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Webmatters : Battle of Aubers Ridge May 1915
Rough Map of Area

Aubers Ridge

9th May 1915

Indian Corps

The Indian Corps was commanded by General Sir James Wilcox and the all important barrage was carried out by the artillery of both the Meerut Division (who were involved in the attack) and that of its neighbour, the Lahore Division.

The Dehra Dun Brigade which was to carry out the initial assault had the 2/2nd Gurkha Rifles on the right, 1/4th Bn Seaforth Highlanders in the centre and the 1st Bn Seaforth Highlanders on the left. The Gurkhas also had a Company of the 6th Jats attached to them.

The Indian Army Corps was made up of both Indian and British battalions.

The Meerut Division had just 26 howitzers to deal with 750 metres of German parapet, which was no more than 150 metres away from their own front line.

With the same timing as that for the British sector, the barrage opened at 0500 hours and intensified its rate of fire thirty minutes later. At this moment the leading waves of the Dehra Dun Brigade left their trenches and moved out into no man’s land.

For exactly the same reason as the 1st Division no covering rifle fire was laid on the German parapet to keep curious heads down (it was neither policy nor part of the pre-war training to do so).

Map: Aubers Ridge, Indian Corps

For the full map – use the link at the top of the page

The soldiers were greeted with such ferocious machine gun and rifle fire that those that survived the clamber out over their own parapet could only advance a few metres before being sent to ground by the hail of bullets.

All this was happening whilst the bombardment was reaching its full intensity and to complicate the matter further, the troops forming the subsequent waves continued to arrive in the forward trenches. These were soon blocked with dead; wounded; soldiers moving forward and those being forced back.

The actual infantry attack was supposed to commence the moment the bombardment lifted at 0540 hours but as the Gurkhas and Highlanders attempted to clamber across the numerous water filled ditches they were cut down by the machine gunners safe in their almost impregnable shelters.

Indian Sector

Looking back from the German position
The Portuguese Cemetery is on the right and just above it the Indian Memorial

Within minutes hundreds of men had been killed and wounded and the advance bogged down half way across no man’s land. The attack had been a complete failure. Word then came through that the 1st Division on the right were going to make a second effort at 0700 hours following a 45 minute barrage. The Meerut Division agreed to do its best but was cut down as before.

Despite this second failure Lt General Anderson commanding the Meerut Division decided that they would make another attempt. He called for a 60 minute bombardment at 0745 hours which incurred the wrath of the German artillery which put down a counter barrage onto the densely packed Indian trenches.

This new Indian bombardment turned out to have been a waste of ammunition; by the time it had finished it was evident that the 1st Division were unable to prepare a worthwhile assault. The Highlanders and Gurkhas who had gone over the top would just have to lie there under the retaliatory shelling until something could be done about their position.