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HEROISM AND HARDSHIP IN FLANDERS.

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HEROISM AND HARDSHIP IN FLANDERS. SIR JOHN FRENCH'S DISPATCH A further long dispatch from Sir John French has been issued. It is dated .February 2, and was received on February 12. It covers a period of nearly three months—from Novem- ber 20, the date of the last dispatch. It reviews the operations in Northern France and Flanders, and deals chiefly with the fighting around La Bassee and Givenchy. Sir John French states that since the date of his last report the operations of the Army have been much hindered by bad weather. The dispatch tells of some successful minor night operations carried out during the last week in Novem ber in the 4th Corps. During the early days of December certain indications along the whole fromt of the Allied line induced the French Commanders and myself to believe that the enemy had -withdrawn considerable forces from the Western theatre. Arrangements were made with the Com- mander of the 8th French Army for an attack to be commenced on the morning of December 14. SCOTTISH GALLANTRY. Operations began at 7 a.m. by a combined heavy artillery bombardment by the two French and. the 2nd British Corps. The British objectives were the Petit Bois and the Maedelsteed Spur, lying respectively to the west and the south-west of the village of Wytschaete. At 7.45 a.m. the Royal Scots, with great dash, rushed forward and attacked the former, while the Gordon Highlanders attacked the latter place. f! The Royal Scots, commanded by Major F. J. Duncan, D.S.O., in face of a terrible machine gun and rifle fire, carried the German trench on the west edge of the Petit Bois, capturing two machine guns and 53 prisoners, including one officer. The Gordon Highlanders, with great gal- lantry, advanced up the Maedelsteed Spur, forcing the enemy to evacuate their front trench. They were, however, losing heavily, and found themselves unable to get any further. At nightfall they were obliged to fall back to their original position. Captain C. Boddam-Whetham and Lieut. W. F. R. Dobie showed splendid dash, and with a few men entered the enemy's leading trenches; but they were all either killed or captured. Lieut. G. R. V. Hume-Gore and Lieut. W. H. Paterson also distinguished themselves by their gallant leading. Although not successful, the operation was I most creditable to the fighting spirit of the Gordon Highlanders, most ably commanded by Major A. W. F. Baird, D.S.O. As the 32nd French Division on the left had been unable to make any progress, the further advance of our infantry into the Wytschaete Wood was not practicable. Possession of the western edge f the Petit Bois was, however, retained. Tie artillery was skilfully kandled. Our casualties during the day were about 17 officers and 407 other ranks. The losses of the enemy were very considerable. ATTACK BY THE INDIANS. I Sir John French proceeds to tell of am ;at- tack by the Indian Corps against the advanced trenches in their front on December 18 and 19. At daybreak it was found that the positions whfcb. had been taken were practically unten- able. Both flanks were in tke air, and a sup- porting attack failed, although attempted with the greatest gallantry and resolution. Lieutenant-Colonel Ronaldson held oiL till dusk, when the whole of the captured trenches had to be evacuated, and the detachment fell back to its original line. By the nighu of December 19 nearly all the ground gained during the day had been lost. From daylight on December 20 the enemy commenced a heavy fire from artillery and trench mortars on the whole front of the Indian Corps. This was followed by infantry attacks. At about 10 a.m. the enemy succeeded in driving back the Sirhind Brigade and captur- ing a considerable part of Givenchy, but the 57th Rifles and 9th Bhopals, north of the canal, and the Connaught Rangers, south of it, stood firm. About 5 p.m. a gallant attack by the 1st Manchester Regiment and one company of the 4th Suffolk Regiment had captured Givenchy, and had cleared the enemy out of the two lines of trenches to the north-east. General Macbean, with the Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles, and the 47th Sikhs, was sent up to sup- port. Some considerable delay appears to have oc- curred, and it was not until 1 a.m. on the 21st that the 47th Sikhs and the 7th Dragoon Guards under the command of Lieutenant- Colonel H. A. Lempriere, D.S.O., of the latter regiment, were launched in counter-attack. They reached the enemy's trenches, but were driven out by enfilade fire, their gallant com- mander being killed. The main attack by the remainder of General Macbean's force, with the remnants of Lieutenant Colonel Lempriere's detachment (which had again been rallied), was finally pushed in at about 4.30 a.m. and also failed. THE SEAFORTHS SUFFER. I In the northern section of the defensive line the retirement of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Gurkha Rifles, at about 10 a.m. on the 20th, had left the flank of the 1st Seaforth High- landers, on the extreme right of the Meerut Division line, much exposed. This battalion was left shortly afterwards completely in the air by