The Wartime Memories Project - The Great War - Day by Day
9th May 1915On this day:
- The Battle of Aubers Ridge: The French Attack The French Attacking at 10.00am, by which time the British effort was a palpable failure, the centre Corps (XXXIII under General Petain) completely overran the German trench system on a 4-mile wide front and pushed more than two miles onto the heights of Vimy Ridge. Joffre's reserves were too far away to exploit this success, and the infantry began to out-reach the range of its supporting artillery, giving time for a German recovery. The battle soon
returned once more to close combat and entrenched positions. Intense fighting continued for a week, with particularly bitter actions on the Notre Dame de Lorette heights that resulted in the French capture of Carency and Ablain St Nazaire. The French advance did not quite achieve the capture of the crest of Vimy Ridge.
- Zeppelin Raid Zeppelin LZ38 commanded by Erich Linnarz attacked Southend and Ipswich on the 9th/10th May 1915.
- Heavy Fighting in Ypres Salient At the GHQ line a Staff Officer ordered the party from the 3rd Monmouths to the trenches again, so just as dawn was breaking on the 9th they turned off the road, near the trench occupied on May 4th and advanced across open fields to the front line. There was only room on their immediate front for the KOYLI so the Monmouthshire party occupied some little dugouts a hundred yards in rear. Here the remains of B Coy spent the day, among them two N.C.O.s who later in the war made the supreme sacrifice, Sgt. Lewis and Sgt. T.Howells, that fine old soldier who won the D.C.M. in the South African War and a bar to it in the Great War. Sgt. Owen of C Coy joined the party during the day, also two men, who were shelled out of buildings on the left. The enemy paid no attention to B Coy., probably did not know of their existence, but fired heavy stuff overhead into YPRES all day. It was a day of inaction that tried the nerves far more than a day of hard fighting. Luckily it was not a day of starvation too, for early in the morning some foragers found a broken down water-cart and bread and tinned honey dumped in the road.
The casualties had been enormous and the Brigade diary records these as being 128 Officers and 4379 men killed, wounded and missing.
- Battle of Aubers Ridge 236th London Brigade Royal Field Artillery.
formerly 6th County of London Brigade RFA. Territorial Force.
The 6th London Brigade RFA took part in the first organised attack since its arrival in the frontline. The 15th London Battery opened fire at 0445 and fired sixty rounds lasting until 0530 at the enemy’s lines. Several direct hits were obtained, but the actual result was difficult to estimate owing to bad light and mist. Between 0535 and 0615, seven rounds were fired with excellent effect at Dogwheel House and the attack having been held up on our immediate front, fire eased for the morning at 0655, after five rounds had been fired at the enemy's earthworks. The attack was renewed, without much success, in the afternoon (1530) when the 15th London Battery fired six rounds at the communication trench near K5, and fired again at the same objective at 1650 with eight rounds. At 1720 and 2345 four rounds and five rounds respectively were fired at the communication trench.
The programme carried out by the 16th London Battery was the same as the one outlined above, exactly the same targets being engaged at approximately the same time, but whereas the 15th London Battery had only fired eighty two rounds up to 0655, by 0645 the 16th London Battery had accounted for one hundred and thirty three rounds. The 16th Battery also fired between 0700 and 1000, a further six rounds at Germans advancing, sixteen rounds at 0830, and thirty five rounds at M3. M2. P4. N6 earthworks from 0835 to 0900. At 1605 the 16th London Battery fired six rounds at the Rue D’Ouvert, and four rounds at 2330.
The sphere of operations did not extend as far as the zone of the 17th London Battery, who took no part in the operations. Casualties as the result of today’s operations were NIL. A letter was received this morning from GOC 47th Division expressing the hope that the Division, now fighting as a complete unit for the first time, would maintain the traditions of the Territorial Force.
- 9th Heavy Battery mobilize 9th Heavy Battery mobilize at Borden on May 9th, and left for Southampton the following day with overseas orders.
