The Battle of Neuve Chapelle (March 1915)
In February 1915 the British Commander-in-Chief decided that the First Army (on 1st January 1915, the British Expeditionary Force had been officially subdivided into two "Armies," commanded respectively by Sir Douglas Haig and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien) should attack the German lines covering Lille, and before the end of that month preparations for the attack were begun. At first but little definite information was vouchsafed to the fighting troops: for it was desired to keep secret the time and place of the attack. But during the first days of March 1915 the trenches in front of Neuve Chapelle held by the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment were visited by a succession of officers of other regiments, sent up to reconnoitre the ground; and when the Battalion was relieved and marched back from the front line to billets after dark on the 8th of March, officers and men could not fail to notice that everywhere along the line of march they passed batteries of artillery either already ensconced behind farms and hedgerows or still noisily rumbling into position.
Oil painting of a Scene from the Battle of Neuve Chapelle by Matania
All the following day (March 9th) the Battalion lay in billets while orders for attack on the next morning were received and preparations were made. One of those preparations is perhaps of some little interest. In view of the uncertain weather the troops were to fight in greatcoats, the skirts of which were ordered to be fastened back in the French manner.
As planned, the attack was intended to crush the salient in the German line formed by the village of Neuve Chapelle, and thus to break a gap through the German defensive line. Through that gap the British reserves and cavalry were intended to push forward to seize the Aubers Ridge and possibly Lille itself.
The 8th Division, which faced the Neuve Chapelle salient from the west, was to attack in the first phase, with the 23rd and 25th Brigades in front line and the 24th Brigade, which included the 1st Worcestershire, in reserve. The leading Brigades were to capture the village. Then the 24th Brigade was to push through the village and past the northern end of the Bois du Biez on to the Aubers Ridge.
A great concentration of artillery had been arranged to support the attack, and elaborate preparations had been made. As part of these preparations the trench-mortar detachment of the 1st Worcestershire (six trench-mortars with sixteen men) under Lieut. E. B. Conybeare was stationed on the left flank of the front of attack. Their fire was to assist in the reduction of a fortified building in the German front line known as the 'Moated Grange.'
The morning of the 10th March 1915, was dull but fine and, apart from a few ranging shots, all was peaceful till, precisely at 7.30 a.m., the massed British artillery — some five hundred guns — simultaneously opened fire.
That bombardment was the heaviest experienced till then in any war, and the troops in the British front line saw the German trenches which they had faced all the Winter disappear in a whirlwind of flame and smoke. For half an hour the German lines were bombarded: then the artillery lifted from the trenches to the village in rear, and the battalions of the 23rd and 25th 'Brigades clambered out of their trenches and advanced to the assault.
On the right of the 8th Division's front the battalions of the 25th Brigade met with but little opposition, and at 8-30 a.m. they swept through the village. Further they could not go, for our own artillery were still bursting a curtain of shells between the village and the Bois du Biez. (It was in connection with the artillery fire on this line that the term "barrage" was first used officially in the British Army.)
A reconnoitring patrol (one subaltern [H.F.S.] and two men) from the 1st Worcestershire had accompanied the leading battalions with orders to push on when they halted and reconnoitre the line over which the advance -of the reserves was to be made. The shell-fire east of the village prevented the patrol from proceeding direct to the Bois du Biez: but by working round to the left the patrol found a way along a lane to the Layes brook and thence to the ground north of the wood. Save for some stray bullets their advance was unopposed. The ground north of the wood was unoccupied by the enemy. After making a hasty reconnaissance of the ground in front, the patrol returned to the ruins of Neuve Chapelle Church to await the Battalion: for according to the original instructions the reserve Brigade was to pass through Neuve Chapelle at 9.30 a.m.
But the Battalion did not reach the Church at 9.30 a.m. On the left the attack had not succeeded and the forward movement of the reserves was in consequence delayed.
