Page 387 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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due south on to the high ground which lies between the villages of
Aveluy and Bouzincourt. The Army Commander decided that the
high ground in the middle of Aveluy Wood, which was very thick
and choked with undergrowth, should be captured and held. The
task was allotted to 104th Infantry Brigade, temporarily under the
command of Lieutenant-Colonel
M. Stevens, D.S.O., 17th
Lancashire Fusiliers; and the latter battalion with the 18th were
relieved on 25th May to practise the operation near Hedauville.
The plan was for three companies of the 18th on the right and one of
the 17th on the left to attack from Heathcotes Bank, near Martinsart,
and to gain the edge of the wood, and for another company of the
17th to push forward into the wood itself. Engineers, pioneers and
machine guns were attached to help in the consolidation of the final
The 17th Battalion went back into the line on 29th May, while
the 18th went into reserve in the "Purple Line" north of Bouzin–
court. At 11.15 p.m. on 31st May the troops in the front line were
withdrawn a short distance to allow the heavy and field artillery
to carry out an intense bombardment of the enemy positions in the
wood. This lasted until 12.37 a.m. on 1st June; when the front
line was reoccupied, a German soldier of a hitherto unidentified
regiment was found hidden in the British trench on the return of
the troops. The assembly of the attacking troops took place without
incident, and at 3.25 a.m. the barrage came down on the edge of the
wood, with a smoke screen on the southern flank of the attack. The
first wave moved up as close as possible to the barrage; unfortun–
ately, a few shrapnel shells fell short at first and hit an officer and
several men of the liaison party between the two battalions. Apart
from this, the advance on the western edge of the wood was success–
ful, both units gaining their first objective. Second-Lieutenant P.
McGiveney particularly distinguished himself at this stage, for when
the company to which he belonged was ejected from this objective
he gathered a handful of men, returned to the attack and retook the
objective. He was wounded in the face but went on single-handed,
bombed three posts and took their occupants prisoner. Later,
while he was organizing another bombing party with a view to a
further advance, he was so badly wounded in the spine that he had
to be taken away and he died three days later. In the meanwhile,
the ravine between Martinsart and Aveluy Wood had been rushed
by a platoon of the 18th, followed by two platoons of the 19th
Northumberland Fusiliers, who consolidated the right flank. But
parties of the 17th Battalion which had been detailed to make a
flanking movement in the wood from the north wele heavily shelled
by trench mortars, though these were soon silenced by the artillery.
By about 5 a.m. the 18th Battalion had reached its final objective
and were establishing posts at the south-west corner of the wood,
H. Turnbull, 18th Battalion, rendering
valuable service in clearing enemy posts in spite of heavy casualties
to his platoon. Captain C. S. Atkinson, also of the 18th, was respon-