Page 52 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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ARMENTIERES- TRENCH WARFARE- 2nd YPRES
37
March, 1915, but the battalion was not involved. The only other
incident of this period to which reference should be made is the
explosion of a mine beneath the German lines at Le Touquet in
April. Mining had been actively carried on by both sides since
January and an underground ring had been dug all round a portion of
Le Touquet defences known as "Railway Fort" in order to prevent
the enemy from sapping beneath it. Later, mines were driven under
the German lines. During the night of 7th/8th April, a German
counter-mine was discovered and it was decided to blow it up. The
following day was spent in preparations above and below ground.
At 8 a.m. on 9th April, artillery and a trench mortar shelled the
houses of Le Touquet which were still held by the enemy; and rifle
fire was maintained from 8 to 8.30 a.m. At 8.30 a.m. the mine went
up and with it (according to an officer eye-witness) a number of
Germans who sailed into the air accompanied by their breakfasts,
frying pans and fires! Enemy casualties were heavy and as late as
I
p.m. an observer saw 29 Germans being carried back across the
River Lys on stretchers. Reprisals came in the form of heavy
shelling, one 5.9 shell coming through the battalion guard-room
when it was full of men, but the total casualties during the day
were one man killed and 17 wounded, most of the latter being hit
by bricks thrown up by the explosion of the mine.
On 15th April, the battalion moved back to billets in the "Blue
Factory" at Armentieres, so called on account of its many blue–
painted windows, with orders to rest and "get in marching and
fighting trim," apparently for an offensive near
Le
Touquet. From
16th to 27th April, the battalion was occupied in route marches,
"free gymnastics," running and football as its daily routine.
THE SECOND BATTLE OF YPRES
On 22nd April, 1915, the enemy shocked the world by employing
poison gas to the north-east of Ypres which caused the withdrawal
of the troops affected. On 27th April, the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers
received orders to move at midday, and later left for Bailleul, where
it spent the 28th also. At 7-45 a.m. the next day, the battalion left
its billets and had a very hot and dusty march of about ten miles in a
north-north-easterly direction to Vlamertinghe (two and a half miles
west of Ypres), where it bivouacked in fields shortly after 2 p .m.
At dusk, however, it was again on the move to take over from the
1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment part of the line north of Wieltje
which had been improvised after the withdrawal on 22nd April.
From beyond Vlamertinghe, the trying conditions of the march had
been aggravated by the sight of an ever-increasing number of
retreating and panic-stricken French native troops, by a pervading
sense of apprehension as to what lay in store for the battalion, by the
stories of the survivors of the gas attack and by the numerous
evidences, patent to eye and nose, of the effects of gas on men ,
animals and vegetation. All this, however, seemed to have no