Memories sought of the day 1,000 Northampton men were killed, injured or went missing in action

The Steelbacks in review formation on Northampton Racecourse, 1914
The Steelbacks in review formation on Northampton Racecourse, 1914

Memories of the day when Northampton suffered 1,000 casualties in one day are being sought for a memorial exhibition.

The material about the Battle of Aubers Ridge, fought in France on May 9, 1915, about will be presented in an 18-month-long project by the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

The battle was fought against the German army in France and was one of the biggest disaters of the First World War for the British Army.

More than 11,000 British casualties were sustained on that single day of fighting, which began at about 5.30am, the vast majority within yards of their own front-line trench. This was one of the highest rates of loss during the entire war.

Officially, 986 men from the first and second battalions of the Northamptonshire Regiment, known as the Steelbacks, were killed, injured or were listed as missing in action.

There is no official memorial to the attack at Aubers Ridge.

The project, called ‘Conflict and Community – Northampton Remembers the First World War’, is looking to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of those men and others who served at Aubers Ridge, and is keen to hear from local people who have family stories, photos or other memorabilia that they would like to share.

Councillor Brandon Eldred, Northampton Borough Council cabinet member for community engagement, said: “We very much want to hear stories about local men as part of our research. If you have a story to tell, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.”

Military historians have said that much of blame for the slaughter could be attributed to the lack of attention paid to intelligence about the newly-strengthened German positions, as well as the lack of surprise to the Allied assault.

British bombardment is also thought to have not been strong enough or long enough to break the German barbed wire or suppress their front-line machine-guns.

To share your family stories about Aubers Ridge or WWI more generally, contact the project officer by email hsanghera@northampton.gov.uk or phone (01604) 837669. For more information about the Conflict and Community project visit www.northampton.gov.uk/conflictandcommunity