Published By John Davies
Neuve Chapelle. 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 8-14 October 1915
On 8 October 1915 the 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry went into the line for a 6 day tour. They went into trenches (Map A) just to the north of Neuve Chapelle to just beyond Rouge Bancs near La Basee.
On the 9 October there was one fatality, on 10 October, 2 more KIA and 2 wounded. On 11 October a Private accidentally shot himself in the foot while cleaning his rifle. On 12 October 4 ORs were wounded.
Also on 12 October, the battalion held its first Field General Court Martial at Laventie. Private 11912 George Child was charged with Drunkenness – he was found drunk in the trenches on 1 October. Private Child, originally from Bridgnorth, was sentenced to 1 year hard labour pending further orders – it would have been unfair for the convicted man to go to prison whilst his ‘innocent’ comrades remained in the war zone. He survived the war and was discharged in March 1919.
On the 13 October a Divisional ‘Artillery Demonstration’ was scheduled to take place. This was an artillery bombardment accompanied by stunts and ruses to confuse the enemy and to keep the British troops fighting fit: it was also an opportunity to test readiness for battle. For the demonstration the battalion was deployed in battle order. The men were keen and well up for it. They had made and dressed up dummies as soldiers, the plan was to put these over the parapet which, from a distance, would seem to be an attacking force.
At 7.00am the artillery bombardment let loose on the German lines. Phosphorus smoke grenades were set off in no man’s land. The dummies were thrown over the parapet and then pulled back by string, in one instance a man went over the top to collect his dummy when the string broke. In the smoky and noisy confusion the Germans thought an attack was coming and SOS flares were sent up calling for artillery support. The Germans also manned their parapet and became targets for sharp shooters and machine gunners. The enemy retaliatory barrage did however cause problems. At first it was fairly feeble but it grew with intensity as the morning went on. One heavy gun in particular ranged around seeking out targets, one shell hit the front line but luckily did not explode. The regimental casualty post also received some heavy fire, it had been located near to what looked like a gun emplacement and became a target. At 2.15pm the bombardment was stopped and the action was over. The enemy too stopped their retaliatory firing. The demonstration was deemed a success. Reports came back that the Germans were ‘very jumpy’ for the rest of the day. An intercepted message read that a very strong attack had been repulsed. Casualties were ORs 2 KIA and 16 wounded. The battalion would have one more fatality on 14 October when they were relieved and returned to billets at Pont Duhem.
Private 11804 A Leslie Pritchard, 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. KIA 12 October 1915, Rue du Bacquerot No 1 Military Cemetery, Laventie (Probably KIA on 13 October based on the date on the family grave.)
GOOGLE MAPS Centres on area of the trenches held by 6 Bn KSLI, north of Neuve Chapelle
References and Sources WAR DIARY 6 Bn KSLI. History KSLI.
B&O 1915. Bethune. Neuve Chapelle. 6 Bn KSLI. 12-13 October 1915