Page 341 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

3 08
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
north and south of the La Bassee Canal. They were relieved (the
1st/7th by the 2nd/sth) in the middle of February, 1918, for a
month of rest and training a few miles south of Bethune. The
summons came on 23rd March when the battalions embussed and
moved by way of St. Pol, Doullens and Beaumetz to Adinfer Wood,
bivouacking for the night in the old gun-pits and trenches on its
eastern side which had been occupied by the Germans as their
second line up to the time of their retreat to the Hindenburg Line in
March, 1917. The day had been hot and the night cold and frosty.
Early on 24th March reconnaissances were carned out with a view
to counter-attacking in a south-easterly direction from Ablainze–
ville if required or to taking up a position on the Ablainzeville
ridge. But later in the morning a warning order was received that
the 12Sth Brigade would be required to relieve troops of another
division farther forward. At 2.30 p.m. accordingly the battalions
marched to Logeast Wood, where they bivouacked for several
hours. Late in the evening further orders were received that the
brigade would not relieve other troops but be diverted to clear up a
very obscure situation round Behagnies and Sapignies. At 10 p.m.
the Ist/Sth Battalion was ordered to send out patrols to make good
those two villages before the brigade attempted to establish itself
to the east of them. No.
II
and No. 12 Platoons, under Lieutenant
J.
K.
S. Page, carned out the task and reported soon after midnight
that the villages were clear of the enemy. The brigade then moved
forward, handicapped to some extent by the glare thrown up by
burning dumps of ammunition, which exposed the moving troops
to the view of the enemy.
It
was not encouraging for it to have to
pass lines of field guns firing with their teams close at hand, ready
for retirement at short notice.
In
the end the situation was found to
be so obscure that, as a precaution against any eventuality, at
least one battalion fixed bayonets for the last stage of the advance.
Fortunately the ground was familiar as the brigade had rested in
the area in 1917. By 4 a.m. on 2Sth March the brigade had occupied
a position with the 1st/7th on the right covering the south-west and
south of Sapignies, the 1st/5th on the left covering the east of
Sapignies and the east and north of Behagnies, and the 1st/8th in
support in some trenches running south and north about I,SOO yards
behind those two villages.
Soon events developed. The troops on the left of the 12Sth
Brigade were attacked at 6 a.m.: the 1st/5th helped to drive the
enemy back, but remnants of many regiments came streaming
back through it and the 1st/8th. The Commanding Officer (Major
M. G. Bird) and adjutant (Captain E. Fairhurst) of the latter
helped to stop these stragglers and to collect them, ably supported
by Regimental Serjeant-Major A.
E.
WaIler of the 1st/7th. The
Germans put down a heavy barrage on the whole of the ground
occupied by the brigade; and at 8 a.m. the enemy was seen to
be
massing in front of Mory, about a mile and a half north-east of
Behagnies. Forty minutes later reports came in that he was massing