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Remembered Today:

Loyal North Lancashires in East Africa


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The Kanoni River where the Loyal North Lancashires crossed.
The volume of water in the river has been vastly reduced by the demands of the villagers living alongside it.

Down in the valley the bridge over the Kanoni was rushed by No 2 Company, and the advance continued towards the slopes of South Downs ridge, under intermittent sniper fire.

Moving through a deserted village two of the LNL machine-guns engaged Germans seen withdrawing over the South Downs.
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The South Downs ridge that was 2LNL’s final objective. Taken from Lancs Spur.

Lt Col Jourdain now ordered that the objective was to be the South Down ridgeline northwest of the Protestant Mission, and by 1430 hours, after a steep climb, all his men were established on that ridge.

George Atkinson’s No 1 Platoon captured the abandoned German 2.9-inch gun and took up a position overlooking it, preventing any enemy attempt to recover it.

The hot food ordered that morning had not yet arrived.
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The German fort at Bukoba being demolished.
The structure is a good example of German colonial military architecture.

In Bukoba town Captain Tillard and his Bombay Sappers and Miners of the Bridging Train, assisted by the Faridkot Sappers and Miners, demolished the wireless station and then blew up the corners of the fort, and burned the remains.

Lt Wilbur Dartnell of 25RF was photographed hauling down the Imperial German flag that flew over the fort.
(This flag was presented by the Fusiliers to General Stewart and on his death it was returned to the Regiment.)

War booty taken by the British forces back to BEA or else destroyed at Bukoba included:
67 rifles
32,000 rounds of small arms ammunition
The 2.9-inch field gun
24 rounds of light field-gun ammunition
2 machine-gun barrels, feed blocks, sets of wheels and axles
Kerosene and lubricating oils
1 motor launch complete
9 large canoes
2 whaler boats
2 small boats
(As German East Africa was blockaded these losses were significant.)

Also a stock of elephant tusks was removed from Bukoba, and what happened to them remains a mystery (except that one photograph shows Fusiliers unloading some at Kisumu!).
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German colonial bungalow at Bukoba

However when the Sappers arrived at the German governor's house to blow open the safe they found that they were too late - it had already been blown!

General Stewart had agreed to a request from Lt Col Driscoll for the town to be looted.

Private Turner later wrote:
“"Bukoba is by far the prettiest place I have seen in BEA or GEA. Everything so well appointed. Lovely European houses and gardens, avenues of trees, artistic bridges over the rivers, fine beach and drive etc.
The native part of the town is quite away from the European part.
There was all kinds of loot there and we had what we could get. . . . (we) burnt all the Government officials'’ houses . . .”"

(Not all the Fusiliers were involved in the looting, as Frederick Selous and Angus Buchanan both wrote of being detailed for picquet duty on the hills above the R.C. Mission, but some Fusilier company commanders definitely lost control of their men who indulged in drunkenness, wanton destruction, molestation of local females and the sacking of properties.)

Geoffrey Pocock's book “"One Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen"” mentions that General Tighe later refused to approve awards for the Bukoba operation because of the looting.

The Loyal North Lancashires were used to restore discipline in the town.
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General Stewart had agreed to a request from Lt Col Driscoll for the town to be looted.


The Loyal North Lancashires were used to restore discipline in the town.


As you're aware I have a big interest in this part of the thread and I find it interesting that you rely heavily on Meinertzhagen's account of the 'sacking' for your details. Having read a number of other accounts (Selous, Buchanan, Kearton, Turner, Pedersen, Shaw etc.) I still remain to be convinced that Meinertzhagen wasn't embroidering the details for his own personal reasons and would question his account of the affair and it's accuracy. Do you perhaps have any other sources that I've not come across to back up the two statements I've highlighted?



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The German Protestant Mission

Up on the South Downs George Atkinson sent some men from his No 1 Platoon down the hill to assist Fusiliers in wheeling the 2.9-inch gun down to the port.

