Battle of the Aisne

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2014), Volume 22

When the Allies reached the Aisne in mid-September, they found that the Germans had dug in on high ground overlooking the river. Having successfully crossed a shaky pontoon bridge under deadly shellfire, the Irish Rifles suffered badly in front of these positions. Recklessly continuing their advance across open ground, two companies, including a number of raw recruits only recently arrived from Ulster, lost heavily to strongly posted enemy infantry on the plateau above. Conversely, the more prudent Connaught Rangers met with greater success. Scaling a poorly protected ridge, the ‘Devil’s Own’ occupied an isolated farm complex (La Cour de Soupir) close to a crucial road that traversed the German defences. Determined to eject the Irish from this position, the Germans launched an immediate counterattack. Accurate rifle fire defeated this attempt, but as the day wore on the disputed farmhouse became the focus of a divisional assault, and only the welcome arrival of the entire Guards Brigade saved the embattled Rangers from catastrophe.

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