Page 370 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE GERMAN ATTACKS IN THE NORTH AND ON THE AISNE
337
Meteren Becque about a mile north of Estaires. These new positions
were taken up by 8.30 p.m. with "A" and "B" Companies in the
forward zone,
"c"
forming a defensive flank on the right and "D"
Company in reserve. The night was quiet, but early on the rrth
there began what is described in the 1st Battalion's War Diary as
"The Battle of Vieux Berquin." At 6.I5 a.m., in consequence of
shells from light guns and trench mortars falling in "B" Company's
area-an indication of an advance by the enemy-patrols were
pushed down the roads leading to the south-east to find out the
situation. One of these, under Second-Lieutenant E.
L.
Ford, on
going down the road towards Trou Bayard (north-east of Estaires) ,
found a number of men of another division retiring from that
hamlet. Ford rallied them and, with them and his own platoon,
reoccupied a line immediately north-east of it. This party fought
gallantly here all day and none returned. As it was evident that the
Germans had penetrated the front line and were firmly across the
River Lys in several places, "B" Company was ordered to refuse its
right flank so as to face south-east, "C" Company to hold a line
astride the Meteren Becque for about five hundred yards north-east
from Pont du Petit Bois, and "D" to continue "C" 's line to the
right. This change was completed by
IO
a.m.; but, although the
battalion's left was in touch with a unit of the 87th Brigade, its
right was in the air. In the meanwhile the Germans were continuing
their attacks on the meagre forces of the tired division already
mentioned. And at about
I
p.m. one of its battalions was seen
to be retiring down the road running from Estaires along the
Meteren Becque, while it was reported that the right of the line
which rested on the main Estaires-Neuf Berquin road was falling
back. The 1st Lancashire Fusiliers were ordered to re-establish the
line and extend their own frontage. Three companies moved
forward at 2 p.m. "D" Company on the right was at once met by
very heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, suffered many casualties and
gained only three hundred yards. "C" in the centre had advanced
about the same distance when it was counter-attacked by the
enemy. This onslaught was beaten off, but the company had later
to withdraw to its original position, where it repulsed two further
German assaults. "B" Company gained its objective but, finding
itself outflanked on the right, had to fall back to its original
position under cover of the fire of its Lewis guns. "D" Company
adjusted its line accordingly. This small operation had cost the
battalion heavy losses, the three companies losing nine out of their
eleven officers and 300 other ranks. While it was in progress, "A"
Company was withdrawn to battalion headquarters to act as a
reserve. Later Captain P. W. D. Conran and fifty men from it were
sent to occupy a wood 2,400 yards due east of Neuf Berquin in
order to harass the enemy who were reported to be in possession
of the village. This party was never heard of again, but some
months afterwards it was learnt that Conran had died of wounds
in German hands. Twice during the day very valuable work was
z