Page 375 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

34
2
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, 1914-1918
RIEZ DU VINAGE-GERMAN ATTACK, A PATROL AFFAIR AND A
COUNTER-ATTACK
·'BETHUNE,"
ULYS"
2nd Battalion
2ND
BN.
After its ordeal on Fampoux Ridge on 28th March, the 2nd
Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel ]. W. Watkins, M.C.) left the Arras
district on 12th.April and moved by bus to Busnes, near Lillers.
Marching about a mile south-east next day, it spent several days in
training at l'Ecleme before relieving the 1st Hampshire Regiment at
Riez du Vinage, a hamlet on the north side of the Aire-La Bassee
Canal a mile north-east of Mont Bemenchon, with its headquarters
in a house close to the drawbridge where the road from the latter to
Robecq crosses the canal. The Germans had reached this position,
the limit of their advance westward, after an advance of about
eight miles. Many farms which had for over three years been
considered immune from the ravages of war and had been regularly
worked by their occupants were now in or very near the front line.
They had been hurriedly deserted and their livestock was running
wild.
It
would not have been right to help the enemy by allowing
any food to reach him if it could be prevented, and the British
troops consequently stopped any pigs or hens from crossing the line
and diverted them to their own transport lines. Lieutenant-Colonel
W. Bowes, D.S.O., the devoted quartermaster of the 2nd Battalion,
saw to it that what the troops provided the troops received, and a
pig sent down the line went back thither in the form of hot pork
after a very short interval for suitable treatment. Wine and other
pleasant things were rescued from houses where they would otherwise
have been destroyed by shell fire and there appeared to be no reason
to put them in the canal. The medical officer, Captain S. H. Adams,
of the United States Medical Reserve Corps, said later that he had
heard that after a prolonged diet of this sort the men began to ask
for bully beef!
But most of these good things could only be enjoyed when things
had settled down. When the 2nd Battalion arrived in this sector,
there were more urgent things to think about. At
I
a.m. on 18th
April the Germans began shelling the back area. Two hours later
this bombardment became more intense and at 3.45 a.ID. the 1st
King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, on the right of the battalion,
sent up the "S 0 S" signal. A barrage was promptly put down by
the artillery and caught the enemy in his assembly trenches,
inflicting heavy casualties. The brunt of the attack fell on the
King's Own, but the right Lewis-gun post of "B" Company (Captain
S. Clarke, M.C.) of the 2nd Battalion was involved, though it
managed to drive the enemy back with a loss to him of twenty dead.
"C" Company (Captain T.
H.
Robinson) in the centre saw some
movement on their front and sent out a patrol which brought back a
prisoner. Thereafter the day was quiet until 8.15 p.m., when there
was further fighting on the right with the object of restoring the