Members of C Company Group conducted a battlefield study of Neuve Chappelle in France to reflect on the service of Gurkhas in World War One (WW1) and identify lessons which could be incorporated into contemporary operations.
To set the scene, members of C Company liaised with Major Gordon Corrigan heavily prior to deployment. He delivered an excellent brief to the Company about the Indian Army in France and the detail behind the Battle of Neuve Chappelle.
Platoon Commanders and Platoon Sergeants then took on a stage of the battle to deliver not only a historical brief but also a thought-provoking exercise designed to enable the soldiers to draw out lessons from the Battle. On my stand I placed the soldiers in the shoes of the Commander of Dehra Dun Brigade and asked them to discuss whether they would have sent their Brigade on into the Bois Du Biez (a large Forrest occupied by the remnants of defending Germans) towards the end of the day as light was fading to continue the offensive. The company consensus after much discussion was that we valued security over the maintenance of momentum in this instance. In the afternoon the Company conducted a short service at the Indian Army War Memorial at Neuve Chappelle. An excellent opportunity for the soldiers to reflect on the actions of our antecedent regiments, particularly 2 Gurkha Rifles. Particularly striking was the damage done to the memorial by bullets and shrapnel from World War Two which scarred the otherwise pristine white stone.
Manoeuvre in urban areas has changed very little and the ability for a numerically inferior defensive force to frustrate their opposition by inflicting heavy casualties and delaying their advance is still prevalent. Most importantly it was a reminder of the vital importance of determination in adversity (something Gurkhas are renowned for) and the sacrifices of the Indian Army in the Great War.
By Second Lieutenant Ruairi Logan, The First Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles