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28
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, 1914-1918
safe custody, they made up their minds that they were to be shot
out of hand and displayed great terror. This heartened the troops,
who set off to comb the village with great zest, "A" Company to the
eastern edge which it was to hold, "B" to the southern edge and a
third to the high ground to the north, a platoon from each being
detailed to search the houses in its area. As an officer put it, it was
"rather like ratting, only more exciting." In all about a dozen
prisoners were taken, the main garrison having withdrawn at about
II
p.m. At 12.15 a.m. on 14th October, the battalion was able to
report that Meteren was in its hands, and two sections of Royal
Engineers were sent up to help in putting the place in a state of
defence. The total casualties for the day had been Second-Lieutenant
E. C. Mercer and 2 men killed and 7 men wounded. Serjeant
H .
Duckers was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for the
excellent handling of his platoon on this occasion and for consistently
good work in various engagements.
At about 3 p.m. on 14th October, the brigade marched in pouring
rain to billets just east of Bailleul, which it reached, after a long delay
on the road, at about 5 p.m. A rest of twenty-four hours followed
and the brigade marched at 8 p.m. on the 15th to bivouacs on the
main Bailleul-Armentieres road near Le Leuthe (and within a few
hundred yards of the Franco-Belgian frontier), whence the battalion
moved on the morning of 16th October to a position on the Warnave
stream between Nieppe and Ploegsteert, which it entrenched. Early
on 17th October, Lieutenant-Colonel Butler sent out a patrol under
Second-Lieutenant
J.
W. Evatt, which reported that the enemy
were clear of Le Bizet but were holding Le Touquet. At dusk that
evening, the battalion formed up at the cross-roads a mile south of
Ploegsteert and, after Lieutenant-Colonel Butler had personally
marked the site of trenches to be dug between the Ploegsteert-Le
Bizet road and Le Touquet and roughly parallel with the railway
which lies to the north-west of the latter place, the battalion spent a
busy night at work with such tools as could be collected from neigh–
bouring farms.
THE ATTACK ON LE TOUQUET
It
was the intention on 18th October that the enemy should be
cleared from both banks of the River Lys near Armentieres and from
a dominating ridge to the east and south-east of that town, as a
preliminary to moving down the Lys towards Menin. A salient in the
German line had its point at Frelinghien and it was the task of the
12th Brigade to attack the western side of it, the loth Brigade
being on its right. The attacking troops of the former were to be the
King's Own on the right with the trenches between the river and
Le
Touquet as its objective, and the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers on the left
with the village itself as its objective, both units being under the
command of Lieutenant-Colonel
R.
H.
K.
Butler, who used as his
staff officer his adjutant, Captain A.
H.
Spooner. The command of
2nd Battalion devolved on Captain].
E.
S. Woodman, who detailed