Page 323 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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surrounded. It hoped to make a stand on some high ground at the
southern end of the village, but this was in
view of the enemy;
and, though the Germans were prevented from coming out of the
village in this direction for about twenty minutes, two Lewis-gun
teams were put out of action and such a concentration of fire
brought to bear on the survivors that they were compelled to make
a further withdrawal.
2 ND/ 7 TH
In the meanwhile the 2nd/7th Battalion, which was endeavouring
to form a centre of resistance at the quarries, had been surrounded
by the turning movement which had forced the 6th Battalion out
of the village. A small party under Captain E. A. Smirke succeeded
in breaking through and, thanks to his cool leadership and disregard
of all danger, made its way back to the cross-roads to the south-west
of Templeux, where it attached itself to the 6th Battalion. The
remainder of the battalion, sorely depleted in numbers by the long
bombardment and the close fighting extending over so many hours,
held on in the quarries and made no attempt to escape, as an order
to retire had miscarried. At abput 5 p.m., exhausted and without
ammunition, the survivors were compelled to surrender.
The 6th Battalion, strengthened by Smirke's party, now held a
position in and on the outskirts of Templeux. But the Germans, in
whose advance there had been a halt of several hours, came on
again and by 6 p.m. had gained control of the whole village. At
that time the 197th Infantry Brigade consisted of four groups.
Part of the 6th Battalion, with some Royal Engineers and men of
the Border Regiment and other units, a total of about sixty of all
ranks with two machine guns and two Lewis guns, were to the south
of Templeux. The survivors of the 2ndl7th, under Smirke, together
with the 197th Light Trench Mortar Battery, faced the western
outskirts of the village. The remnants of the 2nd/8th and some men
of a Tunnelling Company were placed to the north-west of it, while
two companies of the 6th were in support in the "Brown Line."
The whole of the forward troops were under Major T.
second-in-command of the 6th Battalion.
The night of 21st/22nd March was fine and comparatively quiet,
though German patrols were active and were evidently anxious
to find out whether the British were retiring under cover of darkness.
The post held by Second-Lieutenant
Skene, M.C., and his platoon
of the 6th Battalion was attacked during the night by a party of
Germans but had little difficulty in driving them off. Another
German patrol tried to slip past the southern end of Templeux. but
was turned back by "A" Company of the 6th, leaving an officer and
two men dead. The defenders could do little in the way of recon–
naissance as their energies had to be fully applied to improving their
own position and particularly the "Brown Line," which consisted
for the most part of a trace six inches deep behind belts of wire. At
2.30 a.m. Major Biddolph was ordered to hold firmly to this line, with
outposts in front of it, and only to retire fighting, the crux of the
position being the high ground to the south of Templeux.