All this week, 10-13 March 1915, a new battle was raging in France’s Artois region. The western front had been static since Christmas (see my post of 27 January). This was the first deliberate British offensive, and it was very carefully planned. The Royal Flying Corps had carried out detailed reconnaissance to almost a mile behind the German lines, where they were active in bombing railways and reserve troops. On 10 March the artillery of the Indian Corps and IV Corps destroyed the German wire and front-line trenches within thirty-five minutes. Following this, front-line and support trenches were quickly taken by the infantry and Neuve Chapelle itself captured after less than two hours fighting.
‘However, what then? German reserves arrived by train to another line, and British reserves came up on foot, each carrying sixty pounds of equipment — the equivalent of a heavy suitcase. The cavalry moved forward in expectation, and clogged the roads. But the guns had not registered the new German line, and the infantry were tired. Subsequent attacks therefore failed.’ Norman Stone, World War I: A Short History (2007).
Next entry: ‘Calderonia’: an update