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The Battle of Festubert which was fought from May 15 - 27, was part of a larger campaign launched during the spring of 1915 under the French commander Joseph Joffre and know as the Artois offensive. Sir Douglas Haig who was the commander of the British, Canadian and Indian troops had just lead tem in the Battle of Neuve Chappelle on May 9th, was ordered to launch a second attack upon Festubert to support the overall offensive.

The attack began on May 15th with a huge artillery bombardment of over 100,000 shells fired from over 433 artillery pieces against the German 6th Army. Two Indian divisions moved forward in the darkness (this was the first British night attack of the war) and initially made good progress against the 13th and 14th division but the Germans dug in again along a new line located directly in front of Festubert.

The action was not renewed for 3 days and on May 18, in pouring rain, the Canadian 3rd brigade and the 51st highland division launched their attack against the German lines which had been reinforced during the intervening 3 days and were ready and waiting. The 2 hour British bombardment was scheduled to tart at 2:30 AM but was delayed an hour and when it the Canadian assault began at 5:25 AM the Germans had machine gun positions, which had been missed by the big shells, opened up on the Canadians with devastating effect. The terrain which they were going across was completely lacking of cover and was fairly water logged and muddy. The Germans had also focused their artillery on this area and were able to bombard the attacking Canadian troops as they moved towards the German lines. This attack faltered and was halted. That evening the Canadian 2nd brigade moved up and took positions on the 3rd brigade's right in the lines. The Germans also replaced their two divisions with the 4th Guard division which was an Experienced force from the 1914 fighting and were very tough. On the 19th of May the 2nd and 7th British divisions were withdrawn from the front due to heavy causalities and the Canadian division and the Highland division were placed under the control of the Indian command. The Canadians were to attack again the next morning but Brigadier General Currie was unable to identify his objective and the stiff resistance and general confusion began to bog down the Canadian attack until it dwindled out.

After regrouping and preparing for a new attack the British, Canadian and Indian troops launched themselves at the Germans on May 20-24th and were able to capture the village of Festubert with intermittent fighting continuing until May 27th. As the fighting died down the allies had advanced less then a kilometre with a loss of over 16,000 troops.


May 15 - 27th, 1915

Campaign:  Second Battle of Artois  
War: World War I 1914 - 1918
Where: South of Neuve Chapelle
Western Front


Belligerents: Canada Germany
 Douglas Haig
 Crown Prince Rupprecht
Forces: 6 Divisions, 433 Guns 3 Divisions

Minor British Victory

Casualties: Canada & Allies Opponents
Casualties - 16,000 Killed -  ?
(of which 2,468 were Canadian with 661 dead) Wounded - ?


Cite Article : Reference:

Source: NA

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