Wednesday, March 10, 1915

In Trenches, Rue Petillon

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Battle of Neuve Chapelle began with tremendous bombardment of enemy lines by British, about 3 miles to our right, at half past seven in the morning.  About 8 o’clock infantry advance began.  No sign of movement of British Brigade on our immediate right, but everything was in order for the 14th to advance if called upon.  Would have been difficult operation unless Germans opposite us were attacked on flank, as wire in front of German trenches had not been shelled, and was uncut.  Battle continued throughout the day.  Very little news came to us, except that the British attack had been successful on the right, but that left nearest Canadians had been held up.  Were able to observe the bombardment from O.P. in our support lines all through the day.  Men very much worked up and anxious to be in the fight.” [1]

THE BATTLE OF NEUVE-CHAPELLE March 10-12, 1915   -   A Learning Process for Canadians
March 10-12, 1915 – A Learning Process for Canadians

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: “On taking over the front line, the men of the Royal Montreal Regiment prepared to advance against the German line opposite.  They were ordered to attack on the morning of March 10th if the Battle of Neuve Chapelle involved the British brigade on their immediate right.  With the 16th Battalion on the left they would thus have taken part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle had the attack proved successful.  Unfortunately, it resulted in partial failure, and on the extreme left, where the British forces joined up with the 14th, no advance was called for, participation of the Royal Montrealers being confined to a demonstration in support.

Describing the work of the Regiment on this eventful morning, a private of the Battalion writes as follows:  ‘Early on the morning of March 10, those of us who were fortunate enough to be asleep were awakened by furious cannonading on our right.  The British had let loose the whole force of their artillery on the German trenches.  So many guns were massed along the line that it was impossible to hear individual reports.  The sound came to us as a steady rumble of terrific volume and intensity.  A little later the batteries of the 3rd Canadian Artillery Brigade, immediately in our rear, joined in. … The din was terrific – ordinary conversation was impossible, and orders had to be fairly shouted.  While our men were speculating about the battle, down the line came the order ‘Stand to!’  Immediately the men dropped whatever they were doing and sprang to their allotted posts along the parapet.  ‘Open rapid fire!’ came the next order, and the men stepped up to their firing positions, threw back the safety catches, and let drive…Each man was firing twenty-five rounds a minute, so it was not long before extra bandoliers had to be served out.  No. 3 Coy, was acting as reserve and all night long they had toiled, carrying up 100-pound boxes of ammunition to the trenches.  It had been thought that 200,000 rounds would be ample for the Battalion, but apparently the rapid firing ability of some of the men had been under-estimated.

Continuing his letter, the writer mentioned that before long a ‘Prepare to Advance!’ order was received, whereupon the men with fixed bayonets, stood to in light fighting order.  Knapsacks were placed in the rear of trenches as superfluous weight, but of necessity each man carried 250 rounds of ammunition, full water bottle, and emergency iron ration.  For more than an hour they remained on the alert, waiting for the command that would send them out across 300 yards of sloppy ground against the enemy trenches.  But the gods of war did not favour them.  The British division on the left remained passive, the roar of the big guns died down, and soon the men were resting quietly in the trenches.’  Casualties in the 14th Battalion during the engagement included Sergeant Thomas Moore, of No. 2 Coy., who had won the Distinguished Conduct Medal in China.  Privates Hunt, Molt, and Coombes, of No. 2 Coy., were also killed, and several others badly wounded.”    [2]

“The Battle of Neuve-Chapelle is aptly named as it provided a new role for Canadian troops who had just arrived from Salisbury Plain, England, where they had been training. While not a large battle, it was not without significance from a Canadian perspective, in that it was the first time that the Canadian Expeditionary Force had been fully involved in action with the enemy.

Canadian War Diaries for the period immediately leading up to the battle document the move of the Canadians from England to France in February, the additional training and orientation undertaken in February and early March, and the first taste of action in mid-March at Neuve-Chapelle. Their role in the battle order to prevent the Germans in this sector from reinforcing the combat zone. This would allow the British 1st Army, under General Sir Douglas Haig, to successfully push through German lines and establish a new Allied front line on conquered territory. Despite this success, however, the British missed a golden opportunity to exploit their advantage; owing to a poor communications system, they were unable to change the orders which restricted the troops from advancing, before receiving an explicit order to retake the offensive.

The main lessons of Neuve-Chapelle were as follows: that artillery bombardment was too light to suppress the enemy trenches; that more good artillery observation points were necessary; that reserves were too few to follow up success quickly; and most importantly, that the procedure of transmitting information and sending orders to the advanced troops was slow and difficult, and that the systems of communication were much too vulnerable.”    [4]

“It has been recorded that during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, over the period March 10-13, a total of 530 British artillery pieces of 10 different calibers, fired some 3,776 rounds.”  [5]

[1]    War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, March 10, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, 
[2]    R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette, Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pp. 30-31.
[3]    "Current History" (New York Times) - New York Times "Current History". The European War, Vol. 2 No. 2, May 1915. Downloaded from  as found at:- Wikipedia contributors, "Battle of Neuve Chapelle," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed December 19, 2014).
[5]   Farndale, M. (1986). History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, Western Front 1914–18. London: Royal Artillery Institution. ISBN 1-870114-00-0, as quoted at

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