Left RICHEBOURG St VAAST at 1.30 a.m, and marched to and took up position in 6th Jat trenches. Just before dawn Nos. 1 an 2 Coys., left the trenches and filed out in front of main trench and lay in readiness in a small trench specially dug at the C.O.’s request just the other side of the road ready for the assault on the German trenches covering Neuve Chapelle. Here the line lay down out of site of the German trenches defended [?] by the shape of the ground. The whole Brigade was to assault in line, the regiments being in the following order from the left
2/39th G. 23rd G.R. Leicesters. 1/39th G
The front to be assaulted was divided up and assigned to the various regiments of the Brigade as above, the 3/London Regiment being in reserve. The object of the attack was to capture the advanced German trenches, and if possible push on, capture NEUVE CHAPELLE and eventually occupy the original British line E. of the village, known as the Smith-Dorrien line, as being the line taken up by that General’s Corps in the fighting round this area in the early days of the war. The 8th (British) Division of the 4th Corps was also to assault on our left, and Brigades of the 1st Corps on our right were also to attack the German trenches in their front. The plan of attack was as follows:-
From 7.35 a.m. to 8.5 a.m. the guns were to concentrate their fire on the front to be assaulted by the Garhwal Brigade; 10 minutes fire being by Field Guns on wire entanglement etc. At 8.5 the attack was to be launched simultaneously along the whole line, though the attack by the 8th Division was timed for half an hour later. At 7.30 a.m., the guns began a terrific bombardment, every kind of gun being used, field siege, and howitzer. The noise as deafening and the fire very accurate. One or two premature bursts caused casualties in the trenches, but these were remarkably few considering the number in action. the German guns also fired a good deal in reply.
Precisely at 8.5 a.m. Nos. 1 and 2 Companies rose to the assault, advancing in a very good line across the 100 – 200 yards or so between the trenches, followed by their 2nd Platoons at 50 yards distance, and soon reached the German lines. The barbed wire had been cut a good deal by the fire of the guns, and but [sic] little resistance was at first met with. Bombing and bayonet parties worked down the main fire trench an up communication ones and so rounded up prisoners who all surrendered and touch was thus gained with the Berkshire regiment who also were working up the trenches towards us. Several casualties occurred here, bu t the line pressed on, and reached their objective the line G – H. During this advance 187 prisoners and 3 Machine Guns were captured. Meantime No. 3 Company had been sent up to support Nos. 1 and 2, and eventually the whole line advanced and passed through NEUVE CHAPELLE and reached the Smith- Dorien line beyond. touch was gained with the Rifle Brigade on the left, the right battalion of the 8th Division. A strong line was now established here, the Battalion taking up a position in support of the front line behind the 2/3rd G.R and facing the BOIS de BIE. Sandbags, hurdles, and entrenching tools were found in a house in NEUVE CHAPELLE, evidently a German Sapper depot, and good use was made of all this material to build up a breastwork. a few shells were fired during the day and occasionally a maxim [gun] opened on the groups working, but on the while there was little firing. Jemadar Ghantu Sing Bisht [sic – this was how Singh was spelt at this time] was killed by maxim fire while here.
During the advance, Subedar Shib Sing Negi had been killed, and Subedar Ratan Sing Negi, Jemadar Balbhadar Sing Gusain and Jemadar Amar Sing Negi had been wounded. 26 rand and file had been killed, and 75 wounded, 31 being reported missing of whom 11 were believed to have been killed. Subedar Khiyali Sing Negi was missing, not traceable at all, so it is presumed he must have been killed by a shell.
The advance has been carried out with great dash and vigour, and the start was well timed; and this undoubtedly prevented heavier casualties. The men behaved splendidly and were always ready and anxious to advance further.
(For a detailed account of the operations see report, Appendix attached).
About 5 p.m. G.O.C Brigde sent for the C.O. and he received orders to go and consult with Colonel. Swiney, 1/39th G. who had been slightly wounded about consolidating the R.Flank of the line at PORT ARTHUR and to take over both Battalions. Orders were received to be ready to move at a moments notice, and at 12 midnight the Battalion was ordered to proceed to PORT ARTHUR. On the way the Commanding Officer was met on his way back from PORT ARTHUR and he ordered the Battalion back to the trenches they had just evacuated. meanwhile the G.O.C. Brigade had directed Major MacTier, to take over Command of the 1/39th G. vice Colonel. Swiney who had been wounded, and Captain Harbord was also transferred to the 1/39th G. as they had suffered heavily today in the attack losing 6 British Officers Killed. the Battalions returned to the breastwork behind the 2/3rd G.R., and got what rest it could.
The Unit War Diaries are held at the National Archives. As Adjutant, Ted was often responsible for writing them. It’s hard to tell when he wrote them because they are often typed, though sometimes his voice comes through. However, the typescript for the 10th March has additions and corrections which are not in his writing.