Page 327 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
I9I4-I9I8
in his vicinity and organizing a successful temporary defence,
resulting in heavy casualties to the enemy. Fighting a rearguard
action all the way, in which Barker and Bowden both distinguished
themselves and both became casualties (the former being taken
prisoner), the brigade fell back to Dompierre. But after a pause
there it was ordered to fight its way steadily back to the high ground
between Vauvillers and Rainecourt. The withdrawal was harassed
by the machine-gun fire of a low-flying German aeroplane and
was made under difficult conditions as the enemy had advanced
rapidly on the right and there was considerable danger of being
cut off by that flank. Nevertheless by 3.30 p.m. the retirement
had been completed and the new line taken up as ordered, with
the remnants of the 2nd/8th Battalion on the left. Soon after,
however, owing to heavy machine-gun and artillery fire, the I97th
Brigade was forced to establish a temporary line to the west of
Framerville, but at 5 p.m. a counter-attack was organized which
drove the enemy out of the village. At dusk the 2nd/7th Battalion
was in position near Vauvillers with the 6th and 2nd/8th prolonging
the line to the north close to Framerville.
Early on 27th March, another fine and clear day, the Germans
captured Vauvillers and, by a simultaneous thrust southwards from
Proyart, put the left of the brigade's line in jeopardy. The situation
was, however, restored by the division on the left. But at about
I2 noon the division on the other flank fell back and the anxiety was
transferred in that direction. The enemy next advanced from
Framerville. Little's Force did its best to hold him up, but was soon
overwhelmed and after heavy losses withdrew to some trenches on
the eastern edge of Harbonnieres, which formed part of the defences
of Amiens--so far already had the Germans advanced in six days.
The I97th Brigade itself had also received its share of this attack,
and at first was pressed back. But during the afternoon counter–
attacks were launched on the Vauvillers-Framerville line, by now
strongly held by the Germans. These retorts were at first successful,
but
in
the end the intense machine-gun fire from the flanks forced
the attackers back to their original line. The 2nd/8th Battalion
played a considerable role in these incidents and suffered further
losses to such an extent that henceforth it ceased to have a separate
existence but under Captain
J.
P. Pender became part of one of the
composite units subsequently formed. A further though short
retirement had to be made later in the day and finally a line was
established for the night about half a mile east of Harbonnieres.
The next day, 28th March, though fine, opened badly. During
the night a German force had crossed from the north side of the
Somrne at Cerisy and occupied Bayonvillers, behind the left flank
of the position held by the 197th Brigade. A company of Royal
Engineers and
all
available Lewis guns were despatched in hot haste
to protect the threatened spot. The troops holding the forward
line at Harbonnieres were ordered to march through that village
and Caix and to take up a position facing roughly north between