Last updated: 9 June 2011
On 10 March 1915, following a preliminary bombardment by British artillery, a battle commenced to retake Neuve Chapelle, located midway between Bethune and Lille in the Pas de Calais département of northern France. As happened elsewhere on the Western Front, the bombardment was largely ineffective, leaving intact much of the barbed-wire entanglement in front of the German positions. As a result, the Allies sustained very heavy casualties in the attack, particularly in The Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment) and The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) of General Rawlinson's IV Corps.
The Meerut Division of the Indian Corps played a major role, rapidly gaining the German front-line trenches and resisting several counter-attacks. Unfortunately, there were delays in sending further orders and reinforcements forward. The initial gains were not exploited and at midnight on 12 March General Sir Douglas Haig halted the offensive.
After three days fighting the British had gained a small area of land at a cost of over 7,000 British and 4,500 Indian casualties. It was to be a familiar story during the following two years as the Allies sought the elusive breakthrough that would drive the Germans out of France and Belgium.