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332
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, 1914-1918
THE ATTACK SPREADS TO
THE
NORTH
"LYS." "ESTAlRES," uHAZEBROUCK'
11
th Battalion
IlTH BN.
After its ordeal on the Somme battle-front in March, the IIth
Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel E.
C.
de
R.
Martin, D.S.O., M.C.)
enjoyed a few days of rest before it was moved by train from Candas
to Caestre on 31st March.
It
took over a quiet sector of the line
near Le Touquet on 3rd April, but was relieved two days later and
went into reserve at Kortepyp Camp, not far from Neuve Eglise.
Shortly after midday on 9th April it was ordered to "stand to" and
to
be
ready to move at very short notice. The German attack, after
overrunning the positions occupied by the Portuguese, tried to
spread fanwise. In the south, as has been described, it ran its head
into the immovable wall of the 55th Division. At the other end,
however, the enemy succeeded in getting behind the British troops
lying to the left of our Allies and, in spite of stiff fighting, penetrated
rapidly towards Fleurbaix and Bac St. Maur. The 74th Infantry
Brigade, which included the IIth Lancashire Fusiliers, was placed
at the disposal of the 34th Division for "puttying up the gaps." At
1.45 p.m. the battalion marched to a rendezvous at Steenwerck. At
3.45 p.m. information was received that the Germans had reached
Bac St. Maur, which was about three miles away. The brigade was
ordered to verify this report and, if it was true, to drive the enemy
to the south. The nth Lancashire Fusiliers was detailed as the
advanced guard with instructions that, on reaching the road running
from Estaires through Croix du Bac to Nieppe, it was to send
forward strong patrols to clear up the situation and to expel the
enemy from Bac St. Maur if found there. Within the unit, "D"
Company (Major E. Munday) formed the advanced guard.
It
dis–
covered that the reports of the German occupation of Bac St. Maur
were correct. The battalion accordingly deployed and took up a
position parallel with the road just mentioned and with its right
resting on the Steenwerck-Croix du Bac-Bac St. Maur road.
It
was
later joined by the rest of the brigade, which attacked at 8.30 p.m.
and succeeded in advancing its line a short distance. The night was
exceptionally dark and there was no moon. Nevertheless when
orders were received to push the enemy still farther south beyond
Croix du Bac, the battalion, advancing at
2
a.m. on 10th April on a
frontage of three companies over ground which was unknown and
intersected by hedges, seized the village of Croix du Bac, bombed
several posts and took some prisoners. A number of casualties were
suffered, however, and it was necessary to reinforce the battalion at
about 4 a.m. with four machine guns.
It
appears, moreover, that
the village was not properly "mopped up" in the inky darkness, with
the consequence that at about 6 a.m. German snipers and machine
guns made their appearance in it and gave considerable trouble. At
9.30 a.m. the enemy attacked in strength astride the Bac St. Maur–
Croix du Bac road and broke through between the right of the nth