Page 411 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, 19I4-1918
the r6th Battalion, particularly distinguished himself by his fearless
journeys to and fro with messages under all sorts of conditions. In
the small hours of the 25th the 16th Battalion was subjected to
heavy mustard-gas shelling for a prolonged period, resulting in
IS
officers and 429 other ranks becoming casualties. Nevertheless at
7 a.m. the battalion succeeded in advancing its left two hundred
yards and taking a wounded officer prisoner.
A CLEVERLY PLANNED SURPRISE AT GIVENCHY
2nd/5th Battalion
Although the gallant resistance of the 55th (West Lancashire)
Division on 9th April, 1918, had prevented the Germans from
securing all the observation to be obtained from the Givenchy
ridge, they had achieved a sufficient measure of success to give them
command of much of the area behind the British line. In any case,
the British had no observation worthy of the name behind
the German trenches.
It
was therefore decided in August that
the line of the craters on the crest of the ridge should be seized
with a view to reversing the position. The German division holding
this part of the line was weak and inclined to take things easily.
Steps were taken to lull it still further into a sense of security, so that
it could be surprised in daylight.
It
had been noticed that the
German garrison's dawn "stand-to" ended at about 6.30 a.m. and
that they then proceeded to overhaul their machine guns and retire
below into their dug-outs for breakfast, leaving a few sentries in the
trench. For a fortnight before the date fixed for the attack, they
were carefully and skilfully schooled in various ways, so as to accept
as a matter of course certain British activities needed for the assault.
For instance, trench mortars fired a few rounds daily between 7 and
8 a.m., so that the Germans acquired the habit of staying in their
dug-outs at that time.
An
aeroplane likewise flew regularly over the
craters between 6 and 8 a .m., showing lights in response to which the
infantry fired rockets: the Germans who were not in the dug-outs
naturally tended to look upwards at this illuminated display. Wire–
cutting was effected by occasional rounds from field guns and by
special patrols. As a precaution against any leakage, however
unintentional, on the part of any British prisoner who might be
captured in the days before the operation, each company was told
to prepare plans for a raid on its immediate front in order that no
impression of a bigger operation should be given, though the plans
were co-ordinated by the battalion and brigade commanders so that
they formed a complete scheme for an attack by two battalions.
The two units chosen to carry out this interesting action were the
1st/4th King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment on the right and the
2ND/5TH
2nd/5th Lancashire Fusiliers (Lieutenant-Colonel G. S. Brighten,
BN.
D.S.O., who had suggested and worked out the scheme) on the left.
They were relieved on 20th August and had the scheme fully