Lt Col Jourdain met with the Fusiliers’ Adjutant and ordered the destruction of a German ammunition store near the Protestant Mission by burning it.

At around 1700 hours a verbal message to withdraw to the port was received by the Loyal North Lancashires, along with an order to position outposts on the heights above the north end of the port.

As the troops moved down the hill towards the town they met the hot food ordered at 0530 hours that morning, and finally ate.
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The craggy ridge behind the R.C. Mission south of the port was picqueted by a detachment of 25th Royal Fusiliers

The Punjabis on Lancs Spur were ordered to withdraw to the port, and they collected in the dead and wounded as they moved.

Frederick Selous wrote:
“Just after sundown the order came from General Stewart that our battalion was to parade and march to the jetty and re-embark at once.

But first we had to bury our dead. A great grave was dug in the sandy soil, between the burning arsenal and the Governor’s house, and in it were laid three deep the bodies of six Britons, still swathed in their blood-stained clothes, who had given their lives for King and Country, far, far away from their native land and all who held them dear.

These men had all been killed outright, but two more had died of their wounds after being taken to the hospital ship were brought ashore and buried within sound of the murmuring waters of the great inland lake. Altogether our casualties amounted to twenty; 8 killed and 12 wounded.”

Private Turner wrote:
“I was one of the firing party over the grave of the dead and I don’t think I ever felt so sad in my life as I did then. I could not hold my rifle steady.”
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General Stewart’s post-action report list of the Force’s casualties

The Royal Fusiliers’ War Diary lists more men wounded.

The dead East Africa Regiment machine-gunner who was killed down at the swamp, Private B.P. Junor, is listed in the text of General Stewart’s report but not in the above table.

General Stewart would have taken his figures from his Senior Medical Officer (SMO).
If some of the slightly wounded had only been treated by unit stretcher bearers then the SMO might not have been informed.

General Stewart’s tally of Schutztruppe casualties was:
German Europeans: 3 killed and 3 wounded
German Askari: 13 Killed and 26 wounded

Von Lettow in his “My Reminiscences of East Africa” gives the German casualties as:
Killed: 2 Europeans, 5 Askari, 7 Auxiliaries.
Wounded: 4 Europeans and 30 Africans.
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Bukoba port.
The R.C. Mission can be seen in the rear.

The Fusiliers embarked during the night. The Loyal North Lancashires manned the last outposts. Bukoba lay silent – but not for long.

The local tribes now swarmed into the European part of town for the real sack of Bukoba.

General Stewart evacuated these civilians from Bukoba:

6 European British subjects
1 Indian British subject
6 Greek subjects
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The detailed casualty list published in "The Leader" newpaper, Nairobi
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Bukoba Bay

By 0730 hours the next morning, 24th June 1915, all the Loyal North Lancashires were aboard Rusinga and the British steamed away from Bukoba.

The Rusinga was overcrowded as it was doubling as a hospital ship, but Lt Col Jourdain and the SMO, Lt Col Turner, Indian Medical Service, toured the vessel and made suitable adjustments to spaces allocated.
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A 3 KAR machine-gun team overlooking Bukoba

A 3 King’s African Rifles landing party from Nyanza went to capture the German OP on Busira Island, but found that the enemy had disappeared, doubtless having withdrawn by canoe under cover of darkness.
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The detailed casualty list published in "The Leader" newpaper, Nairobi


Very Interesting and a source of information I hadn't considered. Do you happen to know if The Leader carried on publishing casualty lists throughout the war, or was Bukoba a bit of a one off?



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Dhows on Lake Victoria

The lake was rough in the afternoon, causing a lot of sea-sickness. Large swarms of Lake Flies were in the air. The following day it rained heavily and the wounded were uncomfortable because of the cramped conditions.

During the voyage the captured German 2.9-inch gun worked free from its lashings, slipped into the lake and was lost for ever.