- Orders are changed Very heavy gunfire by the guns this morning between 4.39 and 5.30 behind the 19th Infantry Brigade. The 8th Division in action today. Received orders 12 noon to bring in reinforcements from Advanced Post, and cancel the Bearer subdivisions being held in readiness.
- Continued Action E Battery 3rd Brigade RHA
Attached to 7th Division near Laventie
9th May - Fired about 600 rounds in support of attack by 8th Division on Fromelles, our objective being communication trenches to prevent German reinforcements from reaching point of attack from out front. Ranges 3200 to 2500 yards. This attack not successful.
10th May - fired a few rounds
11th May - fired 150 rounds
12th May - fired 30 rounds
13th May - fired a few rounds
14th May - fired about 40 rounds
- The Battle of Aubers Ridge: The Northern pincer 2nd Battalion Queens (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
2.30am: all units in the North report that they are in position, having assembled at night.
4.06am: sunrise and all very quiet on this front.
5.00am: British bombardment opens with field guns firing shrapnel at the German wire and howitzers firing High Explosive shells onto front line. Many reports are received that British 4.7-inch shells are falling short, and even on and behind the British front line (Later it is agreed that this is due to faulty ammunition, as well as excessive wear to gun barrels).
5.30am: British bombardment intensifies, field guns switch to HE and also fire at breastworks. Two guns of 104th Battery, XXII Brigade RFA had been brought up into the 24th Brigade front and they now opened fire at point blank range against the enemy breastworks; they blow several gaps, although one of the guns is inaccurate due to the unstable ground on which it is located. The lead battalions of the two assaulting Brigades of 8th Division (24th Brigade has 2/Northants and 2/East Lancashire in front; 25th Brigade has 2/Rifle Brigade, 1/Royal Irish Rifles and 1/13 London Regiment (Kensingtons)) move out into the narrow No Man's Land (in this area it is only 100-200 yards across). German bayonets can be seen behind their parapet.
5.40am: On the further advance the East Lancs are hit by heavy machine-gun and rifle fire by the time they had progressed thirty yards from their own trench; the Northants, coming up ten minutes later, were similarly hit, but a party got through one of the gaps blown by the field guns, and into the German front trench. The attack of 25th Brigade is much more successful: the wire on the left had been well-cut and the infantry poured through, crossing the almost-undamaged breastworks and into the German fire trenches. They moved onto the first objective (a bend
in the Fromelles road), and the Rifle Brigade bombers extended the trench system they occupied to 250 yards broad. On the blowing of the two mines at 5.40am, the lead companies of the Kensingtons rushed to occupy the
craters, moved forward to capture Delangre Farm, and then formed a defensive flank as ordered.
6.10am: Br-Gen. Oxley (24th) orders the support battalion, 1/Notts & Derbys, to support the attack of the Lancashires, but they are also held up with high losses, at almost unbroken wire. The front and communication trenches are by now very crowded and chaotic; German shelling adds to confusion. By now, the fire across No Man's Land was so intense that forward movement was all but impossible. The support battalion of the 25th Brigade, the 2/Lincolns, was ordered forward, to cross by the craters; they did so, despite losing many men on the way. Men of the Brigade were at this time seen to be retiring to their front line, having apparently received a shouted order. German prisoners, making their way to the British lines, were mistaken for a counterattack and there was a great deal of confusion. Br-Gen Lowry Cole, CO 25th Brigade, was mortally wounded when standing on the British parapet in an attempt to restore order.
8.30am: the attack had established three small lodgements in the enemy positions, but they were not in contact with each other and were under tremendous pressure. Otherwise the attack had come to a standstill and all movement into or out of the trench system had become impossible. The men in the German positions were cut off.
8.45am and again at 11.45am: Haig orders Rawlinson (CO, IV Corps) to vigorously press home the attack.
1.30pm: A renewed attack (with 2/Queens of 22nd Brigade in support), did not take place as the troops were heavily shelled in the assembly areas and many casualties were suffered even before the original support lines had been reached. Major-General Gough (CO, 7th Division, whose 21st Brigade had now also been ordered forward by Haig) reported that after a personal reconnaissance he was certain that forward movement was at the present time impossible.
