Battle of Loos

The Battle of Loos was one of the major British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 offensives mounted on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 in 1915 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. It marked the first time the British used poison gas
Poison gas in World War I
The use of chemical weapons in World War I ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas and the severe mustard gas, to lethal agents like phosgene and chlorine. This chemical warfare was a major component of the first global war and first total war of the 20th century. The killing capacity of...

 during the war, and is also famous for the fact that it witnessed the first large-scale use of 'new' or Kitchener's Army
Kitchener's Army
The New Army, often referred to as Kitchener's Army or, disparagingly, Kitchener's Mob, was an all-volunteer army formed in the United Kingdom following the outbreak of hostilities in the First World War...



The battle also marked the third use of specialist Royal Engineer
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

 tunnelling companies
Royal Engineer tunnelling companies
Royal Engineer tunnelling companies were specialist units of the Corps of Royal Engineers within the British Army, formed to dig attacking tunnels under enemy lines during the First World War....

, who deployed mines underground to disrupt enemy defence lines through the use of tunnels and the detonation of large amounts of explosives at zero hour.

Course of the Battle

The battle was the British component of the combined Anglo-French offensive known as the Third Battle of Artois
Third Battle of Artois
The Third Battle of Artois was on the Western Front of World War I, is also known as the Loos-Artois Offensive, including the major British offensive, known as the Battle of Loos....

. General Douglas Haig
Douglas Haig
Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig was a British soldier and senior commander during World War I.Douglas Haig may also refer to:* Club Atlético Douglas Haig, a football club from Argentina* Douglas Haig , American actor...

, then commander of the British First Army
British First Army
The First Army was a field army of the British Army that existed during the First and Second World Wars. Despite being a British command, the First Army also included Indian and Portuguese forces during the First World War and American and French during the Second World War.-First World War:The...

, directed the battle; however, his plans were limited by the shortage of artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 ammunition which meant the preliminary bombardment, essential for success in the emerging trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

, was weak. Prior to the British attack at about 0630, 140 tons of chlorine
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

 gas was released with mixed success—in places the gas was blown back onto British trenches. Due to the inefficiency of the contemporary gas masks, many soldiers removed them as they could not see through the fogged-up talc eyepieces, or could barely breathe with them on. This led to some British soldiers being affected by their own gas as it blew back across their lines.

The battle opened on 25 September, the British were able to break through the weaker German defences and capture the town of Loos
Loos-en-Gohelle is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:A former coal mining town, three miles northwest of the centre of Lens, at the junction of the D943 and the A21 autoroute. Its nearest neighbours are Lens to the south, Grenay to the...

, mainly due to numerical superiority. However, the inevitable supply and communications problems, combined with the late arrival of reserves, meant that the breakthrough could not be exploited. A further complication for many British soldiers was the failure of their artillery to cut the German wire in many places in advance of the attack. Advancing over open fields in range of German machine guns and artillery, British losses were devastating. When the battle resumed the following day, the Germans were prepared and repulsed attempts to continue the advance. The fighting subsided on 28 September with the British having retreated to their starting positions. Their attacks had cost over 20,000 casualties, including three divisional commanders; George Thesiger
George Thesiger
Major-General George Handcock Thesiger, CB, CMG was a senior officer in the British Army during World War I who was killed in action during the battle of Loos by German shellfire...

, Thompson Capper
Thompson Capper
Major General Sir Thompson Capper KCMG CB DSO 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...

 and Frederick Wing
Frederick Wing
Major-General Frederick Drummond Vincent Wing CB was a senior officer of the British Army during the First World War and was one of three British divisional commanders killed in action in the space of week in the aftermath of the Battle of Loos...

. Following the initial attacks by the British, the Germans made several attempts to recapture the Hohenzollern Redoubt
Hohenzollern Redoubt
The Hohenzollern Redoubt, near to Auchy-les-Mines in France, was a German fortification on the Western Front in World War I.-Introduction:The British first attacked the Redoubt on September 25, 1915, the first day of the Battle of Loos...

