Published By Ben Hillidge
Neuve Chapelle. Diversionary action Battle of Loos. 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 25 September 1915.
The battalion were to support the 12 Rifle Brigade (12RB) in an attack on a salient in the enemy line in the sector to the north of Neuve Chapelle – this was most likely Wick Salient, see Map below, between Fauquissart and le Tilleloy. On 23 September, whilst the barrage was roaring overhead, B Company began to dig a sap towards the apex of the salient in the enemy front line A ‘sap’ was a trench or dug out into no man’s land as a way of reducing the distance and exposure to hostile fire across no man’s land. Saps would then be opened up to become communication trenches linking the front line to any ground gained. A variant of a trench sap was called a Russian sap. This was a tunnel dug just below the surface which would be opened up ‘zero hour’ to create an exit in no man’s land from which an assault could be made.
At zero hour on 25 September the 12 RB moved up the sap and emerged at the other end. Their objectives were in the second and third German lines. They were quickly followed by A and D companies of 6 battalion. The 12 RB pushed their attack forward whilst the 6 KSLI quickly occupied and consolidated the enemy front line trench. However, as so often happened, early successes soon turned to failure. The 12 RB were halted and driven back by counter attacks. They began retreating through the KSLI position and back to the British frontline. The KSLI were now the front line. The situation became confused. Units became mixed together, men from the retreating 12 RB together with a bunch of Indian troops from the Bareilly Brigade, which had attacked to the right of the KSLI and who had lost their officers. The trenches became crowded. Fortunately Major Wood of the battalion spoke Hindustani and was able to bring some order and organise things. Meanwhile the enemy starting shelling and launched successive counter attacks which were fought off by 6 Bn inflicting ‘much slaughter’ on the enemy.
The morning wore on, the fighting, shelling and gunfire continued. The KSLI held the line whilst others tried to get back to the British front line. Work too was continuing to open up the sap under the command of Lieutenant S H Hyndman of B Company and many men made use of this to get back. Lt. Hyndman also went out to bring in wounded men. Evacuating the wounded back through the crowded trenches was also proving very difficult and some stretcher cases had to be put out in to the open and exposed to gun fire, almost certainly adding to the fatalities. Communications had all but broken down. Orders then got through to retire and were confirmed when Colonel Moore (CO of 6 Bn) was seen standing on the British parapet waving his swagger stick and calling the men back. The two companies thankfully retreated down the sap and by 2.00pm were back in their original start position. Shelling continued throughout the rest of the day and into the evening. KSLI casualties for the day were about 60 ranks and 4 officers killed or wounded.
WAR DIARY 6Bn KSLI. History KSLI.
B&O 1915 Loos. Diversionary action Btle of Loos. Bethune, Neuve Chapelle. 6Bn KSLI. 25 Sept 1915