiment) was responsible
for the whole of the front line and had three companies in forward
2ND/ 7 TH
posts and one in reserve behind the left front company. The 2nd/7th
BN.
Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel E. A. S. Gell, M.C., Royal Fusiliers)
was in support, with three companies occupying the brigade support
line of trenches (which ran due north from Hargicourt and about
1,500 yards behind the front line) and one company in Sherwood
Trench, to the north-west of the village and covering the north-east
edge of the Templeux-le-Guerard quarries. The brigade reserve,
6TH BN.
the 6th Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel
E.
S. Hurlbatt, M.C.,
Manchester Regiment) was in Roisel, but its battle station was in
the " Brown Line," the main system of resistance, to the north of
Hesbecourt.
Late on 20th March the brigade received warning that the
German offensive would probably begin on the following day. All
working parties were therefore cancelled and all units warned. At
10 p.m. the 6th Battalion was ordered to stand by and to be ready
to move to its battle stations at ten minutes' notice. At 3-45 a.m.