The Battle of Neuve Chapelle (10–13 March 1915) took place during the First World War and was the first major operation undertaken by the British Army since the frontier battles of 1914. The offensive occurred in the Artois region of France and broke through at Neuve-Chapelle but the success could not be exploited.
More troops had arrived from Britain and relieved some French troops in Flanders, which enabled a continuous British line to be formed, from Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée north to Langemarck. The battle was intended to cause a rupture in the German lines, which would then be exploited with a rush to the Aubers Ridge and possibly Lille. A French assault at Vimy Ridge on the Artois plateau was also planned, to threaten the road, rail and canal junctions at La Bassée from the south, as the British attacked from the north.
If the French Tenth Army captured Vimy Ridge and the north end of the Artois plateau, from Lens to La Bassée, as the British First Army took Aubers Ridge from La Bassée to Lille, a further advance of 10–15 miles (16–24 km) would cut the roads and railways used by the Germans, to supply the troops in the Noyon Salient from Arras south to Rheims. The French part of the offensive was cancelled, when the British were unable to relieve the French IX Corps north of Ypres, which had been intended to move south for the French attack and the Tenth Army contribution was reduced to support from its heavy artillery.
The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) carried out aerial photography despite poor weather, which enabled the attack front to be mapped to a depth of 1,500 yards (1,400 m) for the first time and for 1,500 copies of 1:5,000 scale maps to be distributed to each corps. The battle was the first deliberately planned British offensive and showed the form which position warfare took for the rest of the war on the Western Front. Tactical surprise and a break-through were achieved, after the First Army prepared the attack with great attention to detail. After the first set-piece attack, unexpected delays slowed the tempo of operations, command was undermined by communication failures and infantry-artillery co-operation broke down, when the telephone system failed and the Germans had time to receive reinforcements and dig a new line.
The British attempted to renew the advance, by attacking where the original assault had failed, instead of reinforcing success and a fresh attack with the same detailed preparation as that on the first day became necessary. A big German counter-attack by twenty infantry battalions (c. 16,000 men) early on 12 March, was a costly failure.Douglas Haig, the First Army commander, cancelled further attacks and ordered the captured ground to be consolidated, preparatory to a new attack further north. An acute shortage of artillery ammunition made a new attack impossible, apart from a local effort by the 7th Division, which was another costly failure. The Germans strengthened the defences opposite the British and increasing the number of troops in the area; the French became cautiously optimistic that British forces could be reliable in offensive operations.