Page 344 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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"MARCH,
I9IB"
3
II
shrapnel bullets and was mainly responsible for his company
beating off a series of attacks during the morning of this unforgettable
day. Throughout it his courage and determination were of the
greatest help when all but one of the officers of his company had
become casualties. Although eleven N.C.Os. and men of the Ist/7th
won the Military Medal for their share in this magnificent defence,
only one more individual can be mentioned here: Private T. T.
Petrie rallied two sections which were in difficulties and brought
them to the flank of a trench threatened by an encircling movement
by the Germans. His party defended the trench for a considerable
time; and when the enemy, by sheer weight of numbers, forced
their way into it, he placed himself between them and his own men
and covered the withdrawal of the latter, inflicting heavy losses on
the attackers and being the last to leave the trench.
At about I2.30 p.m. the Germans attacked in large numbers
about I,OOO yards north of Behagnies; and three-quarters of
an hour later the Ist /7th had to report the presence of strong
enemy forces on their right flank and of columns of infantry seen
marching south-west of Vaulx-Vraucourt, while the Ist/sth heard
that the Germans had entered Bihucourt, nearly two miles behind
their position. The brigade, being thus threatened from several
sides, was ordered to withdraw to a position on the ridge between
Behagnies and Gomiecourt. The Ist/7th were able to disengage and
retire with comparative ease, thanks to the skill of the leaders who
had so distinguished themselves in the morning and to Lieutenant
R. R.
Brewis who collected and organized scattered parties of other
units and thus strengthened the new line. The Ist/sth were not so
fortunate. The Germans had worked round both its flanks and were
firing into it from behind. "A" Company (Captain G. Gray) was
surrounded; it fought splendidly till its ammunition was exhausted;
and then a serjeant and a dozen men managed to slip away, a few
were taken prisoner, and the rest had to be left, dead or wounded,
where they lay. "C" Company (Captain W. M. Tickler, M.C.) never
received the order to withdraw and hung on till 3 p.m. when,
finding that both its flanks were in the air and that it was being
heavily fired on from the village of Behagnies behind it, it was
skilfully extricated by its commander with slight casualties. "B"
Company lost half its strength: some of the survivors attached
themselves to "C" Company while the rest were led by North to
fight alongside another unit until he was able to rejoin his own.
"C" Company now found itself acting as rear guard to the brigade
and performed its task most successfully.
It
was helped at the
outset by the self-sacrifice of a platoon of "C" Company of the
Ist/8th under Second-Lieutenant G. Massey which took up a position
astride the road leading from Sapignies to Gomiecourt and was last
seen fighting gallantly at close quarters against greatly superior
numbers. Private F. West of the Ist/8th covered the withdrawal of
his own platoon by taking up a position with his Lewis gun in the
open and delivering such a hot fire at the advancing Germans that