Page 472 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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1918:
AUGUST TO THE ARMISTICE
Through the Forest and on
1st/5th, 1st/7th and 1st/8th Battalions
439
The crossing of the River Sambre, in which the 15th and 16th
Battalions took a full share, and the pressure exerted on the Germans
still remaining on the western side of the river by attacks like that
of the lOth Battalion just described, had convinced the enemy that
he could no longer stand but must retreat. He did so, however, in
good order on this part of the front and fought a series of rear-guard
actions on suitable ground.
It
fell to the I2Sth Infantry Brigade to dislodge the Germans
from a good position which they had taken up east of the Sambre,
south-west of the antiquated fortress of Maubeuge. The opening of
what proved to be the last week of fighting found the brigade in
comfortable billets at Solesmes, whence it moved on 6th November
to Herbignies, three miles east of Le Quesnoy.
It
was ordered to
march next day to Hargnies, close to the north-east of the Forest of
Mormal; but after it had set out it was diverted to Petit Bavey,
on the edge of the forest near Pont-sur-Sambre. The march through
the forest was an ordeal: cold rain came down; there was bad
congestion on the roads and tracks; and these were in the worst
possible condition after four years of constant use, with trees blo\'m
across them, bogs on either side, blown-up culverts and craters so
wide that it was often necessary to unload limbers and carry their
contents round these obstacles to prevent the vehicles becoming
stuck in the bog, as they almost certainly would have been if they
had left the track fully loaded.
In the early hours of 8th November the brigade received orders
to carry out later that day an operation whose first objective was the
high ground south of Hautmont, including one of the outer forts
of Maubeuge, the Fort d'Hautmont which stood up above the
surrounding country and commanded a good view of it. The final
objective was the high ground east of the Avesne-Maubeuge road
to the south-east of Hautmont . The brigade was to advance in
battle patrol formation, with the 1st/5th Lancashire Fusiliers on the
right, the 1st/7th on the left, and the 1st/8th in support following
the others at five hundred yards, distance and destined to push on
as soon as the first objective had been taken and to encircle Hautmont
from the east, covering all its exits with fire and inducing its garrison
to surrender.
The 1st/5th (Lieutenant-Colonel G. S. Castle, M.C.) led the way,
1ST/5 TH
moving off at 6.15 a.m. and crossing the Sambre north-east of Pont-
BN.
sur-Sambre when the original plan to cross elsewhere had been
abandoned owing to a delay in erecting a bridge. The brigade
formed up by
II
a.m., with the two leading battalions on the
main Paris- Brussels railway. Within the 1st/5th, "C" Company
(Captain A. W. Haywood, M.C.) was on the right, "D" Company
(Captain
L.
M. Dean) on the left, and "A" (Lieutenant W. Stringer)
and "B" (Second-Lieutenant
L.
A. Caldwell, M.C.) Companies