On the front of the 23rd Brigade the artillery bombardment had not succeeded in demolishing the enemy's defences; and the attacking battalions had suffered heavily in unsuccessful assaults. In support of the attack Lieut. Conybeare's trench-mortar detachment engaged a small redoubt which formed the apex of the salient in the German line near the "Moated Grange." The six absurd mortars fizzed and banged away merrily. One of them was hit by a shell, one blew up and another soon showed signs of following suit; but the remaining three mortars continued to fire. The enemy endeavoured to counter their bombardment by boldly hoisting a machine-gun on to the parapet, but on that machine-gun the mortars miraculously secured a direct hit. Then the Germans tried to break out from their redoubt, but Lieut. Conybeare himself shot down one officer and three men; and the remainder abandoned the attempt. Finally the survivors of the garrison of the redoubt put up the white flag: a great triumph for the despised "Archibalds" (Lieut. Conybeare was awarded the M.C.).
It was after noon before the redoubt surrendered. By that time, after much confused fighting, the 23rd Brigade had succeeded in capturing all the German trenches opposed to them. Lieut. Conybeare then moved off with the remnants of his mortar battery and rejoined the Battalion.
The 1st Worcestershire had moved forward from their billets at 9 a.m. down the main La Bassée road, but before the old British front line was reached orders were received to halt at the cross-roads at Rouge Croix. There the Battalion waited till 11 a.m. when a move was made forward to the old trench line. There again a halt was ordered and a long delay took place, the Battalion fretting in idleness until 2 p.m.
In front of them the open ground around the village was dotted with working parties, with wounded men walking back and with the usual debris of battle; while in every direction German shells were bursting.
The general situation was unknown, and neither the British reserve battalions nor their commanders were aware of the golden opportunity which was being wasted. The stubborn resistance of the enemy on the northern flank near the "Moated Grange" was paralysing the attack, and the open gap north of the Bois du Biez had not been exploited.
The fighting on the left flank continued, and at 2 p.m. orders were received that the Battalion was to send forward two companies to reinforce the troops of the 23rd Brigade at a captured redoubt designated on the British maps "Point 6." Accordingly "B" and "C" Companies of the Battalion, under the 2nd-in-command, Major J. F. S. Winnington, moved off in extended order across the open to that redoubt. They occupied the redoubt and held it for two hours under heavy fire and with no slight loss; Captain Linton was wounded, Lieut. Benningfield killed, and Lieut. Matthews and many of the rank and file were hit. The lives of three men who fell wounded in the open were saved by Lance-Corporal R. Blakeman, who at great risk dragged them under cover (L/Cpl. Blakeman was awarded the D.C.M.).
Presently the fighting round the orchard died down. The two companies were ordered to rejoin the 24th Brigade, and returned to the Battalion.
Neuve Chapelle - Fighting in the village
On the left the Orchard held by Germans with machine-gun who were sweeping the street with bullets and on the left the "White Barn" held by the 1st Worcestershire (casualties as still lying in the street)
The short spring day was drawing to a close before orders came (4.20 p.m. according to the Divisional account; 5.30 p.m. according to the Battalion Diary) at last for the 24th Brigade to advance: not towards Neuve Chapelle village but eastwards past the north of the village towards Pietre. The Brigade moved forward into the gathering dusk. Hedges and ditches made progress difficult and troops of the 7th Division crossed the line of advance (the reserve Brigade of the 7th Division was endeavouring to wheel northwards). Consequently there were many checks and much difficulty in keeping direction. Eventually, as darkness fell, the leading companies approached a group of cottages (these were the cottages marked on the British maps as Points 85 and 86 [see map above]; but it appears to have been erroneously reported that the Brigade had reached the outskirts of Piétre) and were brought to a stop by bursts of rapid fire. There was some confused movement and much firing. Orders were passed down to entrench, and the troops scraped cover with their entrenching implements in the heavy clay. Two companies of the 1st Worcestershire formed the front line under Major Winnington, the other two being held back by Colonel Wodehouse in support. On the left of the Worcestershire were the 2nd East Lancashire and on the right flank were the 1st Sherwood Foresters.
