Battles of Neuve Chapelle

and Aubers Ridge 1915

Sikhs Neuve Chapelle

Sikhs fortifying their defences at Neuve Chapelle (Image from La Voix du Nord, August 28 2015

February 22nd 1915, Private 7888 Percy Draper, 1st Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment, 9th Brigade, 3rd Division, reservist, was killed in action, age 27, near La Chapelle Farm, France. He was working at Notts. County Asylum when war broke out.

Battle of Neuve Chapelle

March 10th – 13th 1915

The battle took place in the Artois region of France and was intended to break through the German line. It was the first organised British attack, led by General Haig who commanded the First Army (IV Corps and Indian Corps). The Allies succeeded in breaking through the front line on the first day but during the counter attack British and Indian troops suffered 13,000 casualties and had to retreat. The Sikhs experienced the devastating loss of 80% of their men.

March 12th 1915, Private 11500 Percy Bemrose, 1st Bn. Sherwood Foresters, 24th Brigade, 8th Division, was killed in action during the battle, age 22. He was a regular soldier serving in India when war broke out.

From Sherwood Foresters War Diaries (held at the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regimental Museum, Nottingham).

Neuve Chapelle March 12th. 5 a.m. Germans suddenly shell Battn Hd Qrs. and advance in overwhelming numbers to the attack. Our right is forced to retire through fear of being outflanked, and Battn after inflicting heavy losses on the enemy, retire to the support trench about 150 yards in rear. Enemy continue to advance massing on our right and right centre, but thrown into disorder by company bomber Pte. Rivers and through counter attacks by our left and left centre retire being decimated by our fire, and Battn. regains its former trenches by charges, the enemy again suffering very heavily from our fire whilst retiring.
Weather fine but dull with a heavy mist in early morning.
7 a.m. Battn in complete possession of its former line. During this action Capt. Dixon, 2nd Lts. Shacklock and Walker were killed and Lt. and Adjt Stranger and 2nd Lt. Binney wounded.
3 p.m. Battn suffer a few casualties from own artillery fire. Lieutenant O’Dwyer wounded about this time.
9 p.m. Battn withdrawn to support trench and a new defensive line is taken up.
Casualties: Officers: Killed 6, Wounded 10, Total to date 17. Other Ranks: Killed 90, total to date 161; Wounded 265, total to date 556; Missing 87, total to date 87.

Private Rivers (described above) was awarded a V.C. for his actions  at Neuve Chapelle as was Rifleman Gabar Singh Negi.

Battle of Aubers Ridge

May 9 – 10th, 1915

The battle was a disasterous attack resulting in 11,000 British casualties. It was a minor part of the Second Battle of Artois which involved a much larger French offensive. The battle of Aubers consisted of a pincer attack against German positions north and south of Neuve Chapelle. The southern pincer was near Festubert while the northern pincer was near Sailly-sur-Lys.

May 9th 1915, Rue de Bois, Sailly-sur-Lys, France. Death of L/Sergeant 11259 Bertie Todd, 1st Bn., Sherwood Foresters, 24th Brigade, 8th Division. He was a regular soldier serving in India when war broke out. He was with the 8th Division in the northern half of the pincer attack where he lost his life, age 23.

From Sherwood Foresters War Diaries (held at the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regimental Museum, Nottingham).

On May 9th an Allied attack began at 5.40 a.m. in the neighbourhood of Sailly, checked by heavy machine gun fire from the enemy. The Sherwood Foresters were supporting the East Lancashire Regiment. Leading platoons leapt over trench parapet at 6.10 a.m. but enemy in holding position entirely untouched by artillery fire. Fighting continued up to 10 pm accompanied by heavy German shelling. Men were demoralised.

The following summary, written by John Morse and available on the Nottinghamshire Great War Roll of Honour, entry for Charles Dean, records what happened on that day to the men of the 1st Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters:

On 9 May 1915 the battalion attacked Rouge Blancs, going over the top at 6.10 am. The British artillery barrage had been totally inadequate and the enemy positions had hardly been touched. Eight machine guns faced the men as they went forward. ‘B’ Company managed to get within 40 yards of the enemy wire but found it uncut, except for one four yard gap. An order came to ‘stop advance’ and Major Morley ordered ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies to fall back behind the breastwork and reorganize. At 7.35 am, ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies advanced in support of the East Lancashire’s, with ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies following, but once again machine gun fire checked the move and the men lay in the open at whatever point they had reached. At 1.15 pm the enemy brought enfilade fire to bear and the men were ordered back to the breastwork again. At 7.30 pm, the enemy opened up with High Explosive artillery and caused many casualties. At 10 pm, the battalion was relieved and moved back to Rouge de Bout.”

Note: Rouge de Bout is a misspelling of Rue de Bois


Transporting the wounded to base hospitals in France. Image from

Frank Costall and Lawrence Turner, 1st Bn., Sherwood Foresters, both from Radcliffe, also lost their lives as a result of this conflict. Frank Costall died of wounds on May 13th, 1915 in a base hospital and Lawrence Turner eventually died in 1923 after many years suffering from multiple injuries.