By the spring of 1915 General Haig had completed the reorganization of the 1st Canadian division and had located it on the right wing of the 4th corps in the 1st Army. They were charged with holding the La Bassee Canal north to the Canadian Orchard. On the right wing of the Canadians was the 7th division and the 51st highland division. On their left was the Indian corps which was flanking the French 10th Army.
The Canadian forces enjoy a break from the fighting for awhile which gave it the opportunity to build up their trench and communications system on the higher land it not occupied without the constant challenge of water logged, mud filled trenches. Across from the Canadians was the 134th Saxon Infantry regiment and the 40th Saxon Division.
Orders were finally issued for an attack on June 15th by the 7th and 51st divisions with the Canadian division in support but as the plan developed it was recognized that the Canadians would have to take two German strong points known as the Duck's Bill and H3.
Plans were made to address all the issues of barbed wire and machine gun nests before the attack was to go forward and this battle which actually server as a model of how to effectively launch an attack on the Western front. The artillery was divided up so that they could use shrapnel to destroy the barbed wire with assurances that the job was done, the guns could also provide barrage support for the advancing troops, a few advanced pieces could focus on German machine gun positions and take them out and a bombardment would disrupt the German lines. In addition a tunnel was dug under no mans land with the intention of filling the end f the tunnel, located under German lines, with explosives and when the attack was ready the explosive would be ignited and hopefully a large section or key point of the enemy line would be destroyed from beneath.
By mid afternoon of June 1st the 1st Canadian Battalion was ready to go with its four companies to attack in successive waves. The Canadian troops had just received Lee-Enfield rifles to replace the problem plagued Ross rifle and were optimistic about using this new reliable weapon. The bombardment began and just before the attack the close artillery was unveiled and blasted away at the German Machine guns. At 5:58 AM the engineers blew up the trench which ripped a huge hole in the earth and shocked and stunned the German defenders although the British did miss the machine gun position they were targeting.
The attack began and under the covering barrage the 1st Battalion and by 6:10 AM had occupied the German front line. The H3 German position was not taken and began to account for considerable damage on the second and third waves of Canadian attackers. The flanking attack by the 7th division had also bogged down and German fire from those German defensive positions also began to take their toll.
Lieutenant FW Campbell managed to set up a machine gun in the German trenched among his comrades in the 1st Battalion but German pressure increased until he was forced to retreat. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his braveness under fire. By 10:00 Am the 1st Battalion had been forced back to the German front lines and then back to heir original jumping off lines. The 1st battalion recorded 366 Causalities among which 20 officers were killed.
The 3rd Battalion was order to renew the attack but by midnight they needed more time and it was not until 4:45 that they were able to jump off. They made little progress against the German line that was growing stronger and stronger and on June 19th Sire John French cancelled an further attacks. Thus the battle inconclusively died off and only death and destruction result from the battle.
May 18 - December 22, 1914
|War:||World War I||1914 - 1918|
|Where:||South of Neuve Chapelle|
|Forces:||6 Divisions||3 Divisions|
Minor British Victory
|Casualties:||Canada & Allies||Opponents|
|Casualties - 4,000||Casualties - 2,000|
Cite Article : Reference: www.canadahistory.com/sections/documents/documents.html