The Rusinga reached Kisumu at last light on 25th June and by midnight the Loyal North Lancashires were aboard a train for Nairobi.
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The “Muansa”, the only large armed German vessel on Lake Victoria

Back at Bukoba the Schutztruppe (7 Feldkompagnie), who had withdrawn only a few miles south, returned to survey the damage.

Von Stuemer ordered a search of local villages and some loot was recovered. The owners of the huts containing loot were punished severely. Chief Ntale was publicly hanged in front of the Post Office.

The Germans resumed control of the area, using Bukoba port as the resupply base for operations against the British on the Kagera front and the Belgians on the Ruanda front.

“The History of the Bukoba District” by H. Cory (based on oral histories obtained from local inhabitants) states that the German defenders at Bukoba initially numbered around 140 men under Lt Godovius, Von Steumer having marched north to Kyaka with 80 Askari expecting to meet a British attack there – the British deception demonstration on the Kagera line having worked.
Von Steumer and his party returned late on the night of 22nd June.
The German defence plan was to make a fighting withdrawal and this plan was executed successfully.

The German 2.9-inch gun was commanded by Lt von Brandis who had the nickname of “Ruhoso” – Long Spear. The Africans called the gun “Pili” – Puff Adder.

Four Germans were killed during the fighting, one of them during the final retreat over the South Downs, three were later buried in the Bukoba cemetery (see Post 790).
The number of Schutztruppe Askari killed could not be remembered.

After the battle Lettow replaced von Steumer with Lt Godovius, a strict disciplinarian known to the Africans as “Bwana Laazima” – Mr You Must.
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The old bound copies of "The Leader" are kept in the basement of the McMillan Memorial Library (guess who donated that) in Nairobi.

I have perused them up to mid-1916.

Basically whilst the fighting remained in or adjacent to British East Africa the Nairobi newspapers got detailed information from Nairobi Military HQ, and published it. From 1916 onwards less and less detail appears in casualty lists as they concentrate on BEA personnel and tend not to include other units.


Give me a couple of days to reply to that.


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Lord Kitchener’s congratulatory message to General Tighe

The success of the Bukoba raid was good news both to the forces and the public in East Africa, and for the British government.
Tanga (November 1914) and Jasin (January 1915) had been bad news, but now the Royal Navy had carried the Army across Lake Victoria to win a battle on German soil. The Force had withdrawn on schedule and with light casualties.

The Force Intelligence Officer, Captain Richard Meinertzhagen, Royal Fusiliers (but not from the 25th Battalion) drafted the press accounts that were published in the leading East African newspapers.

The Schutztruppe defenders had fought well and deserved credit for conducting a spirited fighting withdrawal.

The four companies of the 25th Royal Fusiliers, their basic training phase now concluded, had learned some lessons that only combat can teach an infantry unit, and the battalion was now satisfactorily bloodied and ready for other operations.

The East Africa Regiment machine gunners had fought well, but had suffered when going up too close against the German and Austro-Hungarian professionals who manned the No 1 positions in the Schutztruppe machine-gun teams.

The Indian sepoys of the 28th Mountain Battery, the Bombay and Faridkot Sappers and Miners and the 29th Punjabis had acted like the regular soldiers that they were, as had the Askari of 3 King's African Rifles.
The Force was fortunate in having the screw-guns sited on Karwazi Hill, as direct fire support could be given to the Fusiliers’ initial attack.

The 2nd Loyal North Lancashires, providing only 9 platoons, had traversed two to three times the distance of ground that any other unit had, taking all objectives given with minimal direct fire support, as well as capturing Gun Spur with the two detached platoons.
The Battalion’s 46 African machine-gun porters worked well, being under fire for the first time.

Above all else the Royal Navy had conducted a very professional operation on Lake Victoria.

