Friday 12 March 1915 – We Lost 1,262
The British repel a German counter-attack at Neuve Chapelle in the morning and then launch their own attack just after midday. This effort is forced to a halt within two hours, many units having been wiped out. General Haig looks, however to troops who have not yet seen action to carry the day. “Information indicates that enemy on our front are much demoralized” he informs them. “Indian Corps and the Fourth Corps will push through the barrage of fire regardless of loss using reserves if required.” When this order reaches those who will have to put it into effect this evening, there is some dismay. Brigadier General Egerton, informs his superior, General Wilcocks, “that the attack ordered is not likely to succeed.” Wilcocks cancels the attack, telling Haig, who has just arrived at Indian Corps headquarters, that “he did not consider it feasible to make an attack with such a large body of troops by night over unreconnoitered ground.” General Haig accepts Wilcocks’ decision, but it is by then too late to stop units of Fourth Corps from moving forward further north. The confusion is heightened by exhaustion of the men who, after three days and nights under fire, have fallen asleep and can only be aroused by the use of force – a process made very lengthy by the fact that the battlefield is covered with British and German dead, who, in the dark, are indistinguishable from the sleepers.
The Cameronians are hit by shrapnel during a preliminary bombardment of the German trenches. The second in command of B Company, Captain John P Kennedy is killed by a piece of shrapnel from a British shell while other men are wounded, a few severely. The Cameronians advance along with men from the Middlesex Regiment, but as they approach an area marked “Ruined House’ on their maps, they come close to being shattered by British artillery. The gunners have exceeded their own fire plan and are firing into an area that has not been designated theirs in the planning. Only one officer, Major George Carter-Campbell is wounded. This proves to be the first example of what will become a much more common occurrence during the war, artillery accidentally bombing its own troops. At Neuve Chapelle when the battalion on his right are driven from the trenches Captain John Henry Arden (Worcestershire Regiment) forms his company under a heavy fire to a flank counter attack upon the German right and with great determination drives the Germans back enabling the battalion to reoccupy their trenches. For his actions on this day Arden will be awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He will lose his life on active service in July 1918.
Private Edward Barber (Grenadier Guards) is awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous gallantry at Neuve Chapelle, where he runs speedily in front of the grenade company to which he belongs and throws bombs on the enemy with such effectiveness that a very great number of them at once surrender. When the grenade party reaches Private Barber they find him quite alone and unsupported with the enemy surrendering all about him. He is killed shortly afterwards at age 21. His younger brother will die of wounds received in the Great War in September 1920. Lance Corporal Wilfred Dolby Fuller (Grenadier Guards) is awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery at Neuve Chapelle. While seeing a party of the enemy endeavoring to escape along a communication trench he runs towards them and kills the leading man with a bomb the remainder (nearly fifty) finding no means of evading his bombs surrender to him.
Corporal William Anderson (Yorkshire Regiment) is awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery at Neuve Chapelle when he leads three men with bombs against a large party of the enemy who have entered our trenches and by his prompt and determined action saves what might otherwise have become a serious situation. Corporal Anderson first throws his own bombs then those in possession of his three men (who have been wounded) among the Germans after which he opens rapid fire upon them with great effect and not withstanding that he is at the time quite alone. Corporal Anderson will die of wounds tomorrow at age 29.
Private Jacob Rivers (Sherwood Foresters) is awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery at Neuve Chapelle when on his own initiative he creeps to within a few yards of a very large number of the enemy who are massed on the flank of an advanced company of his battalion and hurls bombs on them. His action causes the enemy to retire and relieves the situation. Private Rivers performs a second act of great bravery later today similar to the first mentioned, again causing the enemy to retire. He is killed on this occasion.
CSM Harry Daniels and Acting Corporal Cecil Reginald Noble (Rifle Brigade) are both awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery at Neuve Chapelle. When their battalion is impeded in the advance to the attack by wire entanglements and subjected to a very severe machine gun fire these two men voluntarily rush in front and succeed in cutting the wires. They are both wounded at once and Corporal Noble dies of his wounds tomorrow at age 23.
Lieutenant Cyril Gordon Martin (Royal Engineers) is awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery at Spanbroek Molen when in command of a grenade throwing party of six rank and file. Although wounded early in the action, he leads his party into the enemy trenches and holds back their reinforcements for nearly two and a half hours, until evacuation of the captured trench is ordered.
General Ian Hamilton is appointed to command the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.
Today’s losses include:
- Four battalion commanders
- Multiple sons of clergy
- Multiple sons of Generals
- The grandson of General
- The son of a Member of Parliament
- The grandson of a Member of Parliament
- The son of a Baronet
- A man who played cricket for Worcestershire
- Multiple families that will lose another son in the Great War
- A family that will lose a total of three sons in the war
- A family that will lose four sons in the Great War
Today’s highlighted casualties are
Second Lieutenant John Hewitt Sutton Moxly (Bedfordshire Regiment) is killed at age 23. He is the son the Reverend J H Moxly Principal Chaplain to His Majesties Forces and the poet Robert Sterling (who will be killed next month) dedicated the following poem to him.
