|Battle of Loos|
|Part of the Western Front of the First World War|
Battle of Loos
|Commanders and leaders|
| John French |
| Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria |
Friedrich Bertram Sixt von Armin
|6 divisions||3 divisions|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Loos took place from 25 September to 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 largely contained by the Germans, except for local losses of ground. The British gas attack failed to neutralize the defenders and the artillery bombardment was too short to destroy the barbed wire or machine gun nests. German tactical defensive proficiency was still dramatically superior to the British offensive planning and doctrine, resulting in a British defeat.
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 Douglas 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 British commanders being over-ruled by Herbert Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War, on 21 August. On 3 May, the British had decided to use 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 an advance on a line towards Douai and Valenciennes, despite the terrain, as long as the French and British were able to keep the attack secret.
The battle was the third time that specialist Royal Engineer tunnelling companies were used to dig under no-man's-land, to plant mines under the parapets of the German front line trenches, ready to be detonated at zero hour.
French decided to keep a 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, 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. With only 533 guns and a shortage of shells to cover 11,200 yd (6.4 mi; 10.2 km) front with two German trench lines to bombard, the British would probably be attacking positions that had not been disrupted enough to cause a breakthrough and reliant on the success of the gas attack. The British commanders at this time did not grasp that German defensive tactics included placing the second line of machine gun nests on the reverse slopes of hills; destroying them would need howitzers and shells with high explosives. Prior to the British attack, about 140 long tons (142 t) of chlorine gas was released with mixed results; in places the gas was blown back onto British trenches, while in others it caused the Germans considerable difficulty. 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 being affected by their own gas. Wanting to be closer to the battle, French had moved to a forward command post at Lilliers, less than 20 mi (32 km) behind the First Army front. He left most of his staff behind at GHQ and had no direct telephone to the army HQ, 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. 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. French had not understood the poorness of the roads these reserves would be using and had not constructed new ones. Much of the reserves divisions had to march most of the day and night single file up the only accessible roads.The engineers manning the poison gas cylinders warned against their use, because of the weakness and unpredictability of the wind but they were overruled by General Sir Hubert Gough. In some places the gas drifted back into the British lines and caused more British than German casualties. Advancing over open fields, within range of German machine guns and artillery, the British infantry 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
When the battle resumed the following day, the Germans had recovered and improved their defensive positions. Much of the barbed wire, in some places 30 ft (9.1 m) deep, remained uncut and the British had used their stock of chlorine gas. 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. The British preparatory bombardment, which amounted to desultory fire for about twenty minutes, apparently inflicted no casualties. German machine gunners reported being "nauseated" from the sight of so many corpses and ceased firing so that the British could retreat with their wounded. 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 back on their starting positions, having suffered more than 20,000 casualties, including three major-generals.
The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) came under the command of Brigadier-General Hugh Trenchard. 1st, 2nd and 3rd wings under Colonels Edward 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 lb (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.The
Rawlinson wrote to the King's adviser Arthur Bigge (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.
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, 26th 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.
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 due to the British failure and a belief that he handled poorly the reserve divisions. French was replaced by Haig as Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in December 1915. Though Haig and Gough committed too many of their forces on the first day, they largely escaped blame for the debacle. French's combination of poor tactical planning, lack of knowledge of the conditions and poor execution in releasing the reserves was blamed for the British failure by John Keegan in 1998.
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 from the 285,107 British casualties on the Western Front in 1915. James 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, 6th Army casualties are given as 29,657 to 21 September; by the end of October losses had risen to 51,100 and total German casualties for the autumn battle (Herbstschlacht) in Artois and Champagne, were given as 150,000 men. About 26,000 of the German casualties were attributable to the Battle of Loos.
54 Commonwealth Commanding Officers were killed or wounded in the battle.
The Germans made several attempts to recapture the Hohenzollern Redoubt, which they accomplished on 3 October. 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.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
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 Good-Bye 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 Battle of Loos was an extraordinarily bloody battle for infantry battalion COs. 28 were killed and 26 wounded (one further CO being captured).
The Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, was a campaign of the First World War, fought by the Allies against the German Empire. The battle took place on the Western Front, from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders, as part of a strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917. Passchendaele lies on the last ridge east of Ypres, 5 mi (8.0 km) from Roulers, a junction of the Bruges-(Brugge)-to-Kortrijk railway. The station at Roulers was on the main supply route of the German 4th Army. Once Passchendaele Ridge had been captured, the Allied advance was to continue to a line from Thourout to Couckelaere (Koekelare).
