Page 366 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE GERMAN ATTACKS IN THE NORTH AND ON THE AISNE
333
Lancashire Fusiliers and the left of the 9th Loyal North Lancashire
Regiment, enfilading both battalions.
An
hour later the Germans
were reported to be working round the nth Battalion's left flank,
beyond which two other units had been forced to fall back. A
withdrawal therefore became urgently necessary and was begun, an
<order being received from brigade headquarters that the battalion
was to hold the cross-roads south of Messeau Mill (three-quarters of a
mile south-east of Steenwerck) and gain touch with the 3rd Worces–
tershire Regiment at La Menegate. This proved to be impossible and
by 3.30 p.m. the Germans were advancing on both sides of Steen–
werck, especially on the east and along the houses on the southern
{mtskirts of the village. The battalion became involved in heavy
street fighting in the village itself, in the course of which the
Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Martin, was reported
missing. Command of the battalion then devolved on Major G. D.
Brown, M.C. The situation was now critical, but Captain
R.
K.
Beswick, of the nth Battalion and Captain G. H . Stead, M.C.,
Cheshire Regiment, of the 74th Trench Mortar Battery, collected as
many men as they could find of the nth Lancashire Fusiliers, the
9th Loyal North <Lancashire Regiment and the 74th Brigade
Headquarters and, in conjunction with other similar parties,
succeeded in establishing a line running from Pont de Pierre (where
the road crosses the Stil Becque a mile north-west of Steenwerck) in
a curve to Steenwerck station. They had thrown off the inunediate
pressure of the enemy; and they enjoyed a quiet night with very
little machine-gun fire. Second-Lieutenant
R.
F. Ackerley and his
platoon did excellent work this day and beat off three German
attacks, he himself holding on till all but one of his men were knocked
out. At 7.55 a.m. on IIth April the battalion was ordered to advance
with a view to straightening the line and clearing the outskirts of
Steenwerck. The movement began at 9.30 a.m. in a mist and was
at first successful, the fringe of the village being captured after
severe hand-to-hand fighting and heavy casualties on both sides.
Company Serjeant-Major
R.
Abbott set a splendid example and
penetrated farther into the village than anybody else, bringing back
valuable information as to the location of the enemy. The gains
could not, however, be held owing to the intensity of the fire directed
against the battalion, which withdrew at about midday and dug in
on a line appreciably farther forward than its original position of
that morning, with its right at Pont de Pierre. That evening a
welcome order was received that the brigade would be relieved by
the 9znd Infantry Brigade, of which nothing further was heard!
The following day, 1zth April, found the battalion in the same
positions as on the nth. Active patrolling was carried out, one
German officer and one man being taken prisoner through the
initiative of Company Serjeant-Major
R.
Abbott, who heard of
their presence
in
a house about three hundred yards in front of the
line and crossed "No Man's Land" in broad daylight to obtain what
proved to
be
a valuable identification. At 9.50 a.m. the battalion's