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Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium
First Name: William Last Name: McLEAN
Date of Death: 09/05/1915 Lived/Born In: Tufnell Park
Rank: Sergeant Unit: London13
Memorial Site: Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium

Current Information:


19A Huddleston Road, Tufnell Park

Battle of Aubers Ridge

On 9th 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 9th  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.

13th London (Kensingtons), had arrived in France in November 1914 and joined 25 Brigade, 8th Division. On 9th May, 8th Division attacked on the left of the British line and 25 Brigade attacked on the left of 8th  Division with 13th London and 2nd Rifle Brigade. The wire had been well cut in front of them and they quickly crossed the 100 yards of No Man’s Land and entered the German front line. 13th London occupied the two mine craters blown at 5.40 am and when supporting troops arrived they pushed on to beyond Delangre Farm, past the German 3rd trench.  Here they swung to the left along a  communications trench to form a protective flank. But this success was not to last. From those uncaptured sections of the German front line and from other well defended positions, fire was poured on them as they struggled to consolidate what they had gained. Many fell back to their own lines and in so doing added to the confusion of the British trenches, where reinforcements were moving up. Eventually there were only three small lodgements of British troops in the German line. Another attack in the afternoon never made it even as far as no-man’s land, the German fire being so fierce. That night, those left in the German positions were forced to withdraw in the face of a strong German assault. 13th London suffered over 400 casualties on this day.

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