The attack of the morning had taken the enemy by surprise, and had actually effected that break in his defence for which the British staff had hoped. When the reconnoitring patrol of the Battalion had reached the open country north of the Bois du Biez there had been no enemy troops there to oppose an advance; but the opportunity had been missed, and in the ensuing delay the enemy had been able to bring up reinforcements and to establish a defensive line, based on a chain of works previously constructed, from Mauquissart to the Bois du Biez. Throughout the night of March 10th/11th the German infantry (the 15th Infantry Regiment and the 11th Jager Battalion were opposing the 24th Brigade) worked hard to complete their defences, and by dawn they were entrenched and protected by wire along their whole front.
But on the British side the arrangements for communication between the fighting troops and the staff had not been adequately thought out and had already broken down. The intermingling of units and the advance in the darkness had caused general confusion and loss of direction and during the night the troops in the front line received no orders as to any further advance. In default of instructions they busied themselves in providing such cover as could be improvised against the continuous shell-fire.
Captain C. S. Linton with first trench mortar
Situation 11th March 1915 at 2 p.m.
1 (circled) indicates two reserve companies advance at 2 p.m.
2-2 (circled) indicates ground seized by the two attacking platoons
No orders, we have said, reached the troops in the firing line; nevertheless orders for an attack early next morning had in fact been made out. At 6.45 a.m. the British artillery were to reopen the bombardment and then the infantry were to assault. Those orders reached the batteries but not the battalions; consequently at 6.45 a.m. the British artillery again opened a heavy fire against what they believed to be the German positions. Unfortunately the information at the disposal of the British gunners as to the line held by the enemy was inaccurate (the mistake as to the actual position of the 24th Brigade was the cause of that failure) and the British shells fell far beyond the new German trenches. On the other hand the German batteries, possessed of accurate knowledge of the situation, were able effectively to sweep all the ground about the positions held by the 1st Worcestershire and the other battalions of the 24th Brigade.
Communication between Battalion Headquarters and the front line was difficult to maintain; but Company-Sergeant-Major H. Webb bravely carried several messages forward to the companies at great risk under the heavy fire (C. S. M. Webb was awarded the D.C.M.).
During the morning, in spite of the absence of orders, the British front-line troops made several attempts to advance: but those attempts were withered by the enemy's fire. No definite orders reached any Battalion of the 24th Brigade until 2.30 p.m., when Colonel Wodehouse was informed that a fresh general attack was to be made at once: he was instructed to give immediate orders for attack and to push his two reserve companies up to the front line, in the hope that the impetus they would bring would be sufficient to carry the front line forward to the assault. Accordingly "A" and "D" Companies advanced over ground raked from front and flank by the enemy's fire. The advance was made most gallantly, but most of the officers and men of the two companies were shot down and the survivors were unable to do more than reinforce the companies in the forward trenches. They brought with them however the definite order that an immediate advance was to be made. On learning this, Major Winnington sent a message to the Northamptonshire, informing them of the order and asking them to conform to his attack.
Then as a preliminary movement he ordered one platoon from each of "C" and "D" Companies to advance and seize a line indicated near the German trenches. The two platoons, led by Lieuts. Conybeare and Tristram, dashed forward in the most gallant manner through a concentrated machine-gun fire. They lost half their numbers, but the remnant followed the two subalterns to the line of a ditch within thirty yards of the German position. They held that ditch for half-an-hour under heavy fire, but no support came. The commanding officer of the Northamptonshire had replied to Major Winnington that it was useless to attempt an advance against such a strong position as yet undamaged by our artillery; and without the co-operation of the flanking battalion Major Winnington did not feel justified in ordering an advance.
Ammunition ran short in the front line, and Private E. Frazier volunteered to fetch a further supply. Under a heavy fire he made his way back to the support trenches and returned laden with bandoliers, coolly working across the open from one shell-hole to another (Pte. Frazier was awarded the D.C.M.).
