Page 322 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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"MARCH,
I9I8"
28 9
on 2Ist the 2nd/8th Battalion reported that a patrol had just come
back with the information that there were abnormally large numbers
of the enemy in the trenches opposite their right company. Artillery
fire was brought to bear on this area as soon as possible. As it was
now clear that the long-expected attack was to take place, the 6th
Battalion was ordered to its battle stations at 4 a.m. Thanks to
careful previous preparation, it was ready to move as soon as the
order was received. Its march was hampered by the heavy bombard-
ment with gas and high-explosive shell which began soon afterwards
and by a dense fog which prevailed over a wide area till after
IT
a.m.
The shelling cut all the telephone lines and runners were the only
means of communication; but their movements also were hampered
by the shelling, by the mist and by the need for wearing their anti-
gas respirators continuously, with the result that very little
information and very few orders ever reached their destinations in
time to be of use. Nevertheless by 6 a.m. the 6th Battalion was in
its appointed positions, though its report to that effect did not reach
brigade headquarters a mile and a half away till 8.IO a.m. The
shelling increased in intensity and then lifted from the front line
soon after 8.30 a.m., when an infantry attack developed against the
2nd/8th Battalion in the forward positions. Dense masses of
2ND/8TH
Germans advanced and overwhelmed the whole area occupied by the
BN.
battalion, whose headquarters were captured in a dug-out before
they had the slightest idea that the assault had even begun. The
attack had come in a southerly direction from Lempire towards
Hargicourt and had consequently turned the left
flank
of the
brigade. At about 9 a.m. the German swarms reached the support
position and attacked the 2nd/7th Battalion in front of the quarries
2ND/7TH
close to Templeux-Ie-Guerard. Two hours later the enemy had
BN.
captured the whole of the forward and support lines.
The great majority of the 2nd/8th had been killed or taken
2ND/8TH
prisoner, but Second-Lieutenant G.
L.
Sayer and a few other
BN.
survivors made their way back and, joining the 6th Battalion, were
6 TH BN.
of great assistance in defending strong-points in and near the
village of Templeux. Shortly before noon the Germans had captured
Sherwood Trench, were working their way past the east of the
quarries and were in parts of Templeux itself. The fog had by now
lifted, and the situation could be more clearly seen. Lines of
Germans on the high ground beyond the quarries presented a very
favourable target of which full advantage was taken by the artillery
with good results. But more active measures seemed to be called
for; and at about I2.30 p.m. Major W. Wike led a counter-attack
of "A" (Captain
J.
L.
Lee, M.C.) and "B" (Captain H. C. Gill)
Companies of the 6th Battalion which succeeded in clearing the
village and establishing a line along its north-eastern face. But the
centre was gradually pressed back and fighting took place in the
village, the outskirts of which changed hands several times. Finally
the Germans succeeded in turning the left flank of the position and
"A" Company was forced to retire in order to escape being
u