Page 346 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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"MARCH, 1918"
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entirely exhausting its stock of ammunition. During this phase,
Lieutenant-Colonel Holberton moved to and fro in the open amongst
the men, encouraging them by his presence and advising them as to
how best to nurse their rounds and to use them to advantage. His
gallant conduct, and his life, were ended by a stray machine-gun
bullet shortly before 2 a.m. Tickler took command of the battalion
temporarily, but immediately sent for Lieutenant-Colonel Brewis
of the Ist/7th, who was commanding the whole of the forward
troops and who decided to withdraw at once. At 2.IO a.m. the
brigade began its retirement, covered by
"c"
Company of the 1st/5th,
a burning tank in Logeast Wood giving useful guidance. Five
minutes later a force of Germans tried to rush the company; but
only a few reached its position and they were immediately killed.
Some were seen working round the left flank. Lieutenant
J.
K.
S.
Page with a platoon rushed over in that direction and held them up.
He stayed in position while the rest of the company began an orderly
retirement by sections. Company Serjeant-Major
J.
Fisher, M.M.,
showed conspicuous gallantry during the retirement, controlling
the men with coolness and complete disregard of danger; when
some of the enemy charged and were about to bayonet a Lewis–
gunner who was changing a magazine, he killed them. Serjeant
J.
Taylor helped the withdrawal by superintending the firing of two
Lewis guns which effectively checked the Germans' advance.
Serjeant
J.
Rowen handled his platoon very skilfully in this difficult
operation and himself fired a Lewis gun until ordered to retire.
Serjeant G. H. Barnes was detailed to cover the company's with–
drawal, which he did most gallantly, beating off the German pressure.
He then moved his platoon back by sections with few casualties,
took up a fresh position and again kept the enemy off his company
with great coolness.
The whole brigade reached its appointed position soon after
3 a.m. and enjoyed a few hours of rest. But at 6 a.m. the enemy
were again at hand and yet another withdrawal was necessary if the
1st/7th was not to be caught in Logeast Wood. Orders were
therefore issued for the brigade to move to a line about 1,500 yards
east of les-Essarts-Ies-Bucquoy. While this move was in progress,
a report (false as it proved) was received that the Germans had
taken the village of Hebuteme, which lay some three miles behind
the right of the intended position. The brigade was therefore
ordered to take up the best line it could find covering Essarts
from the south-west with the least possible delay. This involved
a change of the direction in which the units had been facing;
but by I p.m. some sort of line had been occupied and partly
dug. The rest of the day was quiet, and the brigade was able to
reorganize in the position originally ordered. Major G. S. Castle,
M.C., came up to take over command of the Ist/5th and Lieutenant–
Colonel O. St.
L.
Davies rejoined the 1st/8th from leave. The
fighting strength of the brig!tde at this time was about 34 officers
and 880 N.C.Os. and men, including brigade headquarters.