the retirement of the Sirhind Brigade. The 58th Rifles, therefore, were ordered to support the left of the Seaforth Highlanders, to till the gap created by the retirement of the Gurkhas. No advance in force was made by the enemy, but the troops were pinned to their ground by heavy artillery fire, the Scaforth Highlanders especially suffering heavily. Shortly before nightfall the 2nd Royal High- landers on the right of the Seaforth High- landers had succeeded in establishing touch with the Sirhind Brigade. Early in the afternoon of December 20 orders were sent to the lfet Corps, which was then in general army reserve, to send an infantry brigade to support the Indian Corps. By nightfall the let South Wales Borderers and the 2nd Welsh Regiment of the 3rd Brigade had made a lodgment in the original trenches to the north-east of Festubert, the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment continuing the line southward along the track east of Festubert. The 1st Brigade had established itself on the east of Givenchy. By 10 p.m. the support trenches west of the orchard had been carried, but the original fire trenches had been so completely destroyed that thev could not be occupied. This operation was performed by the 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and the 1st Northamptonshire Regiment, supported by tho 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps, in reserve. oJ During the 23rd the enemy's activities ceased, and the whole position was restored to very much its original condition. The Indian troops have fought with the utmost steadfastness and gallantry whenever they have been called upon. THE GUARDS ATTACKED. f Weather conditions were abnormally bad, the enow and floods precluding any active opera- 'tions during the first three weeks of January. At 7.30 a.m. on January 25 the enemy began to shell Bethune, and at 8 a.m. a strong hostile infantry attack developed south of the canal, preceded by a heavy bombardment of artillery, minenwerfers and, possibly, the ex- plosion of mines, though the latter is doubt- ful. The British line south of the eanal was oc. cupied by half a battalion of the Scots Guards and half a battalion of the Coldstream Guards. of the 1st Infantry Brigade. The trenches in the salient were blown in almost at once; and the enemy'# attack pethe- trated this line. Our troops retired to a par- tially prepaaved second line. These supports held up the &Demy.who, how. (ever, managed to establish himself ivL fte brick ,stacks and some communication -trench e& 'fogt^veen the keep,, tjo road aaad the — I I and even beyond and west of the keep on I either side of it. I ENEMY DRIVEN BACK. I The London Scottish had in the meantime been sent up in support, and a counter-attack was organised with the 1st Royal Highlanders, part of the 1st Cameron Highlanders, and the 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps, the latter regi- ment having been sent forward from the Divisional Reserve. The counter-attack was delayed in order to synchronise with a counter-attack north of the canal which was arranged for 1 p.m. At 1 p.m. these troops moved forward, their flanks making good progress near the road and the canal, but their centre being held up. The 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment was then sent for- ward, late in the afternoon, to reinforce. The result was that the Germans were driven back far enough to enable a somewhat broken line to be taken up, running from the culvert on the railway, almost due south to the keep, and thence south-east to the main road. The line was strengthened during the night; and the 1st Guards Brigade, which had suffered severely, was withdrawn into reserve and re- placed by the 2nd Infantry Brigade. I FIGHT FOR A VILLAGE. I While this was taking place another, and equally severe attack was delivered north of the canal against the village of Givenchy. At 8.15. a.m., after heavy artillery bombard- ment with high explosive shells, the enemy's infantry advanced under the effecti-/e fire of our artillery, which however, was hampered by the constant interruption of telephonic com- munication between the observers and bat- teries. Nevertheless, our artillery fire, combined with that of the infantry in the fire trenches, had the effect of driving the enemy from his original direction of advance. The Germans had lost heavily, and a well- timed local counter-attack, delivered by the re- serves of the 2nd Welsh Regiment and 1st South Wales Borderers, and by a company of the 1st Royal Highlanders, was completely suc- cessful, with the result that, after about an hour's street fighting, all who had broken into the village were either captured or killed; the village were ei and the original line round the village was re- established by noon. South of the village, however, and close to the canal, the right of the 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers fell back in conformity with the troop s south of the canal; but after dark that regiment moved forward and occupied the old line. During the course of the attack on Givenchy the enemy made five assaults on the salient at the north-east of the village about French Farm, but was repulsed every time with heavy loss. On the morning of