Page 326 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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"MARCH,
I9IB"
293
refusal of Lance-Corporal
J.
H. Cooke, who was in command of a
forward post, to retire until the order to do so, passed along the line
by word of mouth, had been authoritatively confirmed by an
officer. Till then, he held on with great gallantry and determination.
Under very heavy artillery and machine-gun fire the battalion
fought its way back for about a mile to a position on the high
ground between Barleux and Biaches, where troops of the soth
Division were already in place. The new line was reached at dusk.
The morning of 2sth March was marked by further heavy shelling.
The bridgehead and the unbroken railway bridge at Peronne
enabled large bodies of Germans to cross on the left of the new line.
They had also seized the still serviceable remains of the bridge at
Eterpigny on the right. As the clear day wore on, it became evident
that the Barleux position was rapidly becoming untenable and,
under orders, the brigade withdrew in good order to a position
between Assevillers and Herbecourt. Lieutenant E. H. Parsons
of the 2nd/Bth did yeoman service in charge of a forward signalling
station from which he sent back valuable information. When the
withdrawal began, he continued to supply information, "tapping
in" all along his line. (Re was later severely wounded while leading
an attempt to capture a German machine gun which was holding
up a counter-attack.) Casualties had been so heavy in the I97th
Brigade that practically all semblance of its original organization
had by this time disappeared and men were grouped under officers
as found most convenient. On the other hand, small but very
valuable reinforcements were beginning to arrive. Captain E.
L.
Riggins, M.C., of the 2nd/7th, hurried back from leave in England
when he heard of the German offensive, as did Lieutenant-Colonel
W. B. Little, D.S.O., M.C. (sth Border Regiment). The latter
was put in command of a battalion of about six hundred men
of various units drawn from the 66th Divisional Reinforcement
Camp which was formed on 2sth March. One company was allotted
to Captain Riggins and another, composed chiefly of Lancashire
Fusiliers, to Captain C. R. Potter, M.C., 6th Battalion, who had
just returned from hospital, with Lieutenant F. Heydon (6th),
Lieutenant C. H. Vines (6th) and Lieutenant W. Simpson (2nd/8th)
as his other officers. This unit, known as "Little's Force," marched
at 3 a.m. on 26th March from Corbie through Warfusee-Abancourt
and along the main road to the 6th Battalion transport lines
near Proyart. Later it moved to Harbonnieres, east of which
it took over at dusk the line held by a composite battalion formed
from the I9Bth Infantry Brigade.
On the same day (26th March) German artillery fire began at
dawn ; and at
B
a.m. the Germans attacked. Troops on the left of
the position held by the I97th Brigade had to retire, and the brigade
could only conform. Throughout the early part of the day,
the Brigade Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant F. C. Braby, of the
2nd/Bth, did gallant work, not only in carrying important messages
to and fro under heavy fire, but also in collecting a party of men