Page 345 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
I9I4-I9I8
he inflicted heavy casualties on them and frustrated their out–
flanking movement. Later in the operations he was wounded but
continued to work his gun until he collapsed through loss of blood.
Serjeant W. Morris of the same battalion was also conspicuous for
his handling of his Lewis gun, with which he did great execution on
the advancing hordes.
Shortly before 4 p.m. the remnants of the brigade had taken up a
line on the Gomiecourt ridge with the Ist /sth and Ist/7th in front
and the Ist/8th in support. Company Serjeant-Majors
R.
Shawand
W. Fletcher, both of the 1st/8th, did useful work at this stage, the
former taking over command of his company when all the officers
had become casualties, rallying the men and leading them to their
place on the ridge after a personal reconnaissance of the ground; and
the latter collecting stragglers and using them to
fill
a gap in the
line and bringing Lewis-gun fire to bear on a party of the enemy
which was trying to occupy a hut in view of his post. Second–
Lieutenant E. W. Rose of the Ist/8th again distinguished himself ;
he had been taken prisoner earlier in the day, but managed to
escape and rejoin his unit on the ridge. Lance-Serj eant
J.
L.
Kneale,
of the same battalion, also rejoined later in the day, having been cut
off with eighteen men and two Lewis guns in a position in which he
held out until dusk when, with great skill and determination, he
brought his party away with small loss and reported to his company
commander at midnight after a very fine performance. The adjutant
of the 1st/8th, Captain E. Fairhurst, had been of the greatest help,
as indeed he was throughout these operations, showing a grip of the
situation and an example of courage and leadership which earned
the highest praise.
The brigade had already lost heavily, the casualties having been
9 officers and 230 other ranks in the Ist/Sth and 9 officers and 210
other ranks in the Ist/8th up to the evening of the 25th. The
situation on the flanks worsened during the evening and orders
were issued for a further withdrawal, to a position in support
between Ablainzeville and Logeast Wood, to be begun by the
Ist/8th at 2 a .m. on 26th March. But by midnight the brigade's
position had become precarious. The Ist/7th was very scattered and
communications between battalion headquarters and its companies
broke down, so that the latter were at the mercy of rumours of
cancelled orders and reports of retirements on their flanks.
It
had
indeed to deliver a counter-attack, ably led by Second-Lieutenant
J.
E. Ashworth, to relieve the pressure before a withdrawal could
be begun. The Ist/Sth found that the unit on its left had dis–
appeared without warning, leaving a gap of some eight hundred
yards in which a strong post was established as soon as possible.
A few minutes after I.30 a.m. the enemy charged a party of the
Middlesex Regiment which lay in front of the Ist/Sth's position and
apparently wiped it out; for they advanced on the Ist/Sth. The
brunt of the attack was borne by "C" Company, which opened a
heavy fire and succeeded
in
stopping the rush, but only by almost