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

By John F. Williams | Go to book overview

7

FROMELLES 1915

For the rest of the war, Germans continued to make occasional propaganda over the 'triumph' of 3 battalions over 48 at Neuve Chapelle, while the British still preferred to describe it as the first in a series of British victories based on 'constantly improving tactics born of hard won experience'. Two months after Neuve Chapelle the BEF launched another more extensive and broadly based attack, on a five-mile front between Festubert and Fromelles, for which Neuve Chapelle was meant to serve as the model. In this vein, on 4 April 1915 GHQ issued a memo stating that, given adequate preparation and 'thorough previous registration of the enemy's trenches by our artillery', a sector of the enemy's 'frontline defence' might - à la Neuve Chapelle - 'be captured with comparatively little loss'. GHQ's over-confidence infected the lower ranks, with officers openly stating that 'this should be Neuve Chapelle all over again, and much more successful because we have learnt its lessons and shall know what to avoid this time'. But the Germans had also learnt from Neuve Chapelle. Instead of two, three German divisions - two Prussian and one Bavarian - now faced the British on the Festubert-Fromelles front. The 6th BRD held the northernmost position, with the List Regiment responsible for a key position, on the so-called Sugarloaf, which protected Fromelles. While their loss of the Neuve Chapelle village was, in the German view, of minor tactical significance, it had been a propaganda setback. The German frontline had been pierced and the British, with better battlefield organization and a reasonable follow-up plan, might have been able to threaten Lille. To ensure there would be no repetition, in mid-March 1915 the German infantry and pioneers of these three divisions began working around the clock to turn their sector into as near impregnable a fortress as feverish activity and Teutonic efficiency could make it. 1

The action that the British called the 'Battle of Aubers Ridge' was described by the Bavarians who took part in it as the 'Action (Gefecht) by Fromelles'. Otherwise it was treated by the Germans as a relatively minor confrontation that formed part of what the Bavarian official history called 'The Spring Battle of La Bassée - Arras; 9 May to 23 July 1915': a Western Front battle on a major scale in which the part played by the BEF was relatively minor and subsidiary to that

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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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