Page 448 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

orders too late to allow objectives to be pointed out in daylight.
The 1st/7th were to attack on the right and the 1st/8th on the left,
with the 1st/5th in support with the special role of forming defensive
flanks if necessary. Thermite shells were to help the keeping of
direction- the attack was at a north-easterly
to the starting
line-by marking the flanks and centre; but their efficacy may be
doubted in view of the mist that prevailed during the action.
At 3.26 a.m. on 23rd October the 1st/7th (Lieutenant-Colonel
G. S. Brewis, D.S.O.) advanced with "A" Company (Captain
O'Bryen, M.C.) on the right and "D" (Captain W. Kelly)
on the left, with platoons of "B" (Captain E. C. Sington) attached
for mopping up and consolidation. They soon took their first
objective; but the fight for the second objective was very severe.
"A" Company was held up by a nest of machine guns lurking in
shell-holes and withdrew into dead ground while O'Bryen evolved
a plan for outflanking them. He was helped by the timely arrival
of the battalion intelligence officer, Lieutenant F. B. Webb, who
came up through heavy shelling and machine-gun fire to get infor–
mation which he sent back to battalion headquarters. At 7 a.m.
two tanks arrived from the left. With their help, O'Bryen led
some men out to a flank and organized an attack which was ably and
gallantly carried out, particularly by himself and Lance-Serj eant
F. Hesford who, although knocked down by the explosion of a shell
which killed the man next to him, continued his task till the offending
guns were captured. "A" Company was then able to push on,
though more machine-gun nests were encountered and it suffered
severe losses. At one point there was a pause because all the officers
there had been killed: but Second-Lieutenant
McCready, of "C"
Company in support, dashed forward, took command and led the
men on to their final objective where "D" Company and the rest of
"A" Company had established themselves. By 7.40 a.m. the Ist/7th
had splendidly fulfilled their task, at the cost of 3 officers and 95
other ranks.
On the left of the brigade front, the 1st/8th (Lieutenant-Colonel
] . S. MacLeod) had had an equally exciting though not so exacting a
time. With "A" Company (Captain D. G. Bird) on the right, "B"
(Captain D. Cumming, M.C.) on the left, and "D" in rear of "B" with
the task of mopping up and holding a wood and cross-roads south
of Vertigneul and the railway beyond it, the battalion advanced at
3.26 a.m.
at once met strong opposition on both flanks, par–
ticularly from machine-gun nests, one of which Second-Lieutenant
C. W. Sumner charged, knocking out the crew and capturing the
gun. Another post was similarly dealt with by Serjeant C. Carter,
who, with two men, not only killed the gunner and captured the gun
but also took nine prisoners in a dug-out close by. By 3-44 a.m. the
first stage of the attack had been successful, though many Germans
had had to be killed in the process. The line pressed on, encountering
more machine guns stubbornly holding out. Captain D. G. Bird
charged a nest of these at the head of his men, bayoneting the whole