5.00pm: General Haig, hearing of the continued failure of the Southern attack and the hold-up after initial success of the Northern attack, orders a bayonet attack at dusk, 8.00pm.
- The Battle of Aubers Ridge: Evening and Night 2nd Battalion Queens (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
6.00pm: such chaos in the trench system and on the roads and tracks leading to it that it becomes clear that fresh units will not be ready for the 8pm attack. Haig cancels the attack and rides to Indian Corps HQ at Lestrem, to meet with all Corps commanders to consider the next moves.
7.30pm: the meeting breaks up having decided to renew the attack next day, taking advantage of night to reorganise. Efforts were made throughout the evening to reinforce the small garrisons of the lodgements in the enemy trenches. 26 men of the 2/Northants, of which 10 were wounded, returned to the British front.
2.30am 10 May: the 200 or so surviving Rifle Brigade and Royal Irish Rifles were withdrawn from their position, all efforts to reinforce them having been repulsed.
3.00am 10 May: the last few Kensingtons also returned from their position; all British troops were now out of the German lines. Around this time, First Army HQ, having by now got a good picture of the losses, failures and general conditions, called a Commanders conference for 9.00am, to take place at I Corps HQ on the Locon road, some 1.5 miles from Bethune.
9.00am 10 May: the Army and Corps commanders and staffs in attendance learned that there was insufficient artillery ammunition to continue two attacks. (The Secretary of State for War, Kitchener, had also just ordered a considerable portion of existing stocks to be sent to the Dardanelles); for example there were only some 3,000 18-lbr rounds left, and some of that was way behind the firing positions. They also heard that the 4.7-inch ammunition that had caused problems on IV Corps front was too defective for further use and that the fuzes on 15-inch heavy rounds were also defective and the shells simply did not burst on hitting the wet ground. All further orders for renewing the attack were cancelled at 1.20pm; the views of the conference were transmitted to GHQ. 7th
Division was ordered to move from it's position north of Neuve Chapelle to the south of it, with a view to strengthening a future offensive there.
British casualties from the 9 May attacks continued to move through the Field Ambulances for at least three days after the attack.
More than 11,000 British casualties were sustained on 9 May 1915, the vast majority within yards of their own front-line trench. Mile for mile, Division for Division, this was one of the highest rates of loss during the entire war.
There is no memorial to the attack at Aubers Ridge.
- The Battle of Aubers Ridge: The Souther pincer Richebourg L’Avoue. At 4.06am: sunrise and all very quiet on this front.
5.00am: British bombardment opens with field guns firing shrapnel at the German wire and howitzers firing High Explosive shells onto front line. German troops are seen peering above their parapet even while this shelling was going on.
5.30am: British bombardment intensifies, field guns switch to HE and also fire at breastworks. The lead battalions of the two assaulting Brigades of 1st Division go over the top to take up a position only 80 yards from German front. (2nd Brigade has 1/Northants and 2/Royal Sussex in front and 2/KRRC and 1/5th Royal Sussex in immediate support; 3rd Brigade has 2/Royal Munster Fusiliers and 2/Welsh in front, with 1/4th Royal Welsh Fusiliers in support). Heavy machine-gun fire cuts the attackers down even on their own ladders and parapet steps, but men continue to press forward as ordered.
In the area of the Indian Corps, the lead battalions of the Dehra Dun Brigade of the Meerut Division (2/2nd Ghurkas, 1/4th and 1st Seaforth Highlanders) were so badly hit by enemy fire that no men got beyond their own parapet and the front-line and communications trenches were soon filled with dead and wounded men.
5.40am: British bombardment lifts off front lines and advances 600 yards; infantry assault begins. Despite the early losses and enemy fire the three Brigades attempted to advance across No Man's Land. They were met by intense crossfire from the German machine-guns, which could not be seen in their ground-level and strongly protected emplacements. Whole lines of men were seen to be hit. Few lanes had been cut in the wire and even where men reached it they were forced to bunch, forming good targets for the enemy gunners. The leading battalions suffered very significant losses, particularly among officers and junior leaders. Around 100 men on the Northants and Munsters got into the German front, but all were killed or captured. The advance of the supporting battalions suffered similarly, and by 6.00am the advance had halted, with hundreds of men pinned down in No Man's Land, unable to advance or fall back.
