Page 457 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
17TH
BN. .
Two days later, Serjeant F . Sweeney, of the 17th, led out a
patrol in a determined effort to knock out two machine guns which
were sweeping his company's front. On 29th October he carried out
a still more daring exploit. He disguised himself as a civilian and
went through the enemy's lines in order to find out the exact location
of the machine guns opposite his company. He visited several
farms and brought back most valuable information about the
enemy's dispositions. During the day the battalion was able to
advance its line a distance of one thousand yards.
There now followed a remarkable action which Brigadier-General
J. W. Sandilands, C.M.G., D.S.O., of the 104th Infantry Brigade,
described as its finest achievement during the war. The French on
the left of the 35th Division were meeting much opposition in front
of Audenarde.
It
was therefore decided that the British should
attack along the left bank of the Scheldt so as to threaten the enemy's
lines of communications and cause him to fall back from in front of
the French. This plan involved the 104th Brigade not only in a still
further change of direction to the left but in what on the face of things
seemed a highly dangerous flank movement of about 7,000 yards
across ground dominated by the Germans from the south bank
of the Scheldt. The advance was, however, to be covered by an
almost unique weight of artillery: guns and howitzers of every sort
and large quantities of smoke shell were prepared; and the Germans,
enfiladed by heavy pieces at a range of three thousand to four
thousand yards, some of them being even in action at Avelghem
within one thousand yards of their outposts, were blasted off the
bank of the river, leaving dozens of machine guns, and completely
blinded during the attack which opened in dangerously clear
weather early on the morning of 31st October, with the 19th Durham
Light Infantry (Major B. C. H . Keenlyside, Lancashire Fusiliers) on
the right close to the river, the 17th Lancashire Fusiliers (Major G.
MacKereth, M.C.) in the centre and the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers
(Lieutenant-Colonel C.
E.
Jewels, D.S.O., M.C.) on the left .
17TH BN.
The 17th advanced at 5.25 a.m. with "Z" Company (Lieutenant
M. D. Walker, M.C.) on the right, "W" Company (Captain H . G.
Leaver, M.C.) on the left, "Y" Company (Lieutenant
J.
Galbreath),
in support on the right and "X" Company (Lieutenant
J.
K.
B.
Cra~iord)
in support on the left. Considerable machine-gun and
artillery fire was met from the outset; but outflanking tactics with
Le~is
guns were successful in putting the machine guns out of action.
Private A. Ward, who had shown such gallantry in the affair of
26th October, was wounded at an early stage but insisted on going
with his company till it reached its first objective, the Wacrmarde–
Tieghem road, which was captured by the time laid down in orders.
At 6.46 a.m. patrols were pushed out to a line in front, in conformity
with the moves of the barrage. The attack was resumed at 8-49 a.m.
by "Y" and "X" Companies. Once again opposition was met,
if
anything more fierce than before: once again it was successfully
overcome. The Germans made a contribution to their own dis-