- The instructions contained in 1st Army Secret Memorandum dated 2nd April are cancelled so far as the operations therein referred to are concerned. The general principles referred to are embodied in the attached instructionsPAPER 'B.'
- The operations for which preparation is now being made are intended to be much more sustained, and it is hoped that they will lead to more far reaching results than could be expected from those at NEUVE CHAPELLE.
The object is to co-operate with a vigorous offensive which is to be made on a large scale by the French with a view to breaking the enemy's front for a considerable width and then to follow up by such action as will cause a general retirement of a great part of the enemy's line.
Our objective is, therefore, not a local success and the capture of a few trenches or even a portion of the hostile position on a more or less extended front, but to employ the entire force at our disposal and fight a decisive battle.
- The general instructions for the attack are attachedPAPER 'A.' All details will be worked out by Corps and Divisions concerned on the same lines as those for the attack on NEUVE CHAPELLE, and will be submitted to Headquarters, 1st Army, at an early date.
- Forming up places for attacking troops and reserves must be carefully reconnoitred, and the construction of lines of breastworks, trenches and screened approaches put in hand at once, so as to get all the troops necessary for the attack up as close as possible.
All troops will be rehearsed in detail beforehand in the actual way in which they are to get into and out of their forming up places.
- Registration of targets will be proceeded with without delay, and carried out gradually so as not to disclose the fact that an attack is projected.
- Attention is directed to the following papers issued by 1st Army Intelligence:
- Area occupied by the 7th German Corps.
- Country between LILLE and the present German line, (which will be issued during the next few days.)
/s/ R. Butler.
General Staff, 1st Army.
13th April, 1915.
Paper 'A'. General Instructions for tThe Attack.
- The 1st Army will operate so as to break through the enemy's line and gain the LABASSEE-LILLE road between LA BASSEE and FOURNES and then advance on DON.
- The 1st Corps, maintaining its right at GIVENCHY, will attack from its breastworks in the vicinity of RICHEBOURG L'AVOUE on as broad a front as possible and advance on RUE DE MARAIS-ILLIES.
- The Indian Corps will operate so as to cover the left of the 1st Corps and will capture the FERME DU BIEZ. Its subsequent advance will be directed on LIGNY-LE-GRAND-LA CLIQUETERIE FARM.
- The 4th Corps will operate so as to break through the enemy's line in the vicinity of ROUGES BANCS with the object of:
- Organizing a defensive flank from the vicinity of LA CORDONNERIE FARM to FROMELLES, and
- Turning the AUBERS defences by an attack from the N.E.
The subsequent advance will be directed on LA CLIQUETERIE FARM, with a view to effecting a junction with the Indian Corps.
- The 2nd Cavalry Division will remain near ESTAIRES in readiness to act as the situation develops.
Paper "B". General Principles for the Attack.
- The enemy is to be beaten on a certain length of front and driven out of it, and must not be allowed time to reform in rear of the captured trenches.
For this a violent and continuous action is required.
The keynote of all the work, both as regards details and the general idea, is offensive action.
When once the enemy's front system of trenches is broken, delay is usually the chief cause of failure and heavy casualties.
Commanders must, however, bear in mind that, once the enemy's line is broken, it is the intention to follow up by such action as will cause a general retirement of a great part of the enemy's line. Thus the operations will be continued during a considerable period.
Supports and reserves.
- Bearing the above in mind, it is of the highest importance that all commanders should consider carefully the handling of their reserves to maintain the forward movement.
Under the existing conditions, only one definite offensive blow can be expected from one body of infantry, and therefore fresh troops must be pushed through those making the first attack to develop the success won. Troops heavily engaged during the day should not ordinarily be expected to continue the offensive on the following day, but should be either actually relieved or arrangements made for fresh troops to pass through them. The organization of reserves in depth should be made with this object.
Supporting and reserve troops must be close up from the commencement of the operations, so that they can follow close on the heels of the troops in front. Commanders of such troops must clearly understand the objective and their role, and use their initiative.
Ample cover must be provided for the reserve troops well forward, with good and sufficient communicating trenches. Direction boards must be put up to prevent mistakes in the existing labyrinth of trenches.
The Infantry attack.
- Infantry commanders must know the time table of artillery fire, and regulate their progress and time their assaults in accordance with it.
The attack on the front trenches will probably not be equally successful all along the line. Support must be given at once to the units which have been successful to enable them to press on. Where unsuccessful a new attack must be organized from a flank where the line has been broken.
