Corporal Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918: The List Regiment

By John F. Williams | Go to book overview

6

NEUVE CHAPELLE 1915

There has been a little pheasant shooting. Life would be a pleasant picnic if it were not for the Germans.

- Times, 9 March 1915 1

A week after the battle, a British assessment called Neuve Chapelle 'one of the heaviest engagements of the Western Front of the war', with the writer devoting a panegyric to the 'thousands of men [who] attacked and defended day after day with the greatest energy and fierceness'. Accordingly, the principal features of this battle were 'the murderous artillery fire which preceded the attack, the brilliant series of sweeping charges by the British, and the resultant success of an important position won and held in spite of repeated counter-attacks'. Wounded Tommies were 'borne from the field laughing and singing out of the sheer joy of battle'. Neuve Chapelle signalled the 'end of the long imprisonment in the trenches, and its opening of that spring campaign which [was] the preliminary step towards the great movement which is to hurl the German out of Flanders and of France'. Even so, the enemy would only 'be moved by a long series of Neuve Chapelles. He has to be fought again and again, and defeated again and again, in pitched battles of just that calibre.' 2

For the British, Neuve Chapelle was treated as a victory and would be described by them as such throughout the Great War. History has not dealt kindly with this judgement. Nothing would have pleased the Germans more than a series of similar battles, where a few resolute German troops held up 48 British battalions and inflicted inordinate casualties. Although Neuve Chapelle was one of only three occasions in the war where the British were able to pierce the German line and look out over the verdant fields beyond, Alan Clark's summation that the British '1st Army had, although “gaining valuable experience”, suffered a defeat' seems indisputable. Still, the Germans did not have it all their own way. For the 6th BRD, thrown into the line in a fruitless counter-attack (again without proper artillery support), Neuve Chapelle was another bloody offensive for which there was little to show. In its description of the 6th BRD's part in the

-86-

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Corporal Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918: The List Regiment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - A University of the Trenches 4
  • 2 - 1913-14: 17
  • 3 - Cannon Fodder 34
  • 4 - West Flanders 1914 50
  • 5 - Winter 1914-15 73
  • 6 - Neuve Chapelle 1915 86
  • 7 - Fromelles 1915 98
  • 8 - Nursery Tales of 1915 114
  • 9 - Hugo Gutmann and the Good Soldier Mend 128
  • 10 - Fromelles 1916 136
  • 11 - Hell on the Somme 147
  • 12 - Declining Fortune 161
  • 13 - 1918 178
  • Epilogue: 198
  • Notes 211
  • Selected Bibliography 226
  • Index 233
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