The Battle of Loos took place from 25 September – 8 October 1915 in France on the Western Front, during the First World War. It was the biggest British attack of 1915, the first time that the British used poison gas and the first mass engagement of New Army units. The French and British tried to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne and restore a war of movement. Despite improved methods, more ammunition and better equipment, the Franco-British attacks were contained by the German armies, except for local losses of ground. British casualties at Loos were about twice as high as German losses.
The battle was the British part of the Third Battle of Artois, an Anglo-French offensive (known to the Germans as the Herbstschlacht (Autumn Battle). Field Marshal Sir John French and Haig (GOC First Army), regarded the ground south of La Bassée Canal, which was overlooked by German-held slag heaps and colliery towers, as unsuitable for an attack, particularly given the discovery in July that the Germans were building a second defensive position behind the front position. At the Frévent Conference on 27 July, Field Marshal French failed to persuade Ferdinand Foch that an attack further north offered greater prospects for success. The debate continued into August with Joffre siding with Foch and the commanders being over-ruled by Herbert Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War, on 21 August. On 3 May, the British decided upon use of poison gas in military operations in France. At a conference on 6 September, Haig announced to his subordinates that extensive use of chlorine gas might facilitate success despite the terrain, if the French and British were able to keep the attack secret and advance on a line towards Douai and Valenciennes.
The battle was the third time that specialist Royal Engineer tunnelling companies, were used to tunnel under no-man's-land, to plant mines under the parapets of the German front line trenches, to be detonated at zero hour.
French decided to keep a strong reserve consisting of the Cavalry Corps, the Indian Cavalry Corps and XI Corps (Lieutenant-General Richard Haking), which consisted of the Guards Division and the New Army 21st Division and 24th Division, which had recently arrived in France and a corps staff (some of whom had never worked together or served on a staff before). Archibald Murray, the Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff (DCIGS) advised French that as troops fresh from training, they were suited for the long marches of an exploitation rather than for trench warfare. French was doubtful that a breakthrough would be achieved. Haig and Foch, commander of the groupe des armées du nord (Northern Army Group), wanted the reserves closer, to exploit a breakthrough on the first day; French agreed to move them nearer to the front but still thought they should not be committed until the second day.
Haig was hampered by the shortage of artillery ammunition, which meant the preliminary bombardment, essential for success in trench warfare, was insufficient. Prior to the British attack, about 140 long tons (140,000 kg) of chlorine gas was released with mixed success; in places the gas was blown back onto British trenches. Due to the inefficiency of contemporary gas masks, many soldiers removed them as they could not see through the fogged-up eyepieces or could barely breathe with them on, which led to some soldiers being affected by the British gas as it blew back. Wanting to be closer to the battle, French had moved to a forward command post at Lilliers, less than 20 miles (32 km) behind the First Army front. He left most of his staff behind at GHQ and had no direct telephone to the First Army, which attacked at 6:30 a.m. on 25 September, sending an officer by car to request the release of the reserves at 7:00 a.m.
In many places British artillery had failed to cut the German wire before the attack. Advancing over open fields, within range of German machine guns and artillery, the British suffered many casualties. The British were able to break through the weaker German defences and capture the village of Loos-en-Gohelle, mainly due to numerical superiority. Supply and communications problems, combined with the late arrival of reserves, meant that the breakthrough could not be exploited. Haig did not hear until 10:00 a.m. that the divisions were moving up to the front. French visited Haig from 11:00 to 11:30 a.m. and agreed that Haig could have the reserve but rather than using the telephone he drove to Haking's headquarters and gave the order at 12:10 p.m. Haig then heard from Haking at 1:20 p.m. that the reserves were moving forward.
