Page 328 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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"MARCH,
1918"
295
Guillancourt and Wiencourt-l'Equipee. This difficult movement
was carried out in good order and without contact with the enemy.
By 9.30 a.m. the new stations had been reached, with Little's Force
covering the left between Wiencourt and Marcelcave. But owing to
events elsewhere, it was impossible to risk a long stay in such a
position and, at about midday, a fresh line was taken up, facing east,
close to Ignaucourt. The afternoon was quiet and some reorgan–
ization was possible in the sunken road east of Aubercourt. By now
the survivors of the 6th, 2nd/7th and 2nd/8th Battalions were so few
that they were absorbed into Potter's company of Little's Force.
At dusk that evening the line ran from Ignaucourt to near Marcel–
cave.
It
was then discovered that the enemy was working round both
flanks, that the Force was practically isolated and that if it was not to
be captured it must move at once.
It
therefore marched off through
a cold and wet night, exhausted and hungry, and took up a fresh
position to the north of Demuin. The village furnished some very
welcome food which, with a rest which was enjoyed during 29th
March, restored the morale of the gallant little body of men, though
it is to be doubted whether many of them agreed with the brigadier
who, on a cheering visit to them, asked if they did not infinitely
prefer a war of movement to life in the trenches
!
The 30th March was to be the last day of the ordeal of this party,
but it was not to be peaceful. The enemy had gained possession of
the hill to the south-east of Demuin and began to penetrate in some
strength into the village itself. One company of the composite
battalion was detailed for its defence but, after holding up the
Germans for a while, was forced back; Major F. Chesnutt-Chesney,
6th Battalion (who had been in hospital on 21st March, and had
taken a large draft of convalescents to form the famous "Carey's
Force" and, on hearing that his own unit was near him, had obtained
leave to rejoin it that very morning) sent Lieutenant W. Simpson
with a platoon to the support of the company. Heavy fighting
followed in which Simpson displayed great courage and initiative
and helped to dispose of a German machine-gun team. Another
platoon, under Second-Lieutenant D.
R.
Mackay, was sent to
protect the right flank of Little's Force, but it was cut off by the
enemy's advance and taken prisoner. The Germans had in fact
established more machine guns on the hill near Demuin and the
ridge held by the Force to the north of it therefore became untenable.
It
was also believed that the troops on the left, near Marcelcave, had
retired. A further withdrawal was therefore ordered, to a line on
the Hangard-Villers Bretonneux road. With a view to shaking off
German pressure, Chesney sent a company under Captain
J.
C.
Leask, M.C., Northumberland Fusiliers, to clear the village. After
a severe struggle, Leask succeeded in this task, but lost his
life in so doing. Chesney then ordered Lieutenant C. H. Vines to
extricate the company and to take up a covering position with
Lewis guns in a sunken road behind the village. He saw his men
safely out, but when he tried to make good his own escape he was