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Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium
First Name: Donald Whitmore Last Name: RYAN
Date of Death: 09/05/1915 Lived/Born In: Earl's Court
Rank: Second Lieutenant Unit: Northamptonshire2
Memorial Site: 1. South Kensington, St Jude 2. Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium

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12, Longridge Road, Earl's Court

Aubers Ridge

On 9 May 1915 the British attacked north at Arras as part of the British contribution to the Second Battle of Artois, a Franco-British offensive. Their objective was the capture of Aubers Ridge but it turned into an unmitigated disaster. The German defences had been much improved since the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March and the British  artillery was in a parlous condition and failed to destroy the German defences during the short and insufficient 40 minute bombardment that preceded the attack. Extra artillery had been requested but further to the north, the Second Battle of Ypres was being fought on a ferocious scale and none was forthcoming. The few initial gains could not be held and by the evening of 9 May, all the British forces were back where they started, except of course the dead who littered the battlefield. There were 11,000 casualties for the British Army.

2nd Northamptonshire, were part of 24 Brigade, 8th Division which attacked towards Fromelles, 6000 yards to the north of Aubers Ridge. 8th Division’s attack went in astride the Fromelles road with 24 Brigade to the south of it and 25 Brigade to the north. Facing 24 Brigade was a pronounced salient which 2nd Northamptonshire attacked from the right side and 2nd East Lancashire from the left with 300 yards between the two battalions. 2nd Northamptonshire had to cross over 200 yards of no-man’s land under heavy machine gun fire.  The leading company reached the German breastwork and found a gap and 30 men entered the German trenches.  The second company got as far as the German wire  but could not get through and there they died. The supporting companies were unable to even reach the wire. The situation of the small lodgement of 2nd Northamptonshire in the German line became desperate and at nightfall 16 of them managed to return bringing 10 wounded with them.  2nd Northamptonshire lost half of the 880 who went into action.

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