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334
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
Lewis guns brought down a hostile aeroplane, whose pilot was
severely wounded. The battalion was not engaged in major opera–
tions this day, but on its right the line had had to be drawn back
under pressure from the enemy and the unit found itself at the
point of a salient which was becoming ever sharper. At 7.30 a.m.
on 13th April the enemy attacked the Pont de Pierre bridgehead
and forced the battalion to withdraw about fifty yards; but the lost
ground was retaken half an hour later with the help of an artillery
barrage and, although German machine guns were troublesome
throughout the day, no further attempt was made to dislodge the
battalion. The Germans had, however, made considerable progress
near Neuve Eglise, farther north, and the salient at Pont de Pierre
began to be in peril of being cut off.
An
organized withdrawal was
therefore arranged to take place during the night 13th/14th April ;
and by 5 a.m. on 14th the battalion was digging itself in on a new
line on the Mont de Lille, a mile south-east of Bailleul, with outposts
on the main Bailleul-Armentieres road west of le Leuthe. The
enemy lost no time in following up this retirement; and at 11.35 a.m.
troops of the Alpine Corps, a fresh formation which had taken part
in the 1918 offensive for the first time the day before, advanced to
the attack. Though by now sorely reduced in numbers, the battalion
beat off the attack with rifle and Lewis-gun fire.
It
is small wonder
that an officer of the Alpine Corps is quoted in Sir James Edmonds's
Official History of the War as having written after the war that he
considered that the defenders on the British front in April, 1918,
were the best troops of the many with whom they had crossed
swords in the course of the four and a quarter years of war. Major
G. D. Brown, M.C., was wounded during the attack and the command
of the battalion devolved on Captain R.
K.
Beswick, M.C., who
continued throughout the operations to display the same skill and
determination which he had shown in Steenwerck on loth April,
organizing counter-attacks and setting a most inspiring example to
the men by his strong personality. In the evening of 14th the
battalion supported a party of the 9th Loyal North Lancashire
Regiment which successfully counter-attacked some Germans who
had crept up to the top of the Mont de Lille under cover of the
hedges. Second-Lieutenant N.
E.
Ward was
in
command of a party
of reinforcements moving forward from battalion headquarters when
this movement began. He immediately charged at the head of his
men and cleared the crest of the hill, driving the enemy down the
steep slope on the other side and inflicting a number of casualties.
The outposts were re-established on the main road at night and this
satisfactory position was handed over early on 15th when the
brigade was relieved and withdrawn into Corps reserve. The day
was spent
in
digging a sector of new rear defences about a mile north
of Bailleul.
In
the meanwhile, the enemy had renewed his attacks.
on the front line and at 5 p.m. the battalion was ordered to "stand
to"
in
case it was needed to move forward
in
support. By
2
a.m. on
16th events had moved so rapidly that further withdrawals of the