If a certain body of infantry fails to gain its own particular local objective, there is no reason why the troops on either flank should be held up. Every body of infantry must push on and thereby facilitate the task of the troops on the right and left.
The whole operation can be regulated with the greatest precision. Parties of infantry should be detailed beforehand for the capture of the several localities at definitely stated times in accordance with the artillery time table. The accuracy of the photographic maps permits of this being done.
We must not wait to be counter attacked, but must follow up our attack at once. Infantry must push on, and field guns, trench mortars, machine guns, etc., must be pushed forward in close support of the attacking infantry to batter down houses, etc. The responsibility for supporting the attacking infantry in this way rests with Infantry Commanders, and special guns will be allotted to them for this purpose.
Localities must be seized promptly to act as supporting points to further advance, but only the necessary number of men will be left to entrench each of these points.
All ground gained will be secured (F.S.R. Part I, Sec. 105 (5)).
- The artillery objective is not only the wire entanglements and front trenches, but the whole position, with a view to destroying the hostile infantry, actually and morally (i.e. second line, communication trenches, shelters, etc., must be systematically dealt with.)
The task of the artillery is:
- The support of the infantry during its attack.
- To gain superiority of fire over the hostile artillery.
The artillery fire will be time-tabled and registered as far behind the enemy's front line trenches as possible, with due regard to range and accuracy.
The guns must be registered beforehand on all the objectives and tactical localities as far forward as possible.
Similarly, the barrages of shrapnel must be arranged beforehand. These will be gradually expanded as the infantry advances.
The nature of the artillery support required by the infantry depends on the local conditions of the fight.
Some field or horse artillery guns must be ready to push forward rapidly in support of the infantry as the latter get beyond the support of the remaining guns. (Field Artillery Training, Sec. 156 (4).)
- Special parties must be detailed for work subsidiary to the attack, such as bomb parties, sandbag parties, bayonet parties, entrenching tool parties. These parties must all be conversant with their various duties.
The idea of the offensive must be inculcated in the grenadier parties, so that their efforts are directed to bombing so as to assist the movement to front and flank, rather than to more defensive work and blocking approaches.
Special attention must be given to repairing roads, and detachments of R.E., with infantry working parties attached, must be organized and in position to follow up the attack, for clearing away obstacles and mending roads, to allow free passage for our troops.
Special parties for extending and maintaining the telephone wires must also be organized beforehand (see paragraph 7).
R.E. Stores & Materials
- Advanced depots of R.E. stores must be established close up behind our own lines at short intervals along the front of the attack. These depots should contain material for entanglements, sandbags, trench-bridging materials, tools, etc.
Parties of R.E. with infantry must be specially detailed to move forward with these stores to secure positions gained.
The experience of NEUVE CHAPELLE gives a good indication of the nature and quantities of stores required for any given length of line, and estimates should be framed accordingly with regard to the length of the probable successive lines likely to be required to be placed in a state of defence.
- In order that the offensive may be continued without interruption and be suited to the changing conditions of the fight, the several commanders must be kept in close touch with the situation: hence communications must be carefully organized beforehand and adequate means of getting information back from the front provided. Wherever possible communications should be triplicated and arrangements made to carry on communications by flags, lamps, etc., when wires are broken. This is of the first importance, and all commanders will give this matter their close attention.
The ground over which the attack is to pass and the localities to be attacked can in most cases be seen and studied. So far as is possible, therefore, arrangements should be made beforehand between what points communication by flag or otherwise is to be established as the attack progresses.
The positions of commanders must be carefully thought out and suitably protected points organized for commanders near their troops.
Telegraph and telephone wires must be buried up to our front trenches, and arrangements made to push wires on as soon as possible after the attack has passed beyond them.
Staff officers must be pushed well forward with the object of collecting information and keeping commanders regularly informed of the situation.
With this object in view, positions of observation and dugouts should be made, and special communications established beforehand with these places.
Special attention must be given to instructing signal companies in their duties and action during an advance, and all preparations must be made with a view to the forward movement being sustained.
Divisional Cavalry and Cyclists.
- Divisional Cavalry and Cyclists must be kept handy to push on rapidly as opportunity offers, to anticipate the enemy in occupying houses and other tactical points, and so facilitating the advance after the enemy's main lines of defence have been broken.
"The Infantry cannot do with a gun less": The Place of the Artillery
in the British Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918