Page 56 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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ARMENTI~RES-TRENCH
WARFARE-2nd YPRE
41
officer wrote) "everything which a doctor shouldn't do as well as
everything he should do." And it is said that, in
his
anger at the
poison methods of the breakers of the Hague Declaration of I899, he
picked up rifles which could no longer be used by the gasping owners
and took his toll of the enemy. He certainly steadied the men who
were dropping down and rolling suffocated in the ditch which did
duty as a trench, carried many to safety and did what he could to
restore them with whiffs of ammonia, which he was even alleged to
have poured down a man's throat though he firmly denied this in
later years !
After nearly twenty minutes of this nightmare during which "B"
Company's signaller, Private Miles, had been unable to get any word
through to battalion headquarters as the line had been cut by shell
fire, the company found itself once more breathing comparatively
pure air, with the yellow clouds rolling on to the rear and its own
line intact.
It
had saved the situation, but at what a cost! Captain
J.
E. S. Woodman, Lieutenants T.
R.
Blain and
J.
W. Evatt, and
Second-Lieutenants S.
R.
F. Spicer and
J.
Greaves were gassed; and
out of nearly two hundred men, only about thirty were fit for any
kind of duty. The trenches and surrounding area, reeking with a
sickly smell of chlorine, were littered with men already dead and
others slowly and painfully dying of asphyxiation.
It
was then realized for the first time that there was no sign of
life on the left.
It
was fortunately evident that the German attack
had been stopped, but it was equally evident that there was a gaping
void in the line originally held by "A", "C" and "D" Companies.
At about 6 p.m., movement was seen in the trenches beyond Shell
Trap Farm. But was it the enemy or was it part of the other com–
panies? As soon as the situation of "B" Company allowed,
Captain Blencowe sent Second-Lieutenant V. F. S. Hawkins over to
investigate. He found men of the 7th Argyll and Sutherland High–
landers (T.F.), but of "A," "C" and "D" Companies no signs beyond
one man on the parapet, completely out of his mind, and three
signallers in the headquarter dug-out badly gassed. Shells had been
seen falling in this area and some men retiring who were observed to
be wiped out by "Jack Jobnsons."
It
was only too clear that the
greater part of the battalion was out of action.
As night fell, the firing gradually died down and sick men helped
each other down to the aid post at Irish Farm on the outskirts of
La
Brique. Those that were left grouped themselves under the surviving
officers and did what they could to cover the ground originally held
by the battalion, Corporal _Channer's gun being sent back to its
original position on the right and the remainder instructed to fire
their rifles frequently while they moved to and fro along a pre–
scribed beat so as to give the impression that the line was still
strongly held. But it was only 8 officers and about 80 N.C.Os. and
men that were trying to do work for which there had been 33 officers
and 1,070 other ranks at the beginning of the day. Kor did darkness
bring rest, as another attack was expected at any minute; and it