Page 325 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
the "Brown Line." At this stage, the casualties were estimated
to be:-
6th Battalion
2nd/7th Battalion
2nd/8th Battalion
14 officers
14 officers
17 officers
290 other ranks
450 other ranks
480 other ranks
At 4.30 p.m. the brigade was ordered to move to Buire, where
it rested for a while under the protection of outposts.
It
had,
however, now become evident that, owing to events on other parts
of the front, a further withdrawal must be made if cohesion was to be
maintained. At about 8 p.m., therefore, the brigade was ordered to
march through Doingt and Peronne and to take up a position on the
west bank of the Somme with its right about 1,000 yards north
of Eterpigny and its left at the northern end of la Chapellette,
three-quarters of a mile south of peronne. The brigade was safely
established in its new line by 2.20 a.m. on 23rd March, the 2nd/7th
being on the right, the 6th on the left, and 2nd/8th in reserve near
Biaches. The day was quiet and was devoted to consolidation of the
line, but towards evening the increasing shelling told of the forward
movement of German batteries. The orders issued provided that the
line of the river would be held to the last and that when the troops
on the farther side had safely crossed all the bridges were to be
blown up. By 12 noon the last of the troops from the eastern side
of the Somme had passed the bridge at Peronne, which was success–
fully destroyed. But some hitch occurred over the demolition of the
railway bridge, close to the left of the 6th Battalion, which was the
responsibility of the railway authorities; and although Captain
Barker and Second-Lieutenants
E.
Bowden and
E.
Mead made
further attempts during the afternoon it was never blown up. By
this time the withdrawal of all troops from the east bank of the
Somme and a still further withdrawal by
all
troops north of the river
and west of Peronne had left the northern flank of the 197th Brigade
exposed. The 199th Brigade was therefore placed in position on its
left and at about 4 p.m. "C" Company, the reserve of the 6th Bat–
talion, was ordered to reinforce the 2nd/5th Manchester Regiment in
that area.
On 24th March the German shelling increased in severity. At
about 4 p.m. the enemy reached the river bank opposite the 197th
Brigade and under artillery and machine-gun fire made repeated
efforts to cross. But they were repulsed each time. A wooden
bridge on the 6th Battalion's front was found to have been only
partially destroyed and it was soaked in petrol and burnt by a party
from that unit. Farther to the north, the Germans had succeeded in
throwing a footbridge across the Somme during the previous night
and had passed a battalion across by means of it. Taking advantage
of this bridgehead, more troops crossed and between 4 and 5 p.m.
on 24th the battalion on the left of the 6th Battalion was obliged to
give ground. The 6th, its flank thus turned, was in its turn compelled
to withdraw. How fine its fighting spirit remained was shown by the