O Brother, I have sung no dirge for thee:
Nor for all time to come
Can song reveal my grief’s infinity:
The menace of the silence made me dumb
- Lieutenant Colonel George Brenton Laurie (commanding 1st Royal Irish Rifles) is killed at age 47. His brother was killed near Philippolis in the South African War on 12 April 1901 and they are sons of Lieutenant General J W Laurie. Lieutenant Colonel Laurie had written an account of the Christmas truce and how he had crossed to the German trenches on Christmas Day armed only with a three-day-old copy of the Daily Telegraph and spoke with a number of German officers.
- Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Charles Forbes Wodehouse DSO (commanding 1st Worcestershire Regiment) is killed at age 43. He is a South African War Veteran.
- Lieutenant Colonel Percy Clare Eliott-Lockhart DSO (commanding 59th Scinde Rifles Field Force) is killed at age 47.
- Lieutenant Colonel David Coley Young (commanding 1st Gurkha Rifles) is killed at age 45.
- Major William Cotton French (Gurkha Rifles) is killed in action at age 44. He is the son of the Reverend Frederic French.
- Captain Arthur George Coningsby Capell (Northamptonshire Regiment) is killed in action at age 35. He is a South African War veteran and the son of the Reverend George Marie Capell Rector of Passenham.
- Captain Alexander Moultrie Wallace (Northamptonshire Regiment) is killed at age 33. He is the son of the Reverend Walter Edward Wallace and his brother will be killed 4 days short of one year from today.
- Captain Leslie John Robinson (Northamptonshire Regiment) is killed at age 31. He is the son of the Reverend W Robinson Vicar of east Haddon.
- Captain James Isidore Wood-Martin (Northamptonshire Regiment) is killed at age 40. His brother was killed last month.
- Captain Eric Chasemore Gates (London Regiment) is killed at age 24. He is the son of Percy Gates MP.
- Captain Reginald Cholmondeley (Rifle Brigade attached Royal Flying Corps) and seven members of the ground crew are killed in an accident when loading a bomb at Choques aerodrome. Captain Cholmondeley dies at age 26.
- Lieutenant Cyril Henry Cameron (Royal Horse Artillery) is killed in action at age 23. He is the grandson of the late General W T Hughes.
- Lieutenant Oliver John Calley (Wiltshire Regiment) is killed at age 22. He is the son of the Reverend John Henry Calley Vicar of Figheldean.
- Lieutenant Thomas Percy Pilcher (Rifle Brigade) is killed in action at age 21. He is the son of Major General Thomas David Pilcher.
- Lieutenant Eric Gilbey (Rifle Brigade) is killed at age 27. He is the son of ‘Sir’ Walter Gilbey the 2nd
- Lieutenant William Archibald MacLean (Highland Light Infantry) is killed in action at age 28. He is the son of the Reverend E Maclean.
- Lieutenant Frederick Bonham Burr (Worcestershire Regiment) is killed at age 27. He played cricket for Worcestershire. He was the son of the Reverend George Frederick Burr and has a brother who will be killed in March 1918.
- Second Lieutenant Carleton Lumley St Clair Clery (Liverpool Regiment) is killed at age 19. He is the son of Major General Carleton B L Clery.
- Second Lieutenant John Philip De Buriatte (East Surrey Regiment) is killed in action at age 27. His elder brother will die at home three and a half years later.
- Second Lieutenant William Hamilton Clarke (Worcestershire Regiment) is killed in action at age 22. He is the son of Lieutenant Colonel ‘Sir’ Edward Henry, CMG, DSO the 4th Baronet and his brother was killed in September of last year.
- Second Lieutenant Gordon Jacob Wilson (Northamptonshire Yeomanry) is killed at age 32. He is the son of the late ‘Sir’ Jacob and Lady Wilson KCVO.
- Second Lieutenant Edmund Morton Mansel-Pleydell (Dorsetshire Regiment attached Worcestershire) is killed at age 29. His brother will be killed in May of next year. They are grandsons of ‘Sir’ Thomas Fraser Grove MP 1st
- Sergeant W Noble (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed at age 28. He is the middle of three brothers who are killed in the war.
- Private Nicholas Hixson (Worcestershire Regiment) is killed in action at age 36. His brother will be killed in action in September 1918.
- Private Frederick Richard Nicholas (Wiltshire Regiment) is killed at age 34. His brother will die of wounds in May 1916.
- Rifleman Reginald Buss (Rifle Brigade) is killed at age 20. His brother will be killed in July.
- Able Seaman Conran de Courcy Stretton (HMAS Australian) dies at home at age 24. He is the first of four brothers who will lose their lives in the Great War.