Page 404 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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19r8: AUGUST TO THE ARMISTICE
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
"SECOND SOMME, 1918," "ALBERT,
1918"
1st/5th, 1st/7th, 1/8th, 10th, 15th, and 16th Battalions
37
1
The offensive launched on 8th August, 1918, had been so
successful that the Commander-in-Chief decided to extend it
northwards with a view to turning the line of the River Somme and
thus making possible an eastward advance on a wide frontage. A
preliminary operation on 21st August, in which the 12Sth Infantry
Brigade took part, was designed to seize the enemy's main line of
resistance on the Arras-Albert railway; and the general attack
followed on the 23rd, with that brigade and the loth, 15th, and 16th
Battalions playing a part. The two actions gave the annals of the
Regiment the lustre of two more Victoria Crosses, won within three
days of each other.
The 12Sth Brigade, consisting of the 1st/5th (Lieutenant-
1ST/ 5TH.
Colonel G. S. Castle, M.C., Gloucestershire Regiment), the 1st/7th
1ST/7 TH
(Lieutenant-Colonel G. S. Brewis, D.S.a., Welsh Regiment) and
1 :T/~TB
1st/8th (Lieutenant-Colonel
J.
S. MacLeod, Durham Light Infantry)
BNs.
Battalions, had spent the summer at Sailly-au-Bois and Colincamps,
near the scenes of its final struggles in the "March Retreat." As
elsewhere, there were signs of a possible German withdrawal and
constant vigilance was maintained for further similar indications.
It
can rarely have happened that one man can have earned the
Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Conduct Medal within a
fortnight of each other. Yet that was the achievement of Lance–
Serjeant E. Smith, 1st/5th Battalion. The story of his Victoria
Cross
will
be told a little later in connexion with the attack of the
125th Infantry Brigade on the Dovecot at Beauregard on 21st, 22nd
and 23rd August.
It
was on loth August that he won the Medal in
the same area. When out in command of a patrol of four men sent to
reconnoitre the German line at Touvent Farm and Staff Copse,
south-east of Hebuterne, to find out what truth there was in
suspicions of an enemy withdrawal, he noticed an empty trench
containing reasonably fresh food, chocolate, papers and other signs
of recent occupation. Rightly surmising that the Germans occupied
this trench at night, Smith and his patrol waited. In due course a
party of Germans of an estimated strength of between thirty and
forty came towards the trench, walking straight across the open.
Smith held his fire till they were close to him. He then engaged them
hotly, inflicting heavy casualties on them and scattering the
survivors. He most skilfully withdrew his patrol and brought it
safely back without loss.
It
was for this marked example of enter–
prise and leadership that he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct
Medal.
The first definite retirement by the Germans in this sector took
place on 14th August, and "A" and "D" Companies of the 1st/7th
were able to send out patrols just in front of Serre and establish a
new line of posts there. The 1st/8th was equally able to advance its