During the First World War, the Second Battle of Ypres was fought from 22 April – 25 May 1915 for control of the tactically important high ground to the east and south of the Flemish town of Ypres in western Belgium. The First Battle of Ypres had been fought the previous autumn. The Second Battle of Ypres was the first mass use by Germany of poison gas on the Western Front.
The first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916, was the beginning of the Battle of Albert (1–13 July), the name given by the British to the first two weeks of the 141 days of the Battle of the Somme in the First World War. Nine corps of the French Sixth Army and the British Fourth and Third armies attacked the German 2nd Army from Foucaucourt south of the Somme, northwards across the Somme and the Ancre to Serre and at Gommecourt, 2 mi (3.2 km) beyond, in the Third Army area. The objective of the attack was to capture the German first and second defensive positions from Serre south to the Albert–Bapaume road and the first position from the road south to Foucaucourt.
The Battle of Albert is the British name for the first two weeks of British–French offensive operations of the Battle of the Somme. The Allied preparatory artillery bombardment commenced on 24 June and the British–French infantry attacked on 1 July, on the south bank from Foucaucourt to the Somme and from the Somme north to Gommecourt, 2 mi (3.2 km) beyond Serre. The French Sixth Army and the right wing of the British Fourth Army inflicted a considerable defeat on the German 2nd Army but from near the Albert–Bapaume road to Gommecourt, the British attack was a disaster, where most of the c. 57,000 British casualties of the day were incurred. Against the wishes of General Joseph Joffre, General Sir Douglas Haig abandoned the offensive north of the road to reinforce the success in the south, where the British–French forces pressed forward through several intermediate lines closer to the German second position.
The Third Battle of Artois, was fought by the French Tenth Army against the German 6th Army on the Western Front of the First World War. The battle included the Battle of Loos by the British First Army. The offensive, meant to complement the Second Battle of Champagne, was the last attempt of 1915 by Joseph Joffre, the French commander-in-chief, to exploit an Allied numerical advantage over Germany. Simultaneous attacks were planned in Champagne-Ardenne to capture the railway at Attigny and in Artois to take the line through Douai to force a German withdrawal from the Noyon salient.
The Gas Attacks at Hulluch were two German cloud gas attacks on British troops during World War I, from 27 to 29 April 1916, near the village of Hulluch, 1 mi (1.6 km) north of Loos in northern France. The gas attacks were part of an engagement between divisions of the II Royal Bavarian Corps and divisions of the British I Corps.
The Battle of Festubert was an attack by the British army in the Artois region of France on the western front during World War I. The offensive formed part of a series of attacks by the French Tenth Army and the British First Army in the Second Battle of Artois (3 May – 18 June 1915). After the failure of the breakthrough attempt by the First Army in the attack at Aubers Ridge tactics of a short hurricane bombardment and an infantry advance with unlimited objectives, were replaced by the French practice of slow and deliberate artillery-fire intended to prepare the way for an infantry attack.
The Battle of Neuve Chapelle took place in the First World War in the Artois region of France. The attack was intended to cause a rupture in the German lines, which would then be exploited with a rush to the Aubers Ridge and possibly Lille. A French assault at Vimy Ridge on the Artois plateau was also planned to threaten the road, rail and canal junctions at La Bassée from the south as the British attacked from the north. The British attackers broke through German defences in a salient at the village of Neuve-Chapelle but the success could not be exploited.
The actions of the Hohenzollern Redoubt took place on the Western Front in World War I from 13 to 19 October 1915, at the Hohenzollern Redoubt near Auchy-les-Mines in France. In the aftermath of the Battle of Loos, the 9th (Scottish) Division captured the strongpoint and then lost it to a German counter-attack. The British attack on 13 October failed and resulted in 3,643 casualties, mostly in the first few minutes. In the History of the Great War, James Edmonds wrote that "The fighting [from 13 to 14 October] had not improved the general situation in any way and had brought nothing but useless slaughter of infantry".
The Battle of Aubers was a British offensive on the Western Front on 9 May 1915 during the First World War. The battle was part of the British contribution to the Second Battle of Artois, a Franco-British offensive intended to exploit the German diversion of troops to the Eastern Front. The French Tenth Army was to attack the German 6th Army north of Arras and capture Vimy Ridge, preparatory to an advance on Cambrai and Douai. The British First Army, on the left (northern) flank of the Tenth Army, was to attack on the same day and widen the gap in the German defences expected to be made by the Tenth Army and to fix German troops north of La Bassée Canal.