Eventually, at 3 p.m., the British artillery, at last correctly informed of the location of the enemy's trenches, shortened their range—with disastrous results, for the first three shells crashed into the two gallant platoons lying out in front. All except six men and the two subalterns were killed or wounded, and Major Winnington, seeing that their position was hopeless, signalled them to retire. By a miracle the eight survivors reached the trenches unhurt.
To the right of the Battalion the 1st Sherwood Foresters had attacked, and had succeeded in gaining possession of some ruined buildings slightly in advance of the right flank of the Worcestershire; but that gain of ground was accomplished only at the cost of heavy casualties, especially in officers.
Night fell, but the shelling did not cease, and in the darkness the weary troops worked hard to improve the muddy ditches which constituted their defences. Battalion Headquarters of the 1st Worcestershire were brought forward to near the front line and the Battalion was reorganised. "B", "C" and "D" Companies were now in front line, with "A" Company in support to the right flank of the line.
Lieut. J. S. Veasey, Major J. F. S. Winnington and Lieut.-Col. E. C. F. Wodehouse
It was not only the British who were using the hours of darkness to good advantage. The German line opposite was filling up with fresh troops. Reserves had arrived to help the original defenders, and German Headquarters had now determined to retake the village of Neuve Chapelle at dawn the next morning. Opposite the line held by the 24th Brigade a fresh Regiment of Bavarians was brought up for the assault.
Extract from Regimental History of the 21st Bavarian Reserve Regiment (March 12th, 1915) :- "...... During the night the ............. battalions of the Regiment moved forward to a position of assembly......... The Regiment was disposed between the cross roads Pietre-La Russie ready for attack, 1st Battalion on the right, 2nd Battalion on the left, with as attack objective the front from the road triangle at the N.E. corner of Neuve Chapelle to Neuve Chapelle Church. The line of demarcation between the two battalions lay from the S.W. house of the group of houses S.W. of Pietre to the S. point of the above mentioned road triangle."
After a chilly and miserable night the first daylight of March 12th filtered down through a thin white mist. Before the dawn the enemy's artillery had heavily shelled the ground around the British trenches; now they increased their range.
Situation 12th march 1915
showing counter-attack of the 21st Bavarians
Almost at once came the sound of rapid firing both from the Northamptons on the left and the Foresters on the right. Then through the mist a dense mass of attacking infantry came surging forwards against the trenches held by the 1st Worcestershire. The attackers were two battalions of the 21st Bavarian Reserve Regiment in close formation, with a mounted officer riding in their midst. "On they came in a great mass," wrote a subaltern of the Worcestershire, "their officers in front waving swords, then a great rabble followed by a fat old blighter on a horse" (three living witnesses, including an officer [M.A.H.C.] later testifed to that mounted officer riding a white horse). All along the line the men of the 1st Worcestershire gripped their rifles and awaited the order to open fire: After two days of muddle and failure the moment for which they had trained had come at last.
On the right of the Worcestershire the Sherwoods suddenly fell back. The little salient which their line formed had been attacked from both sides and broken in. The right company of the Foresters had been forced back on their supporting line and their left company now also retired, leaving the right flank of the Worcestershire open.
That sudden retirement of the troops on their immediate right might have unnerved younger troops; but the old Battalion remained unshaken. "A" Company swiftly formed to the right to face the opened flank and the abandoned trenches of the Foresters. "There was a most extraordinary hush for a few seconds as we held our fire," said an officer, "while they closed in on us." The Germans came on to within seventy yards. Then at last from flank to flank the whole line of the Worcestershire broke into the crackling roar of rapid fire—the "mad minute," so assiduously practised, "We brought them down in solid chunks," wrote one subaltern, "Down went the officers, the sergeant-majors and the old blighter on the horse." Then, as the German battalions reeled under the storm, the Worcestershire broke from their trenches and charged with the bayonet. "We counter-charged.................and back the rabble went, full tilt for their own trenches 400 yards away".
