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Le Touret Memorial, France Le Touret Memorial, France
First Name: William Blyth Last Name: WILLIS
Date of Death: 12/03/1915 Lived/Born In: Beckton
Rank: Private Unit: Scots Guards2
Memorial Site: 1. East Ham, Central Park Memorial 2. Le Touret Memorial, France

Current Information:



The Battle of Neuve Chapelle

Between 10th and 13th March, 1915, the Indian Army Corps and IV Corps attacked the village of Neuve Chapelle in the Artois region of France. During the winter of 1914-1915, reinforcements had arrived from Britain and this was seen as an opportunity to use them to break through the German lines.

It started well. At 7.30am on 10th March, a 30 minute hurricane bombardment destroyed the German wire and front line trenches and at 8.05am the infantry went in. Neuve Chapelle was captured and over a mile of the German line taken. But that was the end of the success.  The British chain of command was weak and their communications poor, which was hardly surprising given that many of the troops had no previous experience of battle. The Germans re-organised and reinforced during the night and no further gains were made. British casualties mounted to 12,000 by the time the offensive petered out on 13th March.

Dawn on 11th March was dull and misty which caused problems for the artillery bombardment of the German line before the infantry of 7th Division attacked, German strongholds along the Mauquissart road were targeted but not the continuous line of trenches there that had been dug overnight and remained undetected. At 7 am 21 Brigade advanced but everywhere were driven back by heavy machine gun and rifle fire.  At the same time, 20 Brigade, moving forward between the Moated Grange and the Orchard in columns of platoons came immediately under shell fire and lost heavily.  An intense German bombardment from Aubers and Le Pietre on the entire British front was maintained for three hours. Some of the two leading battalions of 20 Brigade, 1st Grenadier Guards and 2nd Gordon Highlanders managed, by short rushes, to reach 21 Brigade’s line but most took cover in various ditches and disused trenches between the Orchard and the Mauquissart road. The two supporting battalions of 20 Brigade, 2nd Scots Guards and 2nd Border moved up to a position 500 yards behind the Brigade line.

The following day, 12 March, 21 Brigade had the task of holding the trenches facing the Mauquissart-Chapigny road, through the cross roads south-west of Chapigny, whilst 20 Brigade in the form of 2nd Scots Guards and 2nd Border passed through them to continue the attack.  But things did not go to plan and the morning attack was cancelled. However they did not receive these new orders. The runners bringing the orders were killed, so they advanced through 2nd Royal Scot Fusiliers and 2nd Yorkshire into no-man’s land where they were faced by the Quadrilateral, a German strongpoint thick with machine guns.  There had been no artillery preparation so it was undamaged and their attack was stopped in less than 100 yards.  They went to ground and on receiving news of the postponement from flanking units, they waited in a slight depression for the 12.30pm attack. This time the British bombardment was accurate and intense and the artillery was able to pour enfilade fire onto the German positions.  2nd Scots Guards and 2nd Border crept forward during the barrage and rushed the Quadrilateral and neighbouring trenches and over 400 prisoners were taken. William Willis, who was killed on 12th March, was one of the battalion’s many casualties during this action.

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