Up to now, British forces on the Western Front have fought mainly on the defensive. This has led to a certain scepticism on the part of the French as to whether their ally will ever make much contribution to driving out the German invader. Now, though, the British attack the Germans at Neuve Chapelle. As well as showing that his men are capable of offensive operations, British commander John French wants to support the ongoing French offensive in the Champagne region.
The British are attacking the village of Neuve Chapelle with the aim of taking it and then pushing on to the Aubers Ridge beyond. If things go really well they may even be able to recapture the important French industrial city of Lille.
The attackers are a combination of troops from Britain and ones recruited in India. Their early morning assault is preceded by a short artillery bombardment that successfully cuts through German barbed wire. The British and Indian soldiers then advance across No Man’s Land to overrun the first German positions and proceed on to capture the enemy’s support trenches. Neuve Chapelle itself is captured by 10.00 am.
Then things start to go wrong. German troops begin to counter-attack while other German strong points delay further advances by the British. German artillery bombardment disrupts British communications by severing telephone wires. British and Indian units become disorganised and General Haig, the local commander, is unable to direct operations. The attack runs out of steam with the Aubers Ridge remaining securely in German hands.