When the battle resumed the following day, the Germans had recovered and improved their defensive positions. British attempts to continue the advance with the reserves were repulsed. Twelve attacking battalions suffered 8,000 casualties out of 10,000 men in four hours. French told Foch on 28 September, that a gap could be "rushed" just north of Hill 70, although Foch felt that this would be difficult to co-ordinate and Haig told him that the First Army was in no position for further attacks. A lull fell on 28 September, with the British having retreated to their starting positions, having lost over 20,000 casualties, including three major-generals.[a]
The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) came under the command of Brigadier-General Hugh Trenchard. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd wings under Colonels E. B. Ashmore, John Salmond and Sefton Brancker participated. As the British were short of artillery ammunition, the RFC flew target identification sorties prior to the battle, to ensure that shells were not wasted. During the first few days of the attack, target-marking squadrons equipped with better wireless transmitters, helped to direct British artillery onto German targets. Later in the battle, pilots carried out a tactical bombing operation for the first time in history. Aircraft of the 2nd and 3rd wings dropped many 100-pound (45 kg) bombs on German troops, trains, rail lines and marshalling yards. As the land offensive stalled, British pilots and observers flew low over German positions, providing target information to the artillery.
Rawlinson wrote to the King's adviser Stamfordham (28 September)
From what I can ascertain, some of the divisions did actually reach the enemy's trenches, for their bodies can now be seen on the barbed wire.— Rawlinson
Major-General Richard Hilton, at that time a Forward Observation Officer, said of the battle:
A great deal of nonsense has been written about Loos. The real tragedy of that battle was its nearness to complete success. Most of us who reached the crest of Hill 70, and survived, were firmly convinced that we had broken through on that Sunday, 25th September 1915. There seemed to be nothing ahead of us, but an unoccupied and incomplete trench system. The only two things that prevented our advancing into the suburbs of Lens were, firstly, the exhaustion of the "Jocks" themselves (for they had undergone a bellyfull of marching and fighting that day) and, secondly, the flanking fire of numerous German machine-guns, which swept that bare hill from some factory buildings in Cite St. Auguste to the south of us. All that we needed was more artillery ammunition to blast those clearly-located machine-guns, plus some fresh infantry to take over from the weary and depleted "Jocks." But, alas, neither ammunition nor reinforcements were immediately available, and the great opportunity passed.— Richard Hilton
The twelve attacking battalions suffered 8,000 casualties out of 10,000 men in four hours. French had already been criticised before the battle and lost his remaining support in the government and army, because of the British failure and that he was responsible for poor handling of the reserve divisions. French was replaced by Haig as Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in December 1915.
British casualties in the main attack were 48,367 and they suffered 10,880 more in the subsidiary attack, a total of 59,247 losses of the 285,107 British casualties on the Western Front in 1915. J. E. Edmonds, the British Official Historian, gave German losses in the period 21 September – 10 October as c. 26,000 of c. 141,000 casualties on the Western Front during the autumn offensives in Artois and Champagne. In Der Weltkrieg, the German official account, losses of the German 6th Army are given as 29,657 to 21 September; by the end of October losses had risen to 51,100 men and total German casualties for the autumn battle (Herbstschlacht) in Artois and Champagne, were given as 150,000 men.
The Germans made several attempts to recapture the Hohenzollern Redoubt, which they accomplished on 3 October. On 8 October, the Germans attempted to recapture much of the remaining lost ground by attacking with five regiments around Loos and against part of the 7th Division on the left flank. Foggy weather inhibited observation, the artillery preparation was inadequate and the British and French defenders were well prepared behind intact wire. The German attack was repulsed with 3,000 casualties but managed to disrupt British attack preparations, causing a delay until the night of 12/13 October. The British made a final attack on 13 October, which failed due to a lack of hand grenades. Haig thought it might be possible to launch another attack on 7 November but the combination of heavy rain and accurate German shelling during the second half of October persuaded him to abandon the attempt.
