Published By Ben Hillidge
Battle of Festubert, 15-25 May 1915.
GOOGLE MAPS – satellite view of Festubert Battleground.
TRENCH MAP Richebourg L’Avoue.
The Battle of Festubert involved a series of three attacks at Festubert near to Bethune between 15-25 May 1915. This was the British contribution to the main assault by the French army attacking in the Arras area towards Vimy Ridge.
The first assault began on 15 May, mainly Indian troops. They managed to make some gains. The second by Canadian troops failed to make any ground. For the British attack, on the 22 May, the assault was planned as a pincer movement with two attacks, one to the north towards Richebourg and the other to the south to Festubert, with the objective to break through the enemy line and link up to the rear of the enemy lines. The offensive followed the usual pattern, a bombardment followed by massed infantry assaults. The two pincer movements, although costly in terms of casualties, were initially successful and achieved their first objectives to establish a northern and a southern lodgement. The Battle continued for the next 2 days with the plan to exploit these two lodgements and take the ground between them and link the two assault forces. An advance of about 3kms was made but by 25 May the Germans had withdrawn and established a new line about a mile eastward and the stalemate was re-established. Ground had been captured but at the usual heavy price: British casualties were just under 16500 – equivalent to the population of Oswestry and district at the time – the French lost over 102000 and the Germans 50000.
The Battle of Festubert was the third failure following on from the disasters at Neuve Chapelle in March and the Battle of Auber Ridge earlier in May. A factor that lead in part to the failures was the poor quality and insufficiency of shells. This gave rise to the ‘Shell crisis’ resulting in the fall of Asquith’s government and emergence of David Llloyd George as the new coalition government leader.
Men on the Gates at the Battle of Festubert –
References and Sources B&O 1915 Bethune. Battle of Festubert. Richebourg & Festubert.15-25 May 1915.