The Indian Army supporting arms had performed well but some had been hindered by lack of foresight and planning by the staff.
Shore-to-ship communications did not function forward of Force HQ, and thus the forward troops could not direct the naval gunfire support.
Insufficient thought and effort seems to have been put into getting a Force Administrative Area established and functioning on-shore, with the result that the forward troops were not administered efficiently and went hungry.
British intelligence was not functioning as effectively as it would have if a land border had been crossed and Intelligence Scouts deployed forward, and this led to panicky false information such as described in Post 827.
The medical detachments functioned well but suffered from not having a dedicated hospital ship for the withdrawal, (according to Lt Col Jourdain’s War Diary the “Clement Hill” could have been brought and used in this capacity).

The planned initial disembarkation at the port and on the adjacent beach (this is only referred to in Buchanan's account, as he was to be one of the first ashore) was a suspect decision, and the force was lucky to be alerted by the German watchers on Busira Island firing flares, as that incident led to a revised plan and a much safer landing below the hills to the north.
Fighting for the dominant features of Gun Spur and Fusilier Knoll from the south, and for the South Downs from the east, which a port landing would have entailed, would have been costly.

But despite the hindsight offered in the previous two paragraphs, the troops got ashore and did their job. General Stewart and his staff allocated troops to tasks and then generally kept out of the way. Any inadequacies in the staff planning probably reflect lack of experience in small-scale combined operations.
All tasks allocated were achieved once the vital ground of Arab Ridge had been seized.

The British had the right to feel proud of their soldiers and sailors for the military aspects of the Bukoba operation.

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Basically whilst the fighting remained in or adjacent to British East Africa the Nairobi newspapers got detailed information from Nairobi Military HQ, and published it. From 1916 onwards less and less detail appears in casualty lists as they concentrate on BEA personnel and tend not to include other units.


Many thanks for the explanation, I did wonder whether it was a potential source for a casualty list for the action at Mahiwa/Nyangao in October 1917 but based on what you've said I presume that that is very unlikely.



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Bukoba map drawn by Meinertzhagen for General Stewart’s post-operation report


A personal view

Richard Meinertzhagen’s “Army Diary 1899 – 1926” is colourfully written and contains much fascinating low-level detail about the Great War East African Campaign, and a small amount of detail about the campaigns in Palestine and France.

The book also contains many lies and fictional descriptions. Some of these have been exposed in Brian Garfield’s book: “The Meinertzhagen Mystery – the life and legend of a colossal fraud” (Potomac Books 2007. ISBN-10: 1-59797-041-7).

But for many years Meinertzhagen’s integrity was only questioned privately by a few retired military officers who knew from their own experiences and observations at the time that Meinertzhagen was not always telling the truth and was sometimes writing fiction. In other quarters, such as the office of the Official History of the East African Campaign, Meinertzhagen’s contributions were welcomed and treated as being totally authentic.

Meinertzhagen was a good intelligence officer and he produced some professional documents that cannot be faulted. The sketch map above is one of them and his “Intelligence Supplement No 7 – Second Revision of Notes on the officers serving with the enemy forces in German East Africa”, which I have just come across, is another.

He worked at the heart of military events in East Africa and as an Intelligence Officer he could move around the operational areas observing activities, interrogating prisoners, tasking and de-briefing Intelligence Agents and Scouts and conversing with senior officers. Much of what he recorded for his diary is true and cannot be discarded. He remains a useful source.

So how do we decide which of his comments and observations are accurate enough to be used?
Meinertzhagen disguised many of his fabrications by including sufficient truth to allay suspicion. I believe that we have to accumulate sufficient knowledge or comment from other sources to understand the pictures that Meinertzhagen verbally paints. Then if we combine this with our knowledge of the military conventions of the times we can sift out some of the truth and use it.
(This is worth attempting, as many of Meinertzhagen’s diary notes and comments are the only source available to us for certain aspects of the Campaign.)

