Sapper History



Western Front


Corps of Royal Engineers


Related Events, other areas of the war & notes

19 January 1915



Zeppelins bomb Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn killing 5 civilians.

24 January 1915



Dogger Bank. Royal Navy intercept and sink German armoured cruiser Blucher.

31 January 1915



Bolinov. German army repulsed by Russian forces in Russian Poland.

February 1915

The first Territorial army units begin to arrive in France together with the 1st Canadian Division.



17 February 1915


First British mines blown at Hill 60 (28 Div RE)


19 February 1915


First 8 RE Tunnelling Companies formed at Chatham and in action a few days later on the Western Front. Founded by Maj Norton Griffiths RE.


18 February 1915



Blockade of Britain by German U-boats begins. All vessels are considered targets including those from neutral countries.

19 February 1915



Allied naval bombardment of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli begins.

10 to 13 March 1915

The Battle of Neuve Chapelle. Allied losses [British & Indian] amount to 12,800 in two days. Blame falls partly on the poor quality and lack of British shells initiating the 'Shell Crisis'



12 March 1915


Lt Cyril Gordon Martin VC [later Brig CBE DSO] with 2nd Cpl Skinner DCM both of 56 Fd Coy

at Spanbroekmolen [near Pool of Peace]


17 April 1915

BEF attack on HILL 60

171 Tunnelling Company RE blow first major mines on the Western Front at HILL 60.


22 April to 25 May 1915

Second Battle of Ypres. First use of poison gas by Germany. By the end of the battle on 25 May some 2,000 officers and 57,000 men were killed, missing or wounded. The front around Ypres intruded into the German line forming a salient. As a consequence German artillery could easily fire into the town and BEF lines.


Germans now under pressure on their Russian front and fighting further down the Western front which result in forces being diverted from the front at Ypres.

25 April 1915 to

9 January 1916



Allied landing at Gallipoli 70,000 British, Commonwealth and French troops are under heavy fire. On 'Y' Beach 1,200 out of a force of 1,500 men are casualties.

May 1915

The New Armies raised as the war commenced begin to arrive.



2 May 1915



Austro-German offensive on Galicia begins.

7 May 1915



German U-boat torpedoes British liner Lusitania with the loss of American lives creating a US-German diplomatic crisis.

9 May 1915

Battle of Aubers Ridge in much the same area as the battle of Neuve Chapelle.



9 May to

18 June 1915

Second Battle of Artois [French army] around Arras, Vimy & Souchez.



15 to 25 May 1915

Battle of Festubert. This was effectively the second part of the Battle of Aubers Ridge and its right or southern flank was the La Bassee Canal.



23 May 1915



Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary.

25 May 1915



The 'Shell Crisis' exposes the failings of the British Government in supporting front line troops. Discontent over rising casualty figures grows and a coalition government is formed as Prime Minister Asquith struggles to maintain control of the House of Commons.

31 May 1915



The first Zeppelin raid on London kills seven and injures 35. British morale is shaken as Germany demonstrates it can attack the capital at will.

4 June 1915



The Third and final Battle of Krithia begins at Gallipoli as Allies attempt to push inland from their beach-heads. British losses amount to 6000 men.

21 June 1915



British troops reach the Euphrates in Mesopotamia and re-occupy Aden.

23 June to

7 July 1915



First Isonzo. Italians attack Austrian forces on Isonzo river but it peters out due to lack of artillery support.

30 June 1915

German troops use flame throwers for the first time against the British lines at Hooge Ypres.



July 1915


186 and 187 Special Companies were formed to deploy gas. Followed by 188 and 189 Companies in August. All of the men held the rank of Chemist Corporal. Subsequently converted into a Special Brigade.


25 July 1915


Capt Lanoe George Hawker VC DSO

[RE attached RFC] 6 Sqn RFC

Killed in air crash Luisenhof Farm near Bapaume






4 August 1915




Germans annex Warsaw.

6 August 1915



Allies land two divisions at Suvla Bay Gallipoli. They opt not to take the strategic heights overlooking the beaches and are eventually pinned to the coast by Turkish troops.

16 August 1915



A U-boat bombards Whitehaven proving that Britain's maritime defences can be breached by German submarines

21 August 1915



The Battle of Scimitar Hill Gallipoli is the final British offensive in the Dardanelles. They are repelled and lose 5,000 men.

25 September to 15 October 1915

Third Battle of Artois [French army]. Notre Dame de Lorette ridge taken.


The Great Allied Offensive focuses on Loos and Champagne.

25 September 1915


2nd Lt Frederick Henry Johnson VC (later Major) 73 Fd Coy at Hill 70 near Loos.


25 September to 14 October 1915

The Battle of Loos - the British use gas for the first time but the wind blows some back on their own troops resulting in 2,632 casualties, seven are killed.



27 September1915

British and Canadian regiments take Hill 70 at Loos and break the German line but lack of reserves to exploit the breach results in limited success. The Canadians alone had over 9,000 casualties.



5 October1915



Under German pressure to open up military rail links to Constantinople and the Middle East the Austro-Hungarians step up their campaign against the Serbians. Anglo-French forces land at Salonika to counter allied German expansion in the Balkans.

12 October1915



British nurse Edith Cavell is executed by German firing squad for helping POWs escape from Belgium to Holland. She becomes a popular martyr and British heroine.

13 October1915


Cpl James Lennox Dawson VC (later Col.) 187 Fd Coy at the Hohenzollern Redoubt near Loos.


18 October to 3 November1915



Third Isonzo. Despite good preparation Italian attack stopped by the Austrians.

31 October1915

Steel helmets introduced on the British Front.



22 to 25 November1915



Battle of Ctesiphon 25 miles south of Baghdad. Allies inflict heavy casualties on the Turks but are forced to retire to Kut due to lack of supplies. The Turkish soldiers give chase and besiege the town.

7 December to 28 April 1915



Siege of Kut-al-Amara.

15 December1915

Sir Douglas Haig replaces Sir John French as Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force.



20 December1915



Allies complete the evacuation of 83000 troops from Suvla Bay and ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli. Not one soldier or sailor is killed in the withdrawal and the Turkish are unaware of the evacuation taking place.