Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Battle of Aubers Ridge

Sunday 9th May 1915: We understand that another British offensive is under way in northern France. Our French allies are attacking the area around Arras, in order to push back a large area where the German lines bulge westward. In particular they want to capture the high ground north of Arras at a place called Vimy. Not only, it is hoped, will there be a breakthrough but the attack will divert German troops away from Ypres in Belgium where heavy fighting is still going on.

Our offensive is designed, naturally, to break through the German lines and send them retreating back towards Berlin. Such a feat, however, as the attack at Neuve-Chapelle in March demonstrated, is no easy matter and a less exulted, but perhaps more realistic expectation is to draw German reinforcements away from the French attack and thus aid its chances of success.

The 1st Bedfords are currently still near Ypres but the 2nd Battalion is near the village of Aubers, a few miles east of Neuve-Chapelle. The British attack is designed to size the ridge at this place. The high ground will allow us to overlook the German lines, get a better understanding of their movements and allow us to shell them more effectively.

The main French attack is to the south. The ground at Aubers, as at Neuve-Chapelle, is very flat, the ridge itself only being twenty feet or so high, and the fields are intersected by drainage ditches which can be as much as ten or fifteen feet across. This, of course, hampers attackers. There are two attacks going on, one to the south by the 1st Division and our gallant Indian troops of the Meerut Division. They are heading due east towards Aubers. The other attack is to the north and will be made by 8th Division attacking due south towards Aubers. It is this attack which, we understand from the adjutant, the 2nd Bedfords are to help exploit if things go well, currently the are being held in reserve. Once Aubers itself is taken both prongs of the attack are to advance on the Haute Deule Canal some five miles away.

It is understood that the French have been bombarding German positions for a few days. General Haig however, we understand, is very short of ammunition and so has had to adopt a different approach. As at Neuve-Chapelle there has been a short but heavy bombardment and the troops are attacking as we write this. We wish them the best of British luck. 

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