Page 369 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
ready to entrain for the Somme on the night of 9th/10th April.
It
was at this time that the command of the battalion was taken over
by Lieutenant-Colonel F. S. Modera, M.C., who had been a practising
barrister before the war, had enlisted in the 20th (Public Schools)
Battalion Royal Fusiliers, and had risen through the positions of
serjeant, subaltern and adjutant to be its second-in-command,
being transferred on its disbandment to the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers.
On 9th April Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston,
commanding the VIII Corps and the former commander of the 29th
Division, made a speech to the battalion in which he said that the
division was going south for the counter-attack on the Somme. The
rumble of heavy artillery fire could be heard to the south, but the
General said that so far as he knew the enemy had not attacked.
During the afternoon the battalion received orders to be ready to
move in buses at 8.30 p.m. for an unknown destination. And at
10.15 p.m. the convoy started, but it was not for the Somme. As has
been described in connexion with the nth Battalion, the enemy had
made considerable progress at the northern end of his front of attack
and had advanced to Estaires and Bac St. Maur. The line was thinly
held, in one sector by the tired remnants of a division which had
fought most gallantly and suffered heavily in the retreat of the Fifth
Army in March. The 29th Division was being sent to its help, but
without its artillery and without one of its three infantry brigades.
The 1st Battalion accordingly debussed close to Vieux Berquin at
6.30 a.m. on loth April, to find the roads severely congested, and in
some cases completely blocked, by transport and by refugees seeking
to take away as many of their belongings as they could from homes
they had thought inviolable.
It
marched through Neuf Berquin to
Robermetz (half-way between Neuf Berquin and Merville), where
"A" (Captain P. W. D. Conran) and "D" (Captain
J.
H. Spencer)
Companies were concentrated in a field, while "B" (Second–
Lieutenant ]. Cassidy, M.C.) and "C" (Second-Lieutenant W. King)
Companies were sent out to take up an outpost position facing
south-east, half a mile south-east of and parallel to the Neuf Berquin–
Merville road. These dispositions were completed by 2.15 p.m. ; but
at 4 p.m., in consequence of a report that the enemy had broken
through at Sailly-sur-la-Lys, the battalion was ordered to move in an
hour's time
in
a north-easterly direction in diamond formation, to
keep 3,000 yards in rear of the right of the 87th Brigade, which
was to take up a line from Pont Tournant to Petit Mortier (both
north of Sailly-sur-la-Lys), and to be echeloned in support of the
1st King's Own Scottish Borderers.
It
took some time to recall the
outpost companies; but at 5 p.m. the battalion moved off as
directed with its left on the road running from Merville to Neuf
Berquin and north-east from the latter. At 6.50 p.m., before it had
had time to reach the position already allotted to it, it was ordered
not to go beyond a line running north and south between Estaires
and Doulieu (two and a half miles north of Estaires) and to establish
its headquarters near Pont du Petit Bois, a cross-roads by the