The Fifth Battle of Ypres, also called the Advance in Flanders and the Battle of the Peaks of Flanders is an informal name used to identify a series of World War I battles in northern France and southern Belgium (Flanders) from late September to October 1918.
The First Battle of Passchendaele took place on 12 October 1917 during the First World War, in the Ypres Salient in Belgium on the Western Front. The attack was part of the Third Battle of Ypres and was fought west of Passchendaele village. The British had planned to capture the ridges south and east of the city of Ypres as part of a strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917. Passchendaele lay on the last ridge east of Ypres, 5 mi (8.0 km) from the railway junction at Roulers, which was an important part of the supply system of the German 4th Army.
The Battle of Pilckem Ridge was the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres in the First World War. The British Fifth Army, supported by the Second Army on the southern flank and the French 1reArmée on the northern flank, attacked the German 4th Army, which defended the Western Front from Lille northwards to the Ypres Salient in Belgium and on to the North Sea coast. On 31 July, the Anglo-French armies captured Pilckem Ridge and areas on either side, the French attack being a great success. After several weeks of changeable weather, heavy rain fell during the afternoon of 31 July.
Fricourt is a village that was fought over in July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, which took place in France during the First World War. Fricourt is 3 mi (4.8 km) from Albert, north of Bray and west of Mametz, near the D 938 road and at the junction of the D 147 with the D 64. The village is 20 mi (32 km) north-east of Amiens and on the route of the Albert–Péronne light railway. Fricourt Wood was north-east of the village, with a château on the edge of the village and a number of craters, known as the Tambour on the west side. Fricourt formed a salient in the German front-line and was the principal German fortified village between the River Somme and the Ancre.
The German phosgene attack was the first use of phosgene gas against British troops by the German army. The gas attack took place at Wieltje, north-east of Ypres in Belgian Flanders on the Western Front in the First World War. German gas attacks on Allied troops had begun on 22 April 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres using chlorine against French and Canadian units. The surprise led to the capture of much of the Ypres Salient, after which the effectiveness of gas as a weapon diminished, because the French and British introduced anti-gas measures and protective helmets. The German Nernst-Duisberg-Commission investigated the feasibility of adding the much more lethal phosgene to chlorine. Mixed chlorine and phosgene gas was used at the end of May 1915 against French troops and on Russian troops on the Eastern Front.
The Gas attacks at Wulverghem were German cloud gas releases during the First World War on British troops in the municipality of Heuvelland, near Ypres in the Belgian province of West Flanders. The gas attacks were part of the sporadic fighting between battles in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front. The British Second Army held the ground from Messines Ridge northwards to Steenstraat and the divisions opposite the German XXIII Reserve Corps had received warnings of a gas attack. From 21 to 23 April, British artillery-fire exploded several gas cylinders in the German lines around Spanbroekmolen, which released greenish-yellow clouds. A gas alert was given on 25 April when the wind began to blow from the north-east and routine work was suspended; on 29 April, two German soldiers deserted and warned that an attack was imminent. Just after midnight on 30 April, the German attack began and over no man's land, a gas cloud drifted on the wind into the British defences, then south-west towards Bailleul.
The Loss of the Kink Salient occurred during a local attack on 11 May 1916, by the 3rd Bavarian Division on the positions of the 15th (Scottish) Division. The attack took place at the west end of the Hohenzollern Redoubt near Loos, on the Western Front during the First World War. An unprecedented bombardment demolished the British front line, then specially trained German assault units rushed the survivors and captured the British front line and the second line of defence; British tunnellers were trapped in their galleries and taken prisoner.
The Hohenzollern Redoubt 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.
The German attack on Vimy Ridge was a local attack on the Western Front on 21 May 1916, during the First World War. The Germans intended to prevent mines being blown under German positions by capturing the British front line and mine gallery entrances. After the Third Battle of Artois the French Tenth Army had held positions on the western slope of Vimy Ridge and the German 6th Army occupied positions on the steeper eastern slope. During the Battle of Verdun, the Tenth Army was withdrawn and the British First Army and Third Army on either flank, took over the French positions.
The Battle of Hébuterne, took place from 7 to 13 June 1915 on the Western Front in Picardy, during the First World War. The French Second Army conducted the attack as part of a general action by several French armies, to hinder the movement of German reserves to Vimy Ridge, during the decisive action of the Tenth Army in the Second Battle of Artois.