Page 386 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE GERMAN ATTACKS IN THE NORTH AND ON THE AISNE
353
work and splendid example throughout 29th May earned for him a
bar to his Military Cross.
Major Beswick's remnants were joined by a small party under
Lieutenant M. D. Walker, whose adventures during the battle are a
good example of its confusion and fluidity . The train in which he
was returning from a course with about a dozen N.C.Os. and men of
the IIth Battalion, only half of them armed, was ·machine-gunned
from the ground during the afternoon of 28th May when it should
have been near corps headquarters. A little farther on it was
warned by British cyclists to halt; and, after a British driver had
replaced the civilian who absconded, it was reversed but not before
three German machine-gunners had been taken prisoner by some
men from the train. The latter was eventually abandoned and its
passengers marched off in the heat, with little food and less informa–
tion.
An
officer of the Royal Engineers put Walker's and other
parties into positions with orders to fight a delaying action. The
Lancashire Fusiliers dug themselves in before dark, with a wood in
front of them, and spent a restless night. In the dawn of the next
morning the Germans advanced and were greeted by such fire as
Walker could bring to bear on them. His party was then machine–
gunned by a low-flying aeroplane and, as the troops on the flanks had
disappeared, was forced to withdraw to successive positions in rear,
being harassed by rifle and machine-gun fire as they went. Soon
after, they joined up with other similar parties of another division
and continued an orderly but foodless and exhausting withdrawal,
taking every opportunity of opening fire on any Germans they saw
and indeed taking a few prisoners. Finally they passed through
some Senegalese troops of the French Army and, after getting some
food from rather reluctant villagers, made their way by night to the
Marne. This they crossed with a sigh of relief as they met the IIth
Battalion's interpreter.
A GALLANT ATTEMPT AT AVELUY WOOD
17th and 18th Battalions
After their ordeal in the "March Retreat," ending at Buire, the
17TH AND
two remaining South-East Lancashire battalions went to Bonnay
18THBNS.
and Hedauville for a few days' rest, and thence into the line at
Aveluy Wood on IIth April. The rest of the month was spent in
routine reliefs in this area. On 4th May they went into corps
reserve at Toutencourt and enjoyed a fortnight's training, going back
to Aveluy Wood just before the incidents which were described a few
pages earlier. While there, Captain S. A. Bull, the medical officer
of the 17th, had an alarming experience when an aerial bomb took
away half the house in which he was billeted and left him in bed on
the first floor, unhurt but fully exposed to view.
The German line ran through Aveluy Wood from north-east to
south-west, emerging opposite lVIartinsart and going thence almost
2A