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Battle of Neuve Chapelle
Part of the Western Front of World War I
NYTMapNeuveChapelle1915.png
Positions following the battle, New York Times, May 1915
Date March 10 - March 13, 1915
Location Artois region, France
Result Tactical British victory[1]
Operational and Strategic British failure
Belligerents
 United Kingdom

Flag of Imperial India.svg British India

 German Empire
Commanders
United Kingdom John French German Empire Crown Prince Rupprecht
Strength
40,000  ?
Casualties and losses
11,200 killed, wounded or missing
  • 7,000 British
  • 4,200 Indian
10,600 killed, wounded, prisoners or missing

The Battles of Neuve Chapelle and Artois was a battle in the First World War. It was a British offensive in the Artois region and broke through at Neuve-Chapelle but they were unable to exploit the advantage.

The battle began on 10 March 1915. By this time, a huge influx of troops from Britain had to some extent relieved the French situation in Flanders and enabled a continuous British line stretching from Langemarck to Givenchy. The ultimate aim of the battle was to cause a rupture in the German lines which would then be exploited with a rush on the Aubers Ridge and possibly even Lille, a major enemy communications centre. A simultaneous French assault on the Vimy Ridge was also planned although the situation in Champagne soon led to this particular part of the operation to be postponed. This was to be the first time that aerial photography was to play a prominent part in a major battle with the entire German lines being mapped from the air.

Contents

The battle

Despite poor weather conditions, the early stages of the battle went extremely well for the British. The Royal Flying Corps quickly secured aerial dominance and set about bombarding German reserves and transportation (railways) en route to defend the area.[2] In the center of the attack, two companies of the German Jaeger Battalion 11 (with approx. 200 men and a single machinegun surviving the initial shelling) delayed the advance for more than six hours until forced to retreat. Shortly after, Neuve Chapelle itself had been secured. It was at this point that the advance ground to a halt. Though the aerial photography had been useful to an extent, it was unable to efficiently identify the enemy's strong defensive points. Primitive communication also meant that British commanders had been unable to keep in touch with each other and the battle thus became uncoordinated and this in turn disrupted the supply lines. On 12 March, German forces commanded by Crown Prince Rupprecht launched a counter-attack which, although unsuccessful, did at least manage to end any chance of further advancement; the campaign was officially abandoned on 13 March. 40,000 Allied troops took part during the battle and suffered 11,200 (7,000 British, 4,200 Indian)casualties. The Germans lost around the same number. In total, the British succeeded in recapturing just over 2 km of lost ground.

Aftermath

After the failure of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the British Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Sir John French claimed that it failed due to a lack of shells. This led to the Shell Crisis of 1915 which brought down the Liberal British government under the Premiership of H. H. Asquith. He formed a new coalition government dominated by Liberals and appointed Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions. It was a recognition that the whole economy would have to be geared for war if the Allies were to prevail on the Western Front.

Indian Army in Neuve-Chapelle

The British Indian Army saw a significant amount of combat around Neuve-Chapelle. First they attempt to seal the breach that the Germans (under General Erich van Falkenhayn) had created in the British Line just south of Neuve-Chapelle. On the 28th October 1914, the Indian Corps initially succeeded in entering into the village of Neuve Chapelle but were forced to retreat after a strong German counter attack. Further fighting continued for a week with the additional loss of 25 British and more than 500 Indians killed, with 1,450 wounded. In December 1914, the Indian Corps moved to the Givenchy area south of Neuve-Chapelle. On the 16th December 1914, they attempted to capture a German front trench line without success losing 54 men. This raised the total number killed to that date to over 2,000.

The Indian Corps provided half the attacking force at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle which started on the 10th March 1915. It was one of the major engagements for the Indian Army on the Western Front. Elements of the Indian Corps participated attempted to break the German lines at Neuve Chapelle and went on to capture Aubers. However, a logistical failure in moving British guns within range to cover the advance saw the Indian troops go in without covering fire. Almost 1,000 were killed. Other equally futile attacks were ordered that day by the British 1st Army commander, General Sir Douglas Haig, with similar tragic results. On 25 April 1915, the Indian Corps had its first full exposure to toxic gas warfare.

Rifleman Gobar Singh Negi of the 2nd / 39th Garhwal Rifles was awarded the Victoria Cross, the United Kingdom’s highest award for valour. From his citation: For most conspicuous bravery on 10 March, 1915, at Neuve-Chapelle. During our attack on the German position he was one of a bayonet party with bombs who entered their main trench, and was the first man to go round each traverse, driving back the enemy until they were eventually forced to surrender. He was killed during this engagement. Gobar Singh Negi was one of 4700 solders of the Indian Army who are commemorated at the Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

War graves of Indian Army and the Indian Labour Corps are found at Ayette, Souchez and Neuve-Chapelle.

In popular culture

In the novel The Magus by John Fowles the title character relates his own (possibly fictitious) account of the battle to illustrate the pointless brutality of war, calling Neuve Chapelle "a place without the possibility of reason".

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ Cassar 2004, p. 166.
  2. ^ Squadron-leader. Basic principles of air warfare : the influence of air power on sea and land strategy. (Aldershot [Eng.]: Gale & Polden, 1927) 97.
  • Cassar, George. Kitchener's War: British Strategy from 1914 to 1916. Brassey's Inc. Washington 2004. ISBN 1-57488-708-4








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