Further extract from Regimental History of the 21st Bavarian Reserve Regiment :—
".....................During this advance Major Eberhard commanding the 1st Battalion, was killed and his body was not recovered ......... . The Regiment moving forward at 4 a.m. (German time) reached the bank of the Laies brook and a group of houses lying east of Neuve Chapelle on the Moulin de Pietre-Neuve Chapelle road. Here however the attack met an enemy attack of greatly superior numbers which was attempting to force a breakthrough at Neuve Chapelle. The encounter took place in a thick mist ............ and ........... the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division was finally ............ forced back on to the defensive even though the last reserves had been nut in .........."
On the right "A" Company, gallantly led by Captain J. H. M. Arden, charged along the line of the Foresters' abandoned trenches straight into the thick of the enemy, " scattering them like fowls"(letter from J.H,M.A.). The ruined buildings were retaken with the bayonet, and " A " Company pursued the enemy some distance to the right beyond the Foresters' position into an orchard on the far side of a country road. " The Worcesters had a fine scrap with the Germans in an orchard round a farmhouse," wrote a newspaper correspondent (Times, 19th April 1915). " The Worcesters had their tails up with a vengeance. They chased the Germans up and down that muddy field like terriers after rats. They pursued them with the bayonet round the trees."
If other troops had been available to support that isolated company the German defensive front might have been broken ; but the Foresters had lost nearly all their officers, and were unable to do more than reoccupy their old line. " A " Company held the orchard till about 11 a.m. and then withdrew behind the Foresters to reorganise.
The counter-charge of the 1st Worcestershire against the 21st Bavarians
(picture by Gilbert Holiday)
Meanwhile further to the left, the other three companies of the Battalion after a fierce bayonet fight had pursued the beaten enemy into their own lines. As his men flooded forward across the open, Colonel Wodehouse sent a message (that message is recorded by 24th Brigade Headquarters as having been received at 6.33 a.m.) to 24th Brigade Headquarters saying that the Battalion was advancing and asking that the artillery might be warned. Had the Brigade acted at once,. and had reinforcements followed in the wake of the Worcestershire, much might have been accomplished. As it was, the Battalion stormed the buildings in front (marked on the British maps as Point 85) and prepared to hold them against the expected counter-attacks. No support came, and the British artillery intermittently bombarded the captured buildings. Further to the left the Northamptonshire had made an attempt to follow up the enemy's retirement; but heavy loss brought their attack to a standstill, and in the mist the Worcestershire were not aware of their movement.
In their isolated position the 1st Worcestershire held firm. One counter-attack after another was beaten off. At last, about 10 a.m., it became clear that the position of the Battalion, far in advance of the remainder of the Brigade, encircled by enemy on three sides and shelled by both artilleries, was no longer tenable. Reluctantly Colonel Wodehouse gave orders for the Battalion to fall back to the former line.
Situation 12th March 1915 - counter-charge of the 1st Worcestershire
The ground across which the retirement had to be made was open and level, and on both flanks the enemy were strongly posted. The three companies fell back in good order by alternate platoons, each unit doing its best to cover by fire the movement of the others; but under the crossfire of the enemy's machine-guns the platoons withered away. Officers and men fell fast. The Commanding Officer, the Adjutant, and the last surviving Company Commander went down, and it was a mere remnant of the three stubborn companies which, still in good order and grimly firing, reached the trenches which they had held at dawn.
Outside the trenches the open ground was littered with dead and wounded. Many of the latter were dragged into safety by brave men who dashed out from the trenches and brought in their stricken comrades in spite of the enemy's fire. Great bravery was shown by Privates F. E. Riggs and J. Riley, both of whom, although wounded more than once, continued their work of rescue as long as their strength endured (both were awarded the D.C.M.).
