|Battle of Aubers Ridge|
|Part of the Second Battle of Artois of the Western Front of World War I|
The Royal Munster Fusiliers receiving absolution from their chaplain, Father Francis Gleeson prior to the battle.
|Commanders and leaders|
|Sir John French||Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria|
|Casualties and losses|
The battle was the initial British component of the combined Anglo-French offensive known as the Second Battle of Artois. French Commander-in-Chief Joffre had enquired of Sir John French, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force if British units could support a French offensive into the Douai Plain around late April or early May 1915. The immediate French objectives were to capture the heights at Notre Dame de Lorette and the Vimy Ridge.
The British First Army was further north, between La Bassée and Ypres (Belgium). It was decided that the British forces would attack in the southern half of their front line, near the village of Laventie. Their objective in the flat and poorly drained terrain was the "Aubers Ridge", an area of slightly higher ground 2–3 kilometres south of Allied lines marked by the villages of Aubers, Fromelles and Le Maisnil. This same area had been targeted in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle two months earlier.
The battle marked the second use of specialist Royal Engineers tunnelling companies, who deployed mines underground to disrupt enemy defence lines through use of dug tunnels, and large amounts of explosives at zero hour.
Course of the Battle
Intelligence about the newly-strengthened German positions was not available or given sufficient attention. No surprise was achieved. The duration and weight of the British bombardment was wholly insufficient to break the German wire and breastwork defences, or to destroy or suppress the front-line machine-guns. German artillery and free movement of reserves were also insufficiently suppressed. Trench layout, traffic flows and organisation behind the British front line did not allow for easy movement of reinforcements and casualties. British artillery equipment and ammunition were in poor condition: the first through over-use, the second through faulty manufacture. It soon became impossible to tell precisely where British troops were; accurate close-support artillery fire was impossible.
Three squadrons of 1st Wing Royal Flying Corps were attached to First Army to fly defensive patrols for four days before the attack, to deter enemy reconnaissance. During the attack they would switch to an observation role and to bombing enemy rear areas. This would include the area immediately behind the attack, but also important more distant railway junctions and bridges.
This battle was an unmitigated disaster for the British army. No ground was won and no tactical advantage gained. It is very doubtful if it had the slightest positive effect on assisting the main French attack fifteen miles to the south.
Four Victoria Crosses were awarded for actions in the Battle of Aubers Ridge:
- David Finlay, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders).
- John Ripley, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders).
- Charles Sharpe, Lincolnshire Regiment.
- James Upton, Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment).
- Edmonds 1928, pp. 1–4.
- Edmonds 1928, pp. 6–8.
- Edmonds 1928, p. 31.
- Edmonds 1928, pp. 14–15.
- Edmonds 1928, pp. 33, 37.
- Edmonds 1928, p. 41.
- Edmonds 1928, p. 10.
- Edmonds 1928, pp. 37–41.
- Edmonds 1928, pp. 44–82.
- Myers 1916, p. 286.
- Edmonds 1928, p. 29.
- Edmonds 1928, p. 27.
- Edmonds 1928, p. 35.
- Edmonds 1928, p. 34.
- Edmonds, J. (1928). History of the Great War Based on Official Documents By Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence: Military Operations France and Belgium, 1915: Battles of Aubers Ridge, Festubert, and Loos (1st ed.). London: Macmillan. OCLC 58962526.
- Myers, A. W. (1916). Captain Anthony Wilding. London: Hodder and Stoughton. OCLC 1203033. http://ia700504.us.archive.org/17/items/captainanthonywi00myeriala/captainanthonywi00myeriala.pdf. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
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