Page 335 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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showed great coolness and disregard of danger, keeping complete
control of his men. Lance-Corporal A. Eastwood, M.M., also
distinguished himself. He was in command of a Lewis-gun section
and, although he was in danger of being cut off, he would not retire
until he had emptied his last magazine at the enemy, thereby
considerably delaying them. Though "B" and "C" (Lieutenant
G. A. Keir) Companies did some excellent shooting and though
Company Serjeant-Major
F. Haslam, M.M., went from post to
post under heavy rifle fire, encouraging the men by his cheerfulness
and energy, the Germans managed to establish a machine gun on the
high ground near Lebucquiere which made the battalion's position
untenable. At 8 a.m. Major F. G. Massey, M.C., ordered the battalion
to fall back slightly so that its right rested on Lebucquiere. This
movement was completed by 9 a.m. under heavy fire, but the
casualties had also been heavy (Massey being wounded and Captain
G. A. Potts, M.C., assuming command) and a further withdrawal
was ordered to a line which had been dug some two hundred yards
in rear by the 4th King's Shropshire Light Infantry. This position
was also turned by the enemy and, as the battalion's flanks had
been left uncovered by the retirement of other units, the retreat had
to be resumed at n.30 a.m., the battalion marching to Fremicourt.
Constant fighting had thus continued for six hours; but, although
the battalion lost nearly half its strength and could not hold its
ground, it was the brigade commander's opinion that it inflicted
far heavier casualties on the Germans, who pressed on in mass
formation and offered the best of targets. At
p.m. the brigade
marched four miles from Fremicourt to Bihucourt, where it arrived
at about 3.30 p.m., the nth Battalion collecting its stragglers and
moving on to Savoy Camp near Biefvillers-les-Bapaume, where a
peaceful night was spent.
Early in the afternoon of 24th March the battalion moved out
and dug itself in on the BiefviUers-Sapignies spur on the left flank
of the brigade. At about 9 a.m. on 25th March the Germans attacked
Sapignies, forced back the remnants of the division which was
holding it and occupied the high ground to the west of the village.
This enabled them to install machine guns enfilading the position
held by the nth Battalion, whose left flank was thereby put in such
peril that the battalion had to withdraw by two stages to a position
nearer Bihucourt. Later, the right flank of the brigade was driven
back and the battalion returned to the old British line , won in 1916,
running along the south-west side of that village. At 2.30 p.m.,
order to conform with the dispositions of the troops on its right,
the battalion fell back to a line facing south-east about 1,000 yards
farther back. The Germans continued to press on and were seen
massing in Loupart Wood, some 2,000 yards south-west of Grevillers.
By 6 p.m. they had once again succeeded in bringing enfilade
machine-gun fire on to the right flank of the battalion, which
was therefore ordered to fall back to the old trench line east of
Achiet-Ie-Petit. Later in the evening the battalion was taken