6.15am: A repeat of the initial bombardment is ordered, with the added difficulty of uncertain locations of the most advanced troops.
7.20am: Major-General Haking (CO, 1st Division) reports failure and asks if he should bring in his last Brigade (1st (Guards)). He offered his opinion that it would not be successful.
7.45am: A further one hour bombardment starts, ordered by Lieut-General Anderson (CO, Meerut Division). Its only impact is to encourage German artillery to reply, bringing heavy shelling down onto British front and support trenches. German fire continued until about 10.30am.
8.00am: First reports reach Haig, but they underestimate losses and problems. Haig also hears of early French successes in Vimy attack; he resolves to renew the effort in the Southern attack, with noon being the new zero
hour. This was subsequently moved when it was learned from I Corps how long it would take to bring supporting units up to replace those that had suffered in the initial attacks. The new attack at 2.40pm would again be preceded by a 40 minute bombardment. The various movements of relief forces were achieved only with much confusion and further losses under renewed enemy shellfire. The time was again moved, to 4.00pm. In the meantime, the German infantry in the Bois de Biez area was reinforced.
3.20pm: Bombardment repeated and seen to be a little more successful, blowing gaps in the wire and in the enemy front-line.
3.45pm: Bareilly Brigade, moving up to relieve the Dehra Dun, loses more than 200 men due to enemy shelling.
3.57pm: The leading companies of the 1/Black Watch of 1st (Guards) Brigade, brought in to replace the shattered 2nd Brigade, went over the top despite the 1/Cameron Highlanders being late to arrive and moved at the double across No Man's Land. Some reached the German breastwork just as the bombardment lifted; most were however killed or captured in the German firing trench although a small party reached the second position. The two lead companies of the Camerons, coming up on the left of the Black Watch a few minutes later, suffered heavy machine-gun casualties in crossing between the front lines. At approximately the same time, the two fresh battalions of the 3rd Brigade, the 1/Gloucestershire and 1/South Wales Borderers began to advance but were cut down without reaching the enemy. Meerut Division orders Bareilly Brigade to advance, even though it is clear that conditions are unchanged: few men even reached a small ditch 20 yards in front of their own front line, and the Brigade suffered more than 1000 casualties within minutes.
4.35pm: 1st Division orders another 10 minutes shelling but it is seen to have no effect.
4.40pm: Large explosion at German ammunition dump in Herlies, hit by a long-range British heavy shell. Smoke clouds drifting towards British lines caused a gas alarm. Br-Gen. Southey (CO, Bareilly Brigade) reports that further attempts to advance would be useless.
5.00pm: General Haig, hearing of the continued failure of the Southern attack, orders 2nd Division to relieve 1st Division with a view to a bayonet attack at dusk, 8.00pm.
- Hard fighting on Frezenberg Ridge Under cover of darkness, the remnants of B Coy 3rd Monmouths began to withdraw to rejoin the rest of the battalion. Just as they got back to the GHQ line at dawn on May 9th a staff officer ordered them back into the front line.
- 9th May 1915 SS Aragon sails
- 9th May 1915 2nd Devons at the Battle of Aubers
- 9th May 1915 2nd Ox & Bucks on the march
- 9th May 1915 Territorials under fire
- 9th May 1915 1st Glosters in action
- 9th May 1915 1st Northants in action
- 9th May 1915 Battle of Aubers Ridge
- 9th May 1915 In Billets
- 9th May 1915 13th Londons in Action
- 9th May 1915 Into Battle
- 9th May 1915 Duel over the Trenches
- 9th May 1915 Into the Trenches
- 9th May 1915 Into Reserve
- 9th May 1915 Enemy Aircraft
- 9th May 1915 On the Move
- 9th May 1915 Attack Made
- 9th May 1915 Relief
- 9th May 1915 Pipers Play
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