Page 443 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

4 10
THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
I9I4-I9I8
of the action that Corporal Frank Lester gained undying fame at the
cost of his life. With a party of about seven men under an officer, he
was the first to enter a house through the back door and shot two
Germans as they tried to escape by the front door. A minute later
a fall of masonry blocked the door by which the party had entered.
The only remaining exit into the street was under fire at point–
blank range, while the street itself was swept by machine-gun fire.
Lester saw that a German sniper was causing heavy casualties to a
party in a house across the street and that they were faced with a
choice between crossing the death-trap of the street and being
picked off one by one where they were. Exclaiming ' 'I'll settle him,"
Lester dashed out into the street, though he well knew the inevitable
result, shot the sniper at close quarters and fell mortally wounded
himself. "To save their lives he sacrificed his own" are the words
which end the citation notifying the posthumous award to him of one
of the finest V.Cs. won by the Regiment in the war. Lester's
company commander, Graham, bore an important part in these
events. He shot two snipers with his revolver and rescued a
wounded N.C.O. by dragging him into a house from the street in
spite of the machine-gun fire which swept down it.
In the meanwhile "B" Company had practically cleared its
share of the village by 8.30 a.m., taking about thirty prisoners and
killing many Germans. Then, acting on the operation orders, it
moved up to the ridge in support of the Manchester. At about the
same time, "D" Company (Captain F. W. Brittnell) was ordered to
reinforce that unit, which had become isolated owing to the divisions
on the flanks not being level with it, though two of its platoons were
detached to clear the cemetery into which some Germans had
returned from the railway. The enemy, indeed, throughout the
morning (perhaps enabled to do so by the bad visibility which
persisted throughout the day) had infiltrated parties back into the
village by way of a sunken road and a railway arch of such length
as to amount almost to a tunnel. By midday the enemy had in
effect reoccupied Neuvilly; so that at I2.50 p.m., "A," part of "B,"
and
"c"
Companies had to be ordered to clear it again, working from
north to south. "B" Company met a large party of Gennans at the
entrance to the village but scattered them with Lewis-gun fire. The
enemy evidently attached great importance to the retention of
Neuvilly, for at 3 p.m. they put down a heavy barrage and counter–
attacked the 12th Manchester, who were driven back, with the
elements of "D" and "B" Companies of the loth Lancashire
Fusiliers attached to them, to a position near the river. The
Germans succeeded in regaining the line of the railway and part of
the village, but were prevented from crossing the river by elements
of all four companies of the 10th which had taken up positions on its
bank. At 5 p.m. "A" and "C" Companies were once more sent to
clear the village south of the river; they found no Germans but
were much troubled by machine-gun fire from the north bank. When
darkness fell, the Manchester were established on the far bank of the