In Post 833 above SteveE questions whether there is corroboration for two comments taken from Meinertzhagen’s Diary account of the Bukoba raid.
The straight answer is “No”, but I believe, having accumulated as much other information as possible and having walked the ground trying to put myself mentally into the situations faced by British commanders in Bukoba in 1915, that those two of Meinertzhagen’s comments are valid.

According to Kearton’s account Lt Col Driscoll knew that there would be looting in Bukoba town, as Kearton was sent to destroy stocks of alcohol. Kearton also mentions “a private commission of my own to prevent looting”, in other words the prevention of looting was not endorsed in 25RF by Driscoll. I believe that Driscoll knew that some of his men would loot whatever was said to them, and therefore it would make sense if Driscoll could get permission from Stewart in advance for “official looting”.

Once elements of 25th Royal Fusiliers lost discipline and looted then many Africans with the British Force joined in (see Pocock and Pedersen as well as Meinertzhagen). Possibly the Africans even started it. But now someone had to grip the situation before it got out of hand.
25th Royal Fusiliers were either picqueting heights or looting. 2nd Loyal North Lancashires, a regular battalion that maintained discipline in the traditional manner, was the obvious choice to restore order in Bukoba European town, and I believe Meinertzhagen when he says:
“We eventually had to get some Lancs in to stop it, for Driscoll had completely lost control.”

At this stage in the Campaign Regular Army attitudes to indiscipline prevailed, and the Fusiliers’ bad conduct, though not all of them participated, was viewed as being deplorable, distasteful and criminal.
Later when the South Africans arrived, only partially disciplined and with the idea of looting firmly fixed in their minds, what the Fusiliers did at Bukoba would sadly be seen as the norm.

Edward Paice’s “Tip & Run” probably provides the most objective and readable account of what happened, and why, at Bukoba. (Paice quotes from Buchanan's papers in the IWM and from Shaw's in the Liddle Collection.)

Has anybody got any other ideas or suggestions to help in interpreting Meinertzhagen’s “War Diary”?

I think that the real underlying question here is “Why was 25th Royal Fusiliers not as well-disciplined a unit as, say, 2nd Rhodesia Regiment, another Service battalion, was?”

I believe that there are several reasons for the state of indiscipline in 25RF, and if the question is raised elsewhere in a specific 25RF thread then I will happily contribute.

I have no wish to criticize or denigrate the Fusiliers, particularly the small hard-core element that fought through in magnificent fashion until the end of 1917, but there were repercussions to sending an untrained Service Battalion overseas, and these could be usefully discussed on the Forum.

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Perimeter earthwork at Mzima Fort (nick-named "Frost's Castle")

In a previous post on the Tsavo Valley I wrote:

“. . . a fresh KAR detachment of 220 all ranks & 2 MGs under Captain A.C.D. Saunders 3 KAR came up to Mzima & built a strong well-sited post (named “Frost’s Castle” after the Intelligence Officer who selected the site).
4 FK (with 6 MGs) under Captain Schulz attacked this on 26 September (1914) but could not penetrate the KAR defences.
Schulz withdrew, he & 7 of his Askari were wounded & he left several dead on the ground. KAR casualties were 2 Askari wounded.
The Schutztruppe then concentrated on other approach routes to the Uganda Railway.”
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Part of the trench system within Mzima Fort

Recently, thanks to RAF LEEMING who took me on an exercise in Kenya and to James Willson a Kenyan resident who explores Great War sites in the area, I visited Mzima Fort (or “Frost’s Castle” as it is better known) plus other fortified camps in the area, and photographed these aspects of the original defences.
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I think that the real underlying question here is “Why was 25th Royal Fusiliers not as well-disciplined a unit as, say, 2nd Rhodesia Regiment, another Service battalion, was?”

I believe that there are several reasons for the state of indiscipline in 25RF, and if the question is raised elsewhere in a specific 25RF thread then I will happily contribute.

