Departement du Pas-de-Calais
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Portugal had entered World War I on the Allied side in 1916 and sent its first troops to France under the overall command of the British in 1917. There were two Portuguese divisions in the BEF; they were not involved in any major actions until the Spring of 1918.
On 7 April 1918 the German 6th Army launched the second part of Ludendorff's strategic plan to break the British forces and split them off from the French. Originally named "George," it had been watered down enough for it to have been re-named "Georgette." The objective was Ypres. In a swinging blow the German 6th Army would break the Allied line below Armentières whilst the 4th Army would attack Ypres in an encircling move from the north.
The first blow fell at Neuve Chapelle on 9 April 1918 against the 2nd Portuguese Division. Alongside and in support, the British divisions in the sector had all been involved in Operation Michael on the Somme (the first part of Ludendorff's Spring Offensive) in March and had been sent north to rest and take on new replacements. Many of the Portuguese battalions left in the line were tired, under-strength and with a high percentage of untried raw recruits. At 04:15 hours the German bombardment began and at 08:00 hours trench mortars were added to finish off the Allied front line. 45 minutes later, four German Divisions made up of well trained and rested assault troops threw themselves at the Portuguese lines. The Portuguese had already started to retire in the face of the bombardment and apart from a few isolated positions gave the Germans no opposition at all. Within the hour the front line was taken along with 6,000 prisoners.
The cemetery lies just to the south of Neuve Chapelle on the D 947 between Armentières and Béthune. It is within a few hundred metres of the Indian Memorial at the crossroads known as La Bombe (Port Arthur) on the D171.