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298
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
I9I4-I9I8
A Long Rear-guard Action
"FIRST SOMME, 1918," "ST. QUENTIN." "FIRST BAPAUME, 1918"
10th Battalion
10TH BN.
The next battalion to be drawn into the flood was the Ioth
(Lieutenant-Colonel G.
L.
Torrens, D.S.O.), which had been for
some months near Havrincourt.
It
spent from the 8th to the 17th
March in training and in burying cable for the V Corps Signals near
Hermies in readiness for the expected German attack. On the
night of 17th/18th March it took over a sector of trenches, which
included "Hughes Trench," "Owen Trench" and "Stock Trench,"
dose to the bend in the half-dug Canal du Nord, north of Havrincourt
and about 2,500 yards west-south-west of Graincourt-Iez-Havrin–
court. At 8.15 a.m. on 21st March the battalion reported that it
was being subjected to a very heavy trench-mortar and artillery
bombardment, particularly on Hughes Trench. At about 9.30 a.m.,–
as elsewhere, the German infantry advanced, attacking in this area
on a front of 1,500 yards. In six consecutive waves they came, but
each line was repulsed with heavy loss except in a stretch of about
two hundred yards of Hughes Trench held by "A" Company, where
the enemy succeeded in gaining a foothold. Lieutenant-Colonel
Torrens proposed to restore the line by means of a counter-attack,
but was forbidden to do so by the Divisional Commander as it Was
not the policy to lose men in fighting to retain the forward trenches.
The battalion nevertheless had the consolation of capturing a light
German trench-mortar and of securing an identification from a dead
soldier of the 242nd Reserve Infantry Regiment. The situation
remained unchanged during the afternoon and evening, though
heavy shelling continued. During the night orders were issued for
the 52nd Infantry Brigade to withdraw to the Havrincourt defences,
which formed part of the main line of resistance. The battalion
began its retirement at 3.30 a.m. on 22nd March, and by 5.30 a.m.
was safely in its new position, "C" Company being
in
the line
between the I2th Manchester Regiment and the 9th Duke of
Wellington's Regiment, with three other companies in reserve in
"City Trench" and "City Support Trench." Repeated attacks were
made on this position during the afternoon, but they were
all
driven back with heavy loss. In view of the worsening situation
elsewhere, orders were issued at midnight for the brigade to withdraw
to what had been the British front line before the successful British
attack on 20th November, 1917. This movement was completed by
7 a.m. on 23rd in spite of considerable probing of the outpost
position by very active German patrols. A company of the 12th
Manchester Regiment was attached to the loth, which occupied its
new sector with this company and two of its own companies forward
and the remainder in support. The morning was fairly quiet but,
after a warning order received at
II
a.m., an order arrived at
I.30 p.m. for a further retirement to Rocquigny. One company of