The Loos Memorial commemorates over 20,000 soldiers of Britain and the Commonwealth who fell in the battle and have no known grave. The community of Loos in British Columbia, changed its name from Crescent Island to commemorate the battle and several participants wrote of their experiences, Robert Graves described the battle and succeeding days in his war memoir Goodbye to All That (1929), Patrick MacGill, who served as a stretcher-bearer in the London Irish and was wounded at Loos in October 1915, described the battle in his autobiographical novel The Great Push (1916) and J. N. Hall related his experiences in the British Army at Loos in Kitchener's Mob (1916).
The St Austell by-election of 1915 was held on 24 November 1915. The by-election was held due to the incumbent Liberal MP, Thomas Agar-Robartes, dying of wounds sustained in the Battle of Loos in the First World War. It was won by the Liberal candidate Sir Francis Layland-Barratt who was unopposed due to a War-time electoral pact.1915 in France
Events from the year 1915 in France.24th East Surrey Division War Memorial
24th East Surrey Division War Memorial is a First World War memorial in Battersea Park, London. The unusual avant-garde design by Eric Kennington, his first public commission, was unveiled in 1924. It became a Grade II* listed building in 2005.The memorial commemorates the service of the 24th Division, a British infantry division which served on the Western Front in the First World War. The Division was raised in September 1914 as part of Lord Kitchener's New Army, and served on the Western Front, in the Battle of Loos in 1915, through the Battle of Delville Wood and the Battle of Guillemont in 1916, the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Messines in 1917, to the Battle of the Sambre in 1918. It was disbanded in 1919, having suffered the loss of over 35,000 men killed, wounded and missing.
Kennington had served in two battalions of the London Regiment, the 1/22nd (County of London) Battalion (the Artists Rifles) and then the 13th (County of London) Battalion (the Kensingtons), later becoming a war artist. He undertook the commission for free, buying the £300 stone himself. Pictures of a 13.5 inches (340 mm) bronze maquette were published in the Illustrated London News in November 1922.
The final Portland stone memorial stands 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) high. It comprises a group of three infantry soldiers, in full kit with helmets and rifles; a serpent encircles their feet. Three figures are based on: Trooper Morris Clifford Thomas, of the Machine Gun Corps (right); Sergeant J Woods, of the 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex (centre) and Robert Graves, of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers (left). The three soldiers are mounted on a columnar base of three parts, which bears the inscription "XXIV Division France 1914–1918"; the base is also encircled by inscriptions showing the twenty badges of the Division's constituent units. These inscriptions were carved by Lucy Sampson. The base stands on two circular steps, and the whole is surrounded by a circular hedge.
The completed memorial was unveiled on 4 October 1924 by Field Marshal Lord Plumer and the Bishop of Southwark Cyril Garbett. The ceremony was attended by a guard of honour, and an address was delivered by the Division's commander from October 1915 to May 1917, Sir John Capper, who mentioned that the unit lost 4,865 men from all ranks killed, 24,000 wounded and 6,000 missing
The memorial became a Grade II* listed building in 2005.A Death-Bed
"A Death-Bed" is a poem by English poet and writer Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). It was first published in April 1919, in the collection The Years Between. Later publications identified the year of writing as 1918. Kipling's only son, John, had been reported missing in action in 1915, during the Battle of Loos, leaving him grief-stricken. "A Death-Bed" has been described as "the most savage poem Kipling ever wrote",, "the chilling and pitiless masterpiece" and as "overtly distasteful".Charles Sorley
Captain Charles Hamilton Sorley (19 May 1895 – 13 October 1915) was a British Army officer and Scottish war poet who fought in the First World War, where he was killed in action during the Battle of Loos in October 1915.Frank Edwards
Frank Edwards may refer to:
Frank Edwards (British politician) (1852–1927), British Liberal Party politician
Frank Edwards (Illinois politician) (born 1950), American municipal politician
Frank Edwards (writer and broadcaster) (1908–1967), American writer and broadcaster