The survivors of "A" Company were still away to the right, in the salient formed by the trenches of the Sherwood Foresters. The latter battalion had now hardly any company officers left, and, in consequence, their Commanding Officer ordered (about 1 p.m.) Captain Arden to organise a composite company, from his own men and such of the Sherwoods as he could muster, and with these to try to gain ground towards the enemy in the orchard. Captain Arden carried out his, orders. He could collect no more than twenty of his own men and as many of the Foresters, but with these he again pushed forward to the attack, crossed the road, and once more cleared the orchard. Further advance was not possible, but he remained holding the orchard until late in the afternoon. Then, since no support had arrived, he withdrew, and with the remnant of his company he rejoined the Battalion (Captain Arden was subsequently awarded the D.S.O.).
Darkness closed in with heavy rain. About 9 p.m. came orders that a night attack on the enemy's position was to be made: the 2nd Devons were coming up to assist. The survivors of the 1st Worcestershire braced themselves for a further effort. By that time the platoons had shrunk to little groups of men led by junior N.C.O's. (Corpl. J. Tromans showed great skill and courage in leading his platoon after his officer had fallen ; he was subsequently awarded the D.C.M.); one company had lost all its officers and was commanded by the company-sergeant-major (C.S.M F. G. Morgan, was subsequently awarded the D.C.M.); but the fighting spirit still remained. The Devons came up in the darkness, plans were concerted, and from 11 p.m. onwards the two battalions lay out on the soaked ground awaiting the order to advance. But the order did not arrive: instead at 3 a.m., word came that the attack was cancelled and that the Worcestershire would withdraw into reserve. The Battalion (the Battalion was brought out of action by Major J. F. S. Winnington, who was awarded the D.S O. for his cool and gallant leadership) moved back through the darkness and at 4-45 a.m., in the first light of dawn, reached their allotted position near Rue Tilleloy, behind "B" Lines.
With the cancelling of the orders for that night attack the battle of Neuve Chapelle came to an end. The infantry of both sides were exhausted, and no fresh reinforcements were brought up to renew the fight. During the next three days the British and German artilleries kept up an angry fire. Then their activity died away, and the work of burying the dead and consolidating the new trench line proceeded without further interruption. The trenches which the 1st Worcestershire had held against the Bavarian attack became part of the new line, while the ruined buildings which the Foresters had taken and which Captain Arden's charge had recaptured formed a salient which became known afterwards to many units of the Army as "The Duck's Bill."
Save for that gain of ground and for the proud memory of that bayonet fight there was but little profit visible to the regimental officers and men from the battle of Neuve Chapelle.
The losses had been terribly severe. The 1st Worcestershire had lost over 370 of all ranks, including 19 officers (see details below). The Commanding Officer, Lieut.-Colonel E. C. F. Wodehouse, D.S.O. and the Adjutant, Lieutenant J. S. Veasey, a brilliant young officer, were among the dead. The Battalion had gone into action on the 10th March 1915, with a strength of 26 officers and 870 rank and file. On the morning of March 13th the whole Battalion could muster no more than 7 officers and 450 men.
The detail of casualties was as follows:—Killed 9 officers (Lieut.-Colonel E. C. F. Wodehouse D.S.O., Capt. L. T. Watson, Lieut. and Adjt. J. S. Veasey, Lieut. L. H. Ruck, Lieut. J. H. Tristram, Lieut. J. R. Cox, 2/Lieut. M. V. Benningfield, 2/Lieut. D. H. Gotch, 2/Lieut. G. Barnett) and 92 other ranks. Wounded 10 officers (Captain C. Richardson, Capt. T. K. Pardoe, Capt. C. S. Linton, Capt. T. Fitzjohn, Lieut. J. M. Monk, Lieut. H. Fitz M. Stacke, Lieut. C. P. L. Firth, 2/Lieut. C. M. Humphries, 2/Lieut. T. F. V. Matthews, 2/Lieut. M. C. Palmer) and 226 other ranks. Missing 37. Besides these losses many officers and men, including the 2nd-in-command, Major J. F. S. Winnington, and Lieut. M. A. Hamilton Cox, were invalided after the battle from the effects of the strain and exposure of the three days and nights of fighting. It may be of interest to note that the losses of their opponents, the 21st Bavarian Reserve Regiment, according to their official history, were 25 officers and 1139 other ranks.
