Page 371 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, 1914-1918
done by Second-Lieutenant A. Francis, M.M.: during a heavy
bombardment of high explosive and gas he went out and brought
in a Vickers
gun
and its ammunition from a forward post when
all the team had been gassed; and later when another Vickers
gun was out of action because its team had been knocked out, he
crawled forward and opened fire with it so that his company were
able to reach a good position under cover of its fire.
Elsewhere the situation had become so serious during the
afternoon that at about
5.30
p .m. the battalion received orders
to withdraw to a line of posts about
1,000
yards farther back
and about
3,000
yards east-north-east of Neuf Berquin. The
operation was carried out successfully, though not without loss,
Lieutenant G. · Kirby, the signalling officer, being killed while
moving with battalion headquarters. Companies reorganized under
the only officers now available for duty with them-"A" under
Second-Lieutenant G. P. Seed, "B" under Second-Lieutenant
J.
Cassidy,
M.C.,
"C" under Second-Lieutenant G. McK. Bruce
and "D" under Second-Lieutenant
R.
Heap-with a total strength
of
240
N.C.Os. and men. Late that night the battalion was ordered
to withdraw at
2
a .m. on I2th April and take up a position in
brigade reserve between Doulieu and Bleu (which lies just over
a mile east of Vieux Berquin), with its right resting on the Meteren
Becque. This movement was extremely difficult owing to the
darkness and to the confusion which inevitably prevailed between
units and companies, and was not completed till dawn, with the
result that there was little time for digging in before further
attacks might be expected. The retirement was, however, success–
fully accomplished, "B" Company with "A" in support being in the
neighbourhood of the road junction half a mile south-east of Bleu,
and "C" with "D" in support round some buildings on the bank of
the Becque. At 7 a.m. the Germans bombarded the positions on the
right of the battalion. They also sent a shell into the latter's head–
quarters: it burst, but providentially did no more damage than to
shake the occupants, upset their breakfast and cause injuries to
one man through the falling of timber. It seemed that an attack
was developing against the troops on the right; and the outer
flanks of "A" and "B" Companies were refused so as to be ready for
any threat from that quarter. By about
10
a.m. Lieutenant-Colonel
Modera could see from his headquarters that troops were falling
back on the left in large numbers as far away as Outtersteene, near
Merris. This movement spread until the battalion's left was in the
air, and Lieutenant-Colonel Modera had to order it to be refused.
By
12
noon a similar withdrawal had taken place on the right. At
about 1.45 p.m. the Germans succeeded in working round to the
rear of the battalion's left flank and orders were received to conform
to the general line elsewhere by falling back to a line running from
Bleu to the level-crossing over the railway close to Outtersteene.
This movement proved to be very costly to the already weak unit
as practically no cover was available. Nor was it the last change of