Page 334 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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A nother Rear-guard Operation
"FffiST SOMME, 1918,"
After a month's rest and training at Achiet-Ie-Grand, the IIth
Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel E.
Martin, D.S.O., M.C.,
King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) marched on 12th March,
1918, to Fn!micourt, where it was employed in digging trenches and
burying cable so as to strengthen the Corps line of defence.
to have relieved the 1st West Yorkshire Regiment late on 21St
March; but at 5 a.m. that day a very heavy barrage was put down
by the Germans on the front line and a few minutes later the
battalion was ordered to "Stand to" and to have its breakfasts in
readiness for an early move . At about midday a report was received
that the enemy had penetrated the Corps line of defence east of
Beaumetz-Iez-Cambrai, some four miles east-north-east of Fremi–
court; and the battalion was ordered to take up a defensive
position south of the Bapaume-Cambrai road and about 1,000 yards
north of Lebucquiere. The battalion dug itself in on this line by
linking up shell holes and sent officers' patrols forward to find out
what the situation really was in front.
was also ordered to
make good as much ground as possible in front of its line by
means of patrols. The night was uneventful, as was the morning
of 22nd March. But after an unsuccessful attack on the 51st
(lfighland) Division astride the main road at 2.15 p.m., the Germans
succeeded in breaking through the Corps line east of Morchies and
pressed forward up the Morchies valley until they reached the
road, at the same time gaining possession of Beaumetz. To meet
the threat from Morchies and to cover the battalion's left flank,
"A" (Captain T. Rufus) and "B" (Captain H. W.
Companies were moved north of the main road and took upa
position facing north, "A" on the right, "B" on the left with its
outer flank at a beetroot factory which stood at the crossing of the
main road and the Lebucquiere-Morchies road. During the night,
"A" Company were swung round so as to face east with "D"
Company (Captain H. C. Stead) in support behind them. That the
enemy were close at hand is shown by the fact that a patrol under
Lieutenant ]. H. Briffa captured a prisoner and that "A" Company
captured a German officer and four men and inflicted a number of
casualties on German patrols.
The troops next on the right withdrew during the hours of
darkness and the battalion was left holding the point of a salient
very vulnerable from the south when the Germans attacked at
5.30 a.m. on 23rd March from Chaufours Wood, 1,000 yards
south-east of Morchies. "A" and "D" Companies drove them back
with heavy punishment, Rufus displaying great gallantry. But by
6.15 a.m. elements of the division on the left 'had withdrawn,
leaving the battalion in a still more dangerous position about fifty
yards south of, and parallel to, the main road. Here again Rufus