the 29th January attacks were made on the right of the 1st Corps, south of the canal in the neighbourhood of La. Bassee. The enemy (part of the 14th German Corps), after a severe shelling, made a violent attack with scaling ladders on the keep, also to the north and south of it. In the keep and on the north side the Sussex Regiment held the enemy off, inflicting on his serious losses. On the south side of the hostile infantry succeeded in reaching the Northamptonshire Regiment's trenches; but were immediately counter-at- tacked and all killed. Our artillery co- operated well with the infantry in repelling the attack. In this action our casualties were incon- siderable, but the enemy lost severely, more than 200 of his killed alone being left in front of our position. PLUCK OF THE GUARDS. I On the 1st February a fine piece of work was carried out by the 4th Brigade in the neighbourhood of Cuinchy. Some of the 2nd Coldstream Guards were driven from their trenches at 2.30 a.m., but mad1; a stand some twenty yards east of them in a position which they held till morning. A counter-attack, launched at 3.15 &m. by one company of the Irish Guards and half a company of the 2nd Coldstream Guards, proved unsuccessful, owing to heavy rifle fire from the east and south. At 10.5 a.m., acting ullder orders of the 1st Division, a hfeavy bombardment was opened on the lost ground for ten minutes; and this was followed immediately by an assault by about 50 men of the 2nd Coldstream Guards with bayonets, led by Captain A. Leigh Ben- nett, followed by 30 men of the Irish Guards, led by Second-Lieutenant F. E. Graham, also with bayonets. These were followed by a party of Royal Engineers with sand bags and wire. All the ground which had been lost was brilliantly retaken; the 2nd Coldstream Guards also taking another German trench and r-ap- r turing two machine-guns. Thirty-two prisoners fell into our hands. Special credit is due to the regimental officers, non-commissioned officers and men oI the 2nd Coldstream Guards and Irish Guards, who, with indomitable pluck, stormed two sets of barricades, captured three German trenches. two machine-gjins, and killed or made prisoners many of the enemy. PRAISE FOR THE TERRITORIALS. t Sir John French has high praise for the Territorials. He says': In my despatch of the 20th of November, 1914, I referred to the reinforcements of Terri- torial Troops which I had received, and I men- tioned several units which had already been employed in the fighting line. In the positions which I held for some years before the out- break of this war I was brought into cloee contact with the Territorial Force, and I had every reason to hope and believe that when the hour of trial arrived they would justify every hope and trust which was placed in them. The Lords Lieutenant of Counties and the Associations which worked under them be- stowed a vast amount of labour and energy on the organisation of the Territorial Force; and I trust it may be some recompense to them to know that I, and the principal commanders serving under me, consider that the Terri- torial Force has far more than justified the most sanguine hopes that any of us ventured to entertain of their value and use in the field. Commanders of cavalry divisions are un- stinted in their praise of the manner in which the Yeomanry regiments attached to their brigades have done their duty, both in and out of action. The service of Divisional Cavalry is now almost entirely performed by Yeomanry, and Divisional Commanders report that they are very efficient. Army Corps commanders are loud in their praise of the Territorial battalions which form part of nearly all the brigades at the front in the first line, and more than one of them have told me that these battalions are fast approaching—if they have not already reached —the standard of efficiency of Regular in- fantry. OUR SPLENDID SOLDIERS. I The Field-Marshal also pays a warm tribute to the Army as a whole:— The troops composing the Army in France have been subjected to as severe a trial as it is possible to impese upon any boly of men. The desperate fighting described in my last despatch had hardly been brought to a conclusion when they were called upon to face the rigours and hardships of a winter campaign. Frost and snow have alternated with periods of con- tinuous rains. The men have been called upon to stand for many hours together almost up to their waists in bitterly cold water, only separated by one or two hundred yards from a most vigilant enemy. Although every measure which science and medical knowledge could suggest to mitgate these hardships was employed, the sufferings of the men have been very grea t. In spite of all this they presented, at the inspections to which I have referred, a most aoldier-like, splendid, thpugh somewhat war- worn appearance. Their spirit remains high and confident; their general health is excel- lent, and their condition most satisfactory. I regard it as most unfortunate that circum- stances have prevented any account of many splendid instances of courage and endurance in the face of almost unparalleled hardship and fatigue in war coming regularly to the knowledge of the public. • V

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