I have no wish to criticize or denigrate the Fusiliers, particularly the small hard-core element that fought through in magnificent fashion until the end of 1917, but there were repercussions to sending an untrained Service Battalion overseas, and these could be usefully discussed on the Forum.


I think you've got some very valid and interesting points that could be usefully discussed on the forum. In order not to sidetrack this hugely informative thread I will start another, 25RF specific, to discuss these and other points in the next few days.



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Trench in Mzima Fort with machine-gun post to the right and forward

Mzima Fort was developed until it could hold a 300-man Mobile Column (just as Maktau was to the south - see OH Sketch 4.)
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Mzima Fort: original Great War perimeter barbed wire with can attached as an alarm signal.
(The can would have contained stones that rattled when the wire was moved.)

The defence concept, originating from General Tighe, was that Schutztruppe demolition parties advancing east towards the Uganda Railway from their bases at Rhombo and Taveta had either to attack Mzima and Maktau on their way in, or, if they bypassed them, be ambushed by Mobile Columns from Mzima or Maktau on their way out.
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During the initial months of the Great War Uganda and British East Africa (BEA) both formed Police Service Battalions and so quickly produced more combat troops. Whilst the Ugandan the Police Battalion was immediately deployed to counter the military threat along the German East Africa border, BEA had to also counter security problems in the northern regions of Turkanaland, Jubaland and along the Abyssinian border.

Normally the King’s African Rifles (KAR) was deployed on northern frontier security duties. However, until Indian Army troops arrived, the KAR was needed to counter German Schutztruppe demolition patrols that were targeting the Uganda Railway line and infiltrating across the border from Lake Victoria down to Mombasa.

The BEA Police selected 400 Askari for the Police Service Battalion plus twelve European officers and two Warrant Officers. The Commanding Officer was Brevet Major W.F.S. Edwards, DSO, Inspector General of the East Africa and Uganda Police.
The Battalion went under canvas in the Nairobi Police Depot and commenced training on 1st December 1914. Four companies, each of around 75 Askari, were formed.

Major Edwards worked his men hard hoping to be deployed against the German threat, but on 11th January 1915 he was ordered to move his Battalion north to deal with Turkana raiders. 3,000 porters were used to carry stores and equipment into the operational area near Lake Rudolf. The Turkana were herdsmen who, along with their tribal neighbours, raided cattle in an endless cycle of raid and counter-raid.

Turkana warriors rarely fought in formation, but ferociously picked off enemy stragglers or covertly tunneled under enemy thorn-tree cattle enclosures, called zaribas, to make surprise attacks on sentries. Turkana weapons were double-ended “sword spears” about 6 feet long, and for close-combat they used circular wrist-knives for disemboweling and curved finger-knives for eye-gouging.

Firepower proved decisive, and in a series of small engagements during which Sudanese troops assisted from the north and Ugandan police joined in from the west, the BEA Police Service Battalion subdued the Turkana raiders, capturing over 150,000 head of cattle, camels, donkeys, goats and sheep. Much of this stock was returned during the negotiations that followed the end of the fighting.

The Battalion returned to Nairobi to rest and refit in June 1915, the East Africa General Service Medal with Bar “East Africa 1915” being awarded to all ranks who had served in Tukanaland. Major Edwards was Mentioned in Despatches and promoted to Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel.

Two Askari were awarded the African Distinguished Conduct Medal for Turkanaland operations, and their citations (LG 4 May 17) give an indication of their operational duties:

1941 Sgt Mohamed Ahmed“For gallant conduct when he succeeded, while in charge of a party of 6 men, in capturing large quantities of stock in spite of repeated and determined efforts of large numbers of the enemy to recover the same.”

3444 3/Constable Ndone Nzamba“For conspicuous gallantry during an enemy attack. Though severely wounded he took the place of his Section Commander who was wounded and continued to direct the fire of the section until the retirement of the enemy.”
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