Page 458 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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comfiture by using tracer ammunition, which gave away the position
of their guns. The battalion gained its final objective north of
Kerkhove by 9.55 a.m. A redistribution was then effected; and in
the early afternoon patrols of "X" Company pushed on another
thousand yards and reached Eeuwhook and Meesche, south of
Elseghem. The battalion had lost 91 all ranks and had taken 150
prisoners, 30 machine guns, and a trench mortar. Two motor
ambulances, subsequently put to good use in the 35th Division, were
captured in Kerkhove: credit for these trophies was disputed
between the 17th Lancashire Fusiliers and the I9th Durham Light
Infantry; but, as the latter were commanded by Major Keenlyside
of the XX (who was awarded the Military Cross for his skill and
his pluck in continuing at his post though wounded), honours
may be regarded as even so far as the Lancashire Fusiliers are
The 18th Battalion attacked ten minutes after its sister unit,
18TH BN .
"for the eighth time since 28th September." Some stiff fighting
followed. Serjeant F. Sweeney again distinguished himself: he was
wounded through the shoulder whilst leading a rush on a German
machine gun, but continued to lead and inspire his men till it was
silenced. Another hostile machine
which was holding up part of
the attack was most gallantly dealt with by Lance-Corporal R.
Clark, who rushed forward and tried to bring his Lewis gun into
action against it. His gun almost immediately jammed. Nothing
daunted, he snatched a rifle and bayonet from one of his section and
charged the Germans alone, capturing the gun and its team. His
action enabled the rest of his company to push on and reach its
objective. Machine guns were not, however, the only obstacles.
Captain E. Mitchell's company was confronted by a German
battery firing at point-blank range. Mitchell, whose courage and
skilful example were conspicuous throughout the day, rushed the
gun position, captured the pieces and killed or took prisoner the
whole of its crew. With such dash, it is not surprising that the
battalion had gained all its objectives, to a depth of some 4,000
yards from its starting line, by
a.m., though exploitation
proved to be impossible as the division on the left had been held up
and could not draw leveL The unit's losses had been the heaviest in
the brigade, but its booty was substantial: I25 prisoners, 3 field
guns, a listening set, 3 anti-tank rifles, 18 machine guns, 4 trench
mortars and 3 message dogs, of which one was a German sheep-dog
and another a heavy bull-terrier mastiff.
The line finally established by the brigade ran from Kerkhove to
a point three-quarters of a mile east of Caster and thence to the
Courtrai-Audenarde railway about a mile north-north-east of
Caster. Congratulations poured in. The Arn1Y Commander, General
Sir Herbert Plumer, came himself to divisional headquarters to
express his appreciation of the overwhelming success of an operation
in whose outcome (it was learnt later) not too much confidence had
been placed by higher authority. The decorations awarded to the