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Battle of Neuve Chapelle

Detail from the Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle: interior.

Detail from the Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle: interior. © 2013, John M. Shea

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The French offensives in the First Battle of Champagne culminated with a coordinated British offensive at Neuve Chapelle on March 10 that aimed to take the high ground of Aubers Ridge.

Generals Douglas Haig and H.L. Smith-Dorrien led a force of British and Indian troops. Fog obscured Allied preparations from the Germans, and the attackers moved into position overnight.

A 35-minute preliminary bombardment of 400 guns and howitzers began the offensive, supported by French artillery on both sides of the British. It proved effective except on the northern end of the line, with shrapnel clearing much of the German barbed wire.

The attack took the Germans by surprise and broke their line. The enemies battled in the trenches and the heavily-fortified village of Neuve Chapelle, which was taken by troops of the Indian Army Corps. The artillery barrage was less successful on the British left, where the British suffered many of their casualties.

The British and Indians regrouped after taking the village, giving the defenders time to do so. A fresh attack in the afternoon made little headway.

German artillery shelled the British and Indian forces throughout the night of the 10th and 11th. The Allies resumed the assault the next day, but German reinforcements were moved in quickly by train and motor transport, stiffening the defense, and the British were not able to follow through. In trying to continue the advance, some British troops outpaced their supporting artillery and fell victim to it.

The British suspended further attacks on March 12. A German counter-attack at Neuve Chapelle on March 13 failed at great cost to the German forces.

At Neuve Chapelle, the British and Indian force of 50,000 men suffered nearly 13,000 casualties, the Germans between 17,000 and 18,000.



Battle of Neuve Chapelle is part of First Battle of Champagne.