. This was accomplished on 3 October. On 8 October the Germans attempted to recapture much of the lost ground by launching a major offensive along the entire line, but abandoned the effort by nightfall due to heavy losses. This marked the official end of hostilities, although in an attempt to strike before the winter rain set in, the British attempted a final offensive on 13 October, which failed due to a lack of hand grenades. General 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 finally persuaded him to abandon the attempt.

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, and 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.

Air actions

The Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 came under the command of Brigadier-General Hugh Trenchard
Hugh Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Hugh Montague Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard GCB OM GCVO DSO was a British officer who was instrumental in establishing the Royal Air Force...

. The Second and Third Wings under colonels John Salmond
John Salmond
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Maitland Salmond, GCB, CMG, CVO, DSO and Bar was a British military officer who rose to high rank in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I...

 and Sefton Brancker
Sefton Brancker
Air Vice-Marshal Sir William Sefton Brancker KCB AFC , commonly known as Sir Sefton Brancker, was a pioneer in British civil and military aviation.-Early life:...

 respectively, participated.

As the British had a limited amount of artillery ammunition, the Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 flew target identification sorties prior to the battle to ensure that shells were not wasted. During the first few days of the attack, the Flying Corps' target-marking squadrons with their recently improved air-to-ground wireless communications helped ensure that German targets were heavily pounded by the British artillery. Later in the battle, Flying Corps pilots carried out the first successful tactical bombing operation in history. Aircraft of the Second and Third wings carried out multiple sorties, dropping many 100-pound bombs on German troops, trains, rail lines and marshalling yards. As the land offensive stalled, British pilots and observers flew low over enemy positions, providing targeting information to the artillery.


Among the dead on the British side were Fergus Bowes-Lyon
Fergus Bowes-Lyon
Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon was an older brother of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.He was born at Glamis Castle in Angus and educated at Eton College, Berkshire. Just a fortnight after the start of World War I, he married Lady Christian Norah Dawson-Damer , daughter of the 5th Earl of...

, brother to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was the queen consort of King George VI from 1936 until her husband's death in 1952, after which she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II...

 (later Queen Consort
Queen consort
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

, of George VI and "Queen Mother"), author and poet Rudyard Kipling's
Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

 son, John
My Boy Jack (poem)
My Boy Jack is a 1915 poem by Rudyard Kipling. Kipling wrote it after his beloved son John an 18 year old Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards went missing in September 1915 during the Battle of Loos, during World War I...

, and the poet Charles Sorley
Charles Sorley
Charles Hamilton Sorley was a British poet of World War I.Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, he was the son of William Ritchie Sorley. He was educated, like Siegfried Sassoon, at Marlborough College...


Several survivors wrote of their experiences. Poet Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

, described the battle and succeeding days in his war memoir Goodbye to All That
Goodbye to All That
Good-Bye to All That, an autobiography by Robert Graves, first appeared in 1929, when the author was thirty-four. "It was my bitter leave-taking of England," he wrote in a prologue to the revised second edition of 1957, "where I had recently broken a good many conventions"...

Author Patrick MacGill
Patrick MacGill
Patrick MacGill was an Irish journalist, poet and novelist, known as "The Navvy Poet" because he had worked as a navvy before he began writing.MacGill was born in Glenties, County Donegal...

, 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. James Norman Hall
James Norman Hall
James Norman Hall was an American author best known for the novel Mutiny on the Bounty with co-author Charles Nordhoff.-Biography:Hall was born in Colfax, Iowa, where he attended the local schools...

, the American author, related his experiences in the British Army in his first book, Kitchener's Mob.

The Loos Memorial
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...

 commemorates over 20,000 officers and men who fell in the battle and have no known grave.

The community of Loos, British Columbia
Loos, British Columbia
Loos is a locality on the Canadian National Railway west of McBride, British Columbia, immediately next to Crescent Spur. Loos Post Office opened 30 March 1916, named in recognition of the Battle of Loos of World War I. The first postmaster was Mrs. A Martin. The post office closed 11 July 1951,...

 name was changed to commemorate the battle.

The battle was referenced in the film Oh What a Lovely War
Oh What a Lovely War
Oh What a Lovely War may refer to one of a number of fictional works:* Oh, What a Lovely War! - a stage musical created in 1963 by Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop...

