Page 430 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

1918:
AUGUST TO THE ARMISTICE
397
naissance by Major
L.
C. Mandleberg, M.C., it was able to clear the
village from the south and establish a line to the east of it. During
the afternoon the 2nd Manchester Regiment, which had attacked
with great gallantry and a considerable measure of success, suffered
such severe losses in its right company that it was compelled to ask
for the help of a company of the 15th. Mandleberg distinguished
himself throughout the fighting at ]oncourt, taking up supports
when needed; and at a later stage, when a German counter-attack
was developing, he took command of the firing line and organized a
steady and deadly volume of fire which contributed to the break-up
of the attack.
The advance had now reached the Fonsomme Line which lay,
incompletely wired, about three miles behind the main Hindenburg
Line and was the last organized system of defences to be broken
before open country was reached and open warfare could, after four
years, be resumed.
It
had considerable natural strength and was
stubbornly defended when it was attacked on 2nd October. The
16th Battalion's role in this operation was to help in the capture of
Ramicourt, which lay immediately east of the Fonsomme Line.
It
formed up east of ] oncourt and, advancing under a barrage, managed
to cross the Fonsomme Line. But the troops on the left had been
unable to progress or to overcome some German machine guns well
placed to fire at the 16th Battalion. Serious casualties soon occurred.
One company lost
all
its officers, whereupon Company Serjeant–
Major F. Capon took command of it and, when he could go no
farther, organized the defence of an advanced and very exposed
position and encouraged the men. In another company, Second–
Lieutenant C. H.
J.
Hulton was the only officer left. When his
company was likewise held up by the machine-gun fire, he went
round the whole of his line, reorganizing it and putting heart into
his men. The position was for some time very obscure to those at
headquarters. Lieutenant-Colonel Stone, the Commanding Officer,
was killed at an early stage; Major D. Lindsay was wounded on his
way up to take command; and eventually Major P. E. Robathan
came up from the transport lines and assumed command. In
the meanwhile Lieutenant ]. W. Lewis had gone forward from
battalion headquarters to find out how things really stood. He
made his way to the front and back through very heavy fire
and brought back clear and valuable information, on the strength
of which the brigadier ordered a withdrawal to the Fonsomme
Line. This movement was successfully carried out, thanks largely
to the skill of Hulton, who afterwards made several reconnaissances
in front of the line and ascertained much useful information
as to the enemy's dispositions. Capon also went out in front
of the new line on several occasions with parties of men and
rescued wounded under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire. Another
who did gallant work that day was Second-Lieutenant H. White–
head, who led his platoon with great skill, having the previous night
successfully led the carrying party with the battalion's rations along