Page 361 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

on the back areas and on
positions, that it was evident that the
attack was about to be launched. At 5.15 a.rn., therefore, the
battalion received (by runner, the telephone line from brigade
headquarters having been cut by shell fire) an order that "B"
·Company was to move to the Tuning Fork-Le Preolline, a reserve
system running north and south about three-quarters of a mile east
of Gorre. At the same time the code word "Bustle" arrived, the
signal for everybody to stand to and for battalion headquarters
to move up to Pont Fixe. Lieutenant-Colonel Brighten had to send
the headquarters forward in small parties and ordered them to go
south of the canal so as to avoid the worst of the shelling. At
8.45 a.m. came the German infantry assault. What happened on the
front of the Portuguese division which lay on the left of the 55th
Division (of which the 2nd/5th formed part) is a matter of con–
troversy. For the purposes of this history it is sufficient to say that
there was soon a wide gap on the inner flank of the 55th Division,
which was itself attacked by three German divisions. The latter had
been given contemptuous accounts of the West Lancashire Division's
fighting value, and one regiment even advanced with its band,
which was captured, complete with instruments, together with the
regimental headquarters. The left brigade of the 55th Division had
to swing back on account of the gap left by the Portuguese, and a
gap also developed between it and the 164th Infantry Brigade
which held Givenchy. The Germans penetrated the front line in
many places and infiltrated parties, under cover of the mist, as far
as Windy Corner and the neighbourhood of Pont Fixe, both in the
Village Line, and some marched even farther behind the line, as
shortly be seen.
At 10 a.m. the battalion's chaplain, the Reverend R. E. G.
Newman, M.C., walked into battalion headquarters, asked for a
map, took it over to Lieutenant-Colonel Brighten, and explained in
the calmest tones that, while he was in the regimental aid post at
Windy Corner, the Germans had arrived. Another chaplain who
was there began to argue with the Germans as to whether they had
the right under international law to take prisoner a minister of
religion who was tending the wounded. Under cover of this dis–
cussion and of the mist, Newman, after an unsuccessful grab at a
German's rifle and bayonet, made a bolt for it and was able to give
a very clear and soldierly description of where the enemy were. On
the strength of this report, Lieutenant-Colonel Brighten ordered
Company to form a defensive flank on the left, while "C"
Company was disposed so as to act in support of it. The 1st/4th
King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, holding the right flank of
the brigade sector, reported that the Germans were working down
an important trench known as Orchard Road in the centre of their
line and asked for reinforcements. Lieutenant-Colonel Brighten
ordered "C" Company to send up one platoon, but pointed out that
the principal danger at the moment was at Windy Corner, where
indeed a furious battle was raging. After putting his company in