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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
IOth found themselves eventually alongside, instead of behind, the
West Yorkshire, and encountered strong opposition from the
direction of that village. After an order to advance towards Martin–
puich had been cancelled, the battalion took up a position for the
night on a line running north and south about a mile south-west of
Courcelette. At
1.30
a .m. orders were received for an eastward
thrust to take place at 4 a.ill., with Martinpuich as the first objective,
the 12th Manchester Regiment passing to the south and the loth
Battalion to the north of the village, joining hands on the far side
and then "mopping up" the place itself. The village was strongly
held with machine guns and the Germans heavily shelled the
advancing troops, causing a number of casualties. The garrison was
eventually driven out, but the shelling prevented any British troops
remaining in the village. Later "B" (Captain T. Howarth, M.C.) and
"D" (Captain F. W. Brittnell) Companies of the lOth secured a
foothold in the trenches north of the village. Second-Lieutenant
L.
G. Holgate led his platoon with great gallantry and was largely
instrumental in securing the success of the attack. He was seriously
wounded but refused to be moved to the rear until three even more
seriously wounded men had been carried to the aid post. The
advance continued in the afternoon, with "C" (Captain
L.
H.
Gibbs) and
"A"
(Captain
I.
Sankey) leading and "B" and "D"
in support. The two leading companies diverged somewhat during
their advance, and "B" and "D" again found themselves in the
leading line. When the troops reached a crest about half a mile to
the east of Martinpuich, a large body of Germans, estimated at
three companies, was seen advancing down the forward slope of the
next ridge deployed for a counter-attack. The loth Battalion
quickly manned some handy trenches, even the battalion head–
quarters extending the line under the personal leadership of
Lieutenant-Colonel Cotton, before the Germans were on them at
about 4.15 p.m . At this moment, four machine guns of the 17th
Machine Gun Company happened to arrive, and with their aid the
counter-attack was eventually stopped, though it was pressed with
great determination and with the evident intention of retaking
Martinpuich. The garrison of an advanced trench hastily occupied
by "B" Company suffered particularly heavy casualties. Serjeant
H. ] . Colley, M.M., of that company, grasping the situation, rushed
forward on
his~wn
initiative to help them, and rallied and controlled
them. By tbis time the enemy had already obtained a lodgement
in
the trench. Colley formed a defensive flank, held up the enemy, and
eventually drove them out. Only three men of the garrison were by
this time unwounded, and Colley himself was so dangerously
wounded that he died that night.
It
was entirely due to his action
that the enemy were prevented from breaking through and his
courage and tenacity saved a very critical situation and won for
him
a posthumous Victoria Cross. Another gallant act at this time was
performed by Corporal G. Thomas, who went out with an officer to
within fifty yards of the enemy and killed three of them as they were