The loss of Colonel Wodehouse — the first Commanding Officer of the Regiment to fall at the head of his Battalion since the far-off days of Sobraon—was felt most keenly by all the survivors, for the Colonel's courage, kindliness and resource had been the mainstay of the Battalion throughout the long ordeal of the winter. Had his bold counter-attack been followed up by other troops, the results of the third day's fighting might well have been a definite victory.
While the 1st Battalion was earning bitter glory at Neuve Chapelle the 2nd and 3rd Battalions had been engaged in the subsidiary operations which had been planned to assist the main attack.
Those subsidiary operations included demonstrations and "Chinese attacks " along the whole front of the British Armies in Flanders; but it had been decided that at two points real minor attacks should be made. These two selected points were the neighbourhood of the La Bassée Canal and of the Messines Ridge, and the attacks were to be delivered respectively by the 2nd and the 3rd Divisions.
Neuve Chapelle - during the attack
(Demoralised German troops surrendering)
After the battle of Neuve Chapelle the career of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment was for some time comparatively uneventful. During the morning of the 13th March 1915, the Battalion (from March 13th till March 22nd, the Battalion was commanded by Captain J. H. M. Arden. During that period numerous reinforcements arrived, including, among others, Capt. R. J. Ford, Lieuts. E. C. R. Hudson and R. C. Wynter, 2/Lieuts. R. P. Birtles, W. C. Wilson, E. S. Molyneux and S. L. Courtauld. Lieut. F. C. Roberts was appointed Adjutant immediately after the battle) lay in Brigade Reserve near the Rue Tilleloy. In the early afternoon the Worcestershire were ordered back to billets at " Red Barn " where they lay till the following evening. Then the Battalion again moved up to the front line at the point where the old and new trench lines joined beyond the " Moated Grange." There the 1st Worcestershire remaine d (casualties, 7 killed, 8 wounded) till the evening of March 16th, when they were relieved by the 2nd Devons and marched back into billets in Estaires ; in which town the Battalion lay for five days resting, refitting, and receiving reinforcements. On March 22nd Major (afterwards Lieut.-Colonel) G. W. St. G. Grogan arrived and took command.
On March 21st the Battalion moved forward from Estaires to reserve billets at Rue Epinette. There they were shelled and suffered a few casualties. On March 23rd the Worcestershire moved back to Estaires and then next day the Battalion marched, with the other battalions of the Brigade, to billets in Neuf Berquin.
The 8th Division had now taken over a new front, stretching from Rouges Bancs to Bois Grenier. On March 25th the 24th Brigade moved forward from Neuf Berquin to billets on the Sailly —Bac St. Maur road, and on the following day the 1st Worcestershire took over a section of the new Divisional line from the 14th Canadian Battalion. The new sector proved very quiet, the trenches were good and comfortable, and there was little hostile activity beyond casual sniping fire (casualties : March 26th-29th, 2 wounded. April 7th, 1 wounded. April 13th, 2/Lt. W.V.P.C. Whittle killed. April 14th, 1 killed. April 24th-25th, 1 killed, 1 wounded). In one or other sector of the new Divisional front the 1st Worcestershire remained until the beginning of May, carrying out a steady routine of three days in the trenches alternately with three days in billets, the latter being in the area between Bac St. Maur and Laventie. While in Divisional Reserve, on April 21st the Battalion was inspected by the Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French, who congratulated the Battalion on the part played in the battle of Neuve Chapelle, and presented decorations.
during the attack German troops surrendering)
(After the storming of the village, German prisoners under guard)
(German prisoners under escort)
Photo of 1st Battalion survivors at the 1933 celebrations of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle
Major E. L. G. Lawrence D.S.O., Sgt. G. Garwood M.M., RQMS E. Rowley, CQMS B. Wilkins and Captain L. A. Hamilton-Cox