14/5/1915 The “Shell Crisis” breaks in Britain

The recent British attack on Aubers Ridge was an abject failure. Now The Times carries a report on this battle, written by Charles Repington but credited simply to “our war correspondent”. Repington compares the British performance to the more successful French attacks further south in Artois. The French attack was preceded by a long and devastating artillery bombardment. In contrast, the British shelled the enemy positions for a mere 40 minutes. Worse, many of the British guns were firing shrapnel rounds rather than high explosive rounds; shrapnel is devastating against men in the open but useless against fortified positions. Thus the British infantry had to attack German trenches still completely intact, suffering terrible casualties as a result.

This revelation that the British army is short of artillery shells causes a sensation. Many begin to doubt that the government is effectively prosecuting the war. Lord Kitchener, the War Minister, is particularly blamed for failing to take the necessary measures needed to ensure that the army has the weapons it needs.

image source (The Long, Long Trail: the British Army in the Great War, 1914-1918)

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