. During the upbeat title song, sung by the chorus of officers, a scoreboard is plainly seen in the background reading "Battle: Loos/ British Losses: 60,000/ Total Allied Losses: 250,000/ Ground Gained: 0 Yards".


  • Angus Falconer Douglas-Hamilton
    Angus Falconer Douglas-Hamilton
    Lieutenant-Colonel Angus Falconer Douglas-Hamilton VC 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.- Life :Born at Brighton in 1863, he was the son of Major...

    , commanding officer of the 6th Battalion, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
    Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
    The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders was an infantry regiment of the British Army formed in 1793. In 1961 it was merged with the Seaforth Highlanders to form the Queen's Own Highlanders...

     was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for leading his men against a German machine gun post and was killed at their head.
  • Arthur Frederick Saunders
    Arthur Frederick Saunders
    Arthur Frederick Saunders VC Arthur Frederick Saunders VC Arthur Frederick Saunders VC (Ipswich (23 April 1879 – 30 July 1947) was an English 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...

    , of the Suffolk Regiment
    Suffolk Regiment
    The Suffolk Regiment was an infantry regiment of the line in the British Army with a history dating back to 1685. It saw service for three centuries, before being amalgamated with the Royal Norfolk Regiment as the 1st East Anglian Regiment in 1959...

     was awarded the Victoria Cross for supporting the Cameron Highlanders
    Cameron Highlanders
    Cameron Highlanders may mean:* The Highlanders , infantry regiment in the Scottish Division of the British Army* The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, Primary Reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Forces...

     with machine guns despite his own injuries.
  • George Stanley Peachment
    George Stanley Peachment
    George Stanley Peachment VC was an English Private in the 2nd Battalion, The King's Royal Rifle Corps, British Army during World War I...

    , of the 2nd Battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps
    King's Royal Rifle Corps
    The King's Royal Rifle Corps was a British Army infantry regiment, originally raised in colonial North America as the Royal Americans, and recruited from American colonists. Later ranked as the 60th Regiment of Foot, the regiment served for more than 200 years throughout the British Empire...

     was awarded the Victoria Cross for attempting with no regard to his own safety to provide first aid to his company commander who was lying wounded in the open. He died on 25 September 1915 near Hulluch.
  • The 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles
    London Irish Rifles
    The London Irish Rifles is now known more formally known as "D Company, London Regiment" and is a volunteer Rifle Regiment with a distinguished history...

     distinguished themselves when storming across No-Man's Land to capture the enemy trenches, Sgt. Frank Edwards
    Frank Edwards (soldier)
    Frank Edwards , also known as The Footballer of Loos, was a rifleman with 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 Captain of the football team, kicked a football
    Football (ball)
    A football is an inflated ball used to play one of the various sports known as football.The first balls were made of natural materials, such as an inflated pig bladder, sometimes inside a leather cover...

     along in front of the troops. This earned the LIR their second Battle Honour - "Loos, 1915", the football is still preserved in the Regimental Museum. To this day, Sergeant Edwards' memory is commemorated on Loos Sunday.
  • Daniel Laidlaw
    Daniel Laidlaw
    Daniel Logan Laidlaw VC 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.-Details:...

    , a Scottish piper received the Victoria Cross
    Victoria Cross
    The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

     as a reward for rousing his unit to a charge.
  • The 39th Garhwal Battalion was led by Rana Jodha with great courage and gallantry which won him the Military Cross
    Military Cross
    The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

    . Rana Jodha Jang Bahadur, who, in spite of being wounded, continued to lead his men against the Germans, and did not desist until a second wound rendered him unconscious. He received 5 bullet wounds in the neck and upper shoulder during The Great War and recovered in Europe.
  • Subedar-Major Jagindar Singh Saini, a Sikh officer from the Sappers, received the Indian Order of Merit and the Order of British India
    Order of British India
    The Order of British India was a medal and chivalric order which was bestowed by the East India Company for "long, faithful and honourable service", beginning in 1837. The Company's powers were removed after the Indian Mutiny, and the Order was incorporated into the British honours system in 1859...

    for 'conspicuous bravery' and 'striking leadership'.
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