Page 489 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-1918
boil tea in their mess-tins and to speculate as to what the day held
in store. They were not long to be held in doubt. The Dome, an
isolated position on the battalion's right front, had resisted capture,
and with the growing light tenacious German machine-gunners soon
made movement hazardous. But at about seven o'clock a scouting
aeroplane heralded the true ordeal of the defending soldiers.
No longer could the enemy doubt as to who held the hill, and
from front and flanks their guns opened with a crash.
For hours now the battalion had but to wait and endure. Penned
on a ridge some two hundred yards long and of the width of two
tennis-courts, they were the target of the concentrated guns of a
division. The trenches crumbled to open ditches of shale and
broken bodies, and a fierce sun and choking clouds of dust and
fumes tortured the waterless garrison.
A severe barrage stopped most communication with the rear,
but a brave man could get through, and an incident may be recalled
to show that the 12th Battalion had learnt discipline as well as
courage in its short history. Into a trench full of thirst-tormented
men dropped a shirt-sleeved and breathless soldier carrying a rum–
jar of water. There was a rush for the precious jar; but he cried,
"Stand back, lads; this is for the King's"-and the Fusiliers sent
him on his way. The battalion stretcher-bearers tended the many
wounded throughout the day, regardless of the ceaseless bombard–
ment, conspicuous among them being Private
J.
Heywood.
At two in the afternoon, without abatement of the bombard–
ment, came the expected infantry assault; the Germans charging
into the bursts of their own shells. A fire-fight at short range took
place, and the enemy for a time seized the Piton on the left.
An
immediate counter-attack led by Lieutenant
R.
C. Scott successfully
expelled them, and the defences were still intact. The line was by
now by no means continuous and several independent platoon
actions were fought, Lieutenant W.
J.
C. Kendall in particular
doing gallant work in the defence of his position.
At 3.20 p.m. the King's on the right were withdrawn to the
lower slopes of the Dorsale before ' they should be completely des–
troyed by artillery fire; and, at 4 p.m., the Lancashire Fusiliers also
withdrew to the south-west of the
hill.
At 4.35 p.m., recognizing that the enemy's enfilade fire made the
whole position untenable, Major-General Hon. F. Gordon, the
Divisional Commander, ordered a withdrawal to the original line
to begin at dusk.
The artillery covered the infantry withdrawal with great effect.
The enemy made an attempt to follow up, but so fierce was the
British barrage laid on the crest-from which the battalion had
retired a bare fifty yards-that the Germans who had lined it were
at once driven to ground.
The remnants of the two British battalions were back in their
()wn lines by 10 p.m.
About seventy prisoners, all belonging to the German 59th