Frank Edwards (communist) (1907–1983), Spanish Civil War veteran and Irish Workers' Party
Frank Edwards (blues musician) (1909–2002), American blues musician
Frank Edwards (gospel musician) (born 1989), Nigerian gospel musician
Frank Edwards (Australian politician) (1887–1983), Tasmanian state politician
Frank Edwards (soldier) (1893–1964), rifleman with London Irish Rifles during the Battle of Loos
Frank Edwards (cricketer) (1885–1970), English cricketerFrank Edwards (British Army soldier)
Frank Edwards (29 September 1893–January 1964), also known as The Footballer of Loos, was a British Army soldier in the First World War who served as a rifleman in the 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles, during the Battle of Loos. He is distinguished for leading the London Irish across no man's land to storm enemy trenches kicking a football ahead of the troops. The successful capture of enemy positions that followed earned the London Irish Rifles their second battle honour, Loos, 1915. The football is still preserved in the regimental museum of the London Irish and to this day the memory of Edwards is commemorated on Loos Sunday.Hohenzollern Redoubt
The Hohenzollern Redoubt (Hohenzollernwerk) was a strongpoint of the German 6th Army on the Western Front during the First World War, at Auchy-les-Mines near Loos-en-Gohelle in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. Named after the House of Hohenzollern, the redoubt was fought for by German and British forces. Engagements took place from the Battle of Loos (25 September – 14 October 1915) to the beginning of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, including the Action of the Hohenzollern Redoubt in 1915 and the British Attack at the Hohenzollern Redoubt from 2 to 18 March 1916.John Kipling
John Kipling (17 August 1897 – 27 September 1915) was the only son of the British author Rudyard Kipling. He was killed in September 1915 at the Battle of Loos while serving with the British Army during the First World War, nearly six weeks after his eighteenth birthday.
He is a central character in the 1997 play My Boy Jack. He is portrayed by actor Daniel Radcliffe in the 2007 television film adaptation of the same name.Kitchener's Army
The New Army, often referred to as Kitchener's Army or, disparagingly, as Kitchener's Mob,
was an (initially) all-volunteer army of the British Army formed in the United Kingdom from 1914 onwards following the outbreak of hostilities in the First World War in late July 1914. It originated on the recommendation of Herbert Kitchener, then the Secretary of State for War to raise 500,000 volunteers. Kitchener's original intention was that it would be formed and ready to be put into action in mid-1916, but circumstances dictated its use before then. The first use in a major action came at the Battle of Loos (September–October 1915).Le Touret Memorial
The Le Touret Memorial is a World War I memorial, located near the former commune of Richebourg-l'Avoué, in the Pas-de-Calais region of France. The memorial lists 13,389 names of British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave who were killed in the area prior to the start of the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915. The exceptions are Canadian soldiers, whose names are commemorated at the Vimy Memorial, and Indian Army soldiers, whose names appear on the Neuve-Chapelle Memorial. Those commemorated on this memorial include the Victoria Cross recipients Abraham Acton, William Anderson, Jacob Rivers, and Edward Barber. Also commemorated here are Clive and Arnold Baxter, brothers who were killed on the same day, 25 January 1915, in the Brickstacks area of Cuinchy.
Designed by J. R. Truelove, the memorial is a loggia surrounding an open rectangular court. The inscription is over the entrance, and given in both French and English. The memorial was unveiled on 22 March 1930 by Lord Tyrrell, a diplomat who was present in his role as British Ambassador to France.Loos Memorial
The Loos Memorial is a World War I memorial forming the sides and rear of Dud Corner Cemetery, located near the commune of Loos-en-Gohelle, in the Pas-de-Calais département of France. The memorial lists 20,610 names of British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave who were killed in the area during and after the Battle of Loos, which started on 25 September 1915. This memorial covers the same sector of the front as the Le Touret Memorial, with each memorial commemorating the dead either side of the date of the start of the Battle of Loos.
Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, the sculptures were by Sir Charles Wheeler. The memorial was unveiled on 4 August 1930 by Sir Nevil Macready. General Macready served as Adjutant-General of the British Expeditionary Force from the outbreak of the war to February 1916, and then served as Adjutant-General to the Forces until a few months before the end of the war.My Boy Jack (poem)
"My Boy Jack" is a 1916 poem by Rudyard Kipling. Although Kipling wrote it after his son John, an 18-year-old Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, when Irish Guards disappeared in September 1915 during the Battle of Loos in the First World War, it was published as a prelude to a story in his book Sea Warfare written about the Battle of Jutland in 1916. The imagery and theme is maritime in nature and as such it is about a generic nautical Jack (or Jack Tar), though emotionally affected by the death of Kipling's son.No. 15 ball grenade
The No. 15 ball grenade was a grenade used by the British during World War I.Preston Pals
The Preston Pals — officially 'D' Company, 7th (Service) Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment — were a group of men from the town of Preston in Lancashire, England, who volunteered to fight in France during World War I, and took part in the Battle of the Somme.Robert Dunsire
Robert Dunsire (24 November 1891 – 30 January 1916) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Dunsire was born in November 1891 to Thomas and Elizabeth Anderson Dunsire at Buckhaven in Fife. At the outbreak of war in 1914, Robert was a miner at the Fife Coal Company’s Rosie Pit and married to Catherine Pitt. He enlisted in January 1915 joining the 13th Battalion, The Royal Scots (The Lothian Regiment), British Army. It was during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC for his actions during the Battle of Loos, on 26 September 1915.Third Battle of Artois
The Third Battle of Artois (25 September – 4 November 1915), was fought by the French Tenth Army against the German 6th Army on the Western Front of World War I. The battle is also known as the Loos–Artois Offensive and included the big British offensive by the British First Army, known as the Battle of Loos. The offensive, meant to complement the Second Battle of Champagne, was the last attempt of 1915 by the French commander-in-chief Joseph Joffre to exploit an Allied numerical advantage over Germany. Joffre's plan was for simultaneous attacks in Champagne-Ardenne and Artois, to capture the railways at Attigny and Douai, to force a German withdrawal from the Noyon salient.Thompson Capper
Major General Sir Thompson Capper, (20 October 1863 – 27 September 1915) was a highly decorated and senior British Army officer who served with distinction in the Second Boer War and was a divisional commander during the First World War. At the Battle of Loos in 1915, Capper was shot by a sniper as he reconnoitred the front line during an assault by his division on German positions. He died the next day in a casualty clearing station from wounds to both lungs; his grave is in the nearby Lillers Communal Cemetery.
Capper was an active and vigorous soldier who had been wounded just six months before his death in an accidental grenade detonation. Shortly before this wound he had been knighted by King George V for his service in command of his division during the First Battle of Ypres. Field Marshal Sir John French commented upon his death that "he was a most distinguished and capable leader and his death will be severely felt." He was also a keen military historian and his collected papers are currently stored at the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King's College London.Twickenham Museum
The Twickenham Museum is a volunteer-run museum in Twickenham in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It is located opposite St Mary's parish church at 25 The Embankment, Twickenham TW1 3DU, an 18th-century three-storey building which has been listed Grade II by Historic England and was donated to the museum.An independent museum, the Twickenham Museum is run by a registered charity that was first registered in 1993.The museum's area of interest is the history of Teddington, Twickenham, Whitton and the Hamptons, which, until local government boundary changes in 1965, formed the Municipal Borough of Twickenham. It collects, researches and displays archives, artefacts and information from these areas and provides related historical information on its website.The museum also mounts exhibitions.In 2014, it received £9000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund's Then and Now programme for a project on the 1914 Christmas truce during the First World War that led to a soldier, Frank Edwards, kicking a football when fighting the Battle of Loos in 1915.Admission to the museum, which is open every day except Monday, is free.