Page 51 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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The 2nd Battalion War Diary notes on 2nd March, I9I5, that the
supply of rifle grenades had run out and could not be replaced yet,
though the enemy was constantly causing casualties by that means.
The enemy was also better supplied with means of seeing what was
happening at night, having not only a plentiful store of flares but
also a big searchlight which played across the River Lys and forced
digging parties to throw themselves flat into the wet, sticky mud.
Deficiencies in personnel were, however, made good. Drafts of
officers and men arrived in varying numbers at intervals during the
winter. The strength of the battalion on 30th November, I914, was
I8 officers and 8I4 other ranks, but, in spite of continuous casualties,
it was, at any rate on paper, over establishment by the end of
February, I9I5, and the excess was 70 on I7th March. The total
number sent by the 3rd and 4th Battalions to the 2nd Battalion
between the 26th August, I9I4, and the end of April, I9I5, was
38 officers and I,440 N.C.Os. and men.
The relations between the two "sides" were rather different in
I9I4 from what they became later when nation in arms faced nation
in arms in a struggle which by then had become one of life or death
for each. In the early days, feeling did not run as high as it did later,
and this was shown on Christmas Day, I9I4, when an unofficial
truce was spontaneously observed and both sides strolled about on
the ground above their trenches. Men of the battalion threw across
tins of jam and the Saxons opposite threw back cigars wrapped in
German newspapers. Cigars were also received in exchange for a copy
whose editor later waxed lyrical with disgust at the low
value apparently attached to his publication.
Company played
a football match against the enemy with an old tin for a ball; they
won 3-2! Towards the evening the Saxons could be seen putting
small fiT-trees in their trenches and hanging lighted candles on them
after dark. But a few days later, normal activity had been resumed
and the Germans opened heavy rifle and machine-gun fire at mid–
night on 31st December/1st January, apparently as a sort of
feu de
to usher in the New Year. A curious incident of that night was
the wounding of two men of the battalion by one bullet while
working on trenches.
On 15th February, the Germans fired incendiary shells into
Le Bizet and an empty house caught fire. Company Serjeant-Major
Ashworth (later Captain, and adjutant, 3rd/5th Manchester
Regiment) helped to put out the fire and so to prevent the flames
from spreading in the high wind which blew at the time and doing
extensive damage throughout the village. He was subsequently
awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
On the night of I9th/20th February, the Germans attempted an
attack at Le Touquet, carrying with them wooden apparatus
apparently intended for crossing trenches. They were, however,
repulsed by rifle fire and grenades. A lively duel with grenades was
kept up for some time that night and the next day.
The Battle of Neuve Chapelle took place from loth to I3th