Honourable Artillery Company - On this day 100 years ago: 1915

March 1915 again was spent in the routine of trench warfare. 

It is interesting that the debate on the ability of artillery to cut the German wire had already begun. The Commanding Officer was ordered to take two Captains into the leading trenches to particularly observe the effect of an artillery bombardment on the enemy wire and parapet. He added two other to the party, observing from a different vantage point and all agreed that every shot had been high and absolutely no damage was done to the enemy’s wire or parapet.  The subsequent report went down like a lead balloon.  A bigger gun was added, “Granny”, a 15 inch howitzer of Dreadnought size, but even this had only negligible effect.


Sgt Christopher of the 1st Battalion’s Machine Gun Section

 

On March 10th the battalion heard of the attack at Neuve Chapelle, one of the first coordinated major attacks mounted by the British against a trench system, and in which many Gurkhas were killed.

On the 12th the battalion supported an attack by Worcesters and Wiltshires, and the history describes the gallant Wiltshire attack ‘dissolving’ in front of the German parapet.  The battalion came out of the line mid-March having lost 8 killed and 30 wounded, moving to near St Eloi and into new trenches between 23rd March and the end of the month. Frost, shells and machine gun fire made daily life incredibly dangerous.
 
A and B batteries remained in UK, though their adventures were about to begin...


British offensive in the Artois region of France: 
 
40,000 Allied troops took part during the battle and suffered 7,000 British and 4,200 India casualties. The battle at Neuve Chapelle marked a watershed in trench warfare, which showed how the new conditions affected attack and defence. As quoted by Brigadier-General John Charteris at the time: "England will have to accustom herself to far greater losses than those of Neuve Chapelle before we finally crush the German army..."

 

March 1915: A Private of the HAC 1st Battalion crosses a river in Flanders
(photo by Alfieri Picture Service)