The Battle of Loos.ppt by shensengvf


									The Battle of Loos
    25th September 1915-18th October 1915
(though most fighting took place 25th-27th Sept.)
Why attack at Loos?
   To try to break the stalemate on the Western Front
    after failures at Neuve Chapelle and Vimy Ridge.
   The opening up of a Mediterranean Front at
    Gallipoli was bogged down.
   The Russians were struggling to hold the Germans
    on the Eastern Front.
   To distract the Germans from a planned French
   Kitchener was keen to reinforce British-French
    cooperation.” We must act with all energy and do
    our utmost to help France in this offensive, even
    though…..we may suffer heavy losses.”
General Haig, Commander of the First
General Haig’s concerns before battle
   He believed that there were not enough shells and
    heavy artillery for such a large offensive.
   The attack would be heavily dependent on
    Kitchener’s New Armies of volunteers which were
    not yet fully trained and lacked experience.
   The territory was unsuitable. Haig said the area was
    “not a favourable one for an attack…the ground, for
    the most part bare and open, would be so swept by
    machine-gun and rifle-fire….that a rapid advance
    would be impossible”. Sir Henry Rawlinson (Haig’s
    second-in-command) said that the “front is as flat as
    the palm of my hand. Hardly any cover
The Role of the Scots
   The Battle of Loos saw the greatest mobilisation of
    Scots troops since Culloden(1746).
   Two of the six British assault divisions were the 9th
    and 15th (Scottish) Divisions of the New Army.
   There were a dozen other Scottish formations within
    the regular (ie not New Army) Divisions
   Nearly 30,000 Scots were amongst those who tried
    to attack and hold German positions between 25th
    and 27th September 1915, the first and most intense
    phase of the battle.
   Of the 72 infantry battalions which took part in the
    first phase of the battle, half bore Scottish names.
   Sir Douglas Haig was himself a Scot.
Before the Battle
   Haig was in charge of the British forces in the initial
    assault, though the French General Foch was in
    overall command of this particular offensive (the
    French were to attack further south some hours after
    the British.) The British reserves, however, were
    under the command of Sir John French, the British
   5,000 gas cylinders brought up to the front-lines.
    This was to be the first use of gas by British forces.
   A four-day preliminary artillery bombardment took
    place from 21st September.
   New trenches were dug in the chalky soil to allow
    thousands of men to be positioned nearer or at the
    front-line but the newly-dug trenches were clearly
    visible to the Germans and forewarned them of the
    attack, as did the very obvious movement forward of
    huge numbers of troops and munitions.
   Torrential rain and thunderstorms 23rd/24th Sept.
    flooded British trenches and the artillery
    bombardment created shell-holes and craters which
    made no man’s land even more difficult to cross
    once soldiers went “over the top”.
   British soldiers were issued gas masks but they were
    primitive and extremely uncomfortable to wear.
The New Trenches at the Loos
25th September – Day 1
   Gas was released along with smoke –shells at first
    light to kill the enemy and allow the British to
    advance, but the wind dropped in some areas and
    even blew back onto the King’s Own Scottish
    Borderers and Highland Light Infantry causing over
    2,500 casualties and weakening the advance. The gas
    had been insufficient to kill the German machine
    gunners and the artillery bombardment had failed in
    many places to cut the enemy barbed wire. Where
    the Germans did retreat, they deliberately flooded
    their own trenches and retreated to well-prepared
    and fortified second-line trenches which were often
    above the British lines and therefore harder to
First British Use of Gas at Loos
Early success?
   There were some successes at the Hohenzollern
    Redoubt for the Gordon and Seaforth Highlanders
    and the Camerons. The Scots of the 15th Div.
    battered and bayonetted their way across the German
    lines so quickly that the Germans fled uphill to their
    second line trenches in the village of Loos, despite
    having controlled most of the higher ground
    including the mineworks which towered over the
    village. The flag of the 7th Cameron Highlanders was
    flying on Hill 70, another key position where Scots
    dug in. The Scots of the 9th and 15th Divisions had
    indeed played a key role in punching a great hole
    some two miles deep through the German lines. But
    could they consolidate and build on their gains?
The Mineworks at Loos
26th September – Day2
   The element of surprise was now lost, and there was
    no gas or preliminary bombardment to “soften up”
    the enemy before the next assaults.
   The Germans had brought in 22 divisions of
    reinforcements and reinforced their own positions.
   The British line was further forward in some places
    than others and was beginning to lose direction and
    outdistance supplies and reinforcements.
   Many of the soldiers had had no hot breakfast, there
    was insufficient food and water, and it was cold,
    drizzling and misty.
   The surrounding roads were clogged with traffic, so
    troop movement was slow and poorly-coordinated.
From Bad to Worse
   There was a delay in bringing in the reserves. Sir John French
    had kept them too far back behind the lines and when they
    arrived, they were tired, cold, wet and hungry. Haig was
   The 3 reserve divisions were inexperienced or newly-formed
    and no match for the ferocity of the German counter-attacks
    and machine-guns.
   The slaughter on the second day was so great that the
    Germans eventually held their own fire to allow the surviving
    British to retreat and retrieve the bodies of their dead.
   The official figures for the battle listed casualties as over
    50,000, of whom more than 26,000 were killed or missing,
    the vast majority of these being killed in the first three days.
The Main Phase Ends
   The British did hold on to some of their gains.
   By the 27th, although the Germans had reinforced their
    positions, they were unable to counter-attack further.
   By nightfall on the 27th, any hope of a successful “big push”
    had evaporated, though the battle did not officially end until
    October 18th.
   On the 28th, French informed Haig that two of the reserve
    divisions were to be withdrawn for further training.
   Despite massive losses, the battle was seen by many at the
    time as a victory, though later historians have described it as
    “an almost win” and “an unnecessary and unwanted battle”.
The Significance for Scotland
   At Loos, 1 in 3 of those listed as missing in action were Scots
    and the bodies of almost 7,000 killed in action were never
   Of the 12 British Battalions which lost more than 500
    casualties, 8 were Scottish, from the 7th Camerons (687) to
    the Seaforths (502).
   Of the 950 men of the 6th Camerons who had gone into
    action, 700 had become casualties. At roll-call, the survivors
    called out “Ower the hill” when the names of the missing
    were read out.
   The 9th (Scottish) Div. suffered 6,058 casualties incl. 190
    officers, the 15th suffered 6,896 casualties incl. 228 officers.
   At least 6 Scottish battalions lost their commanding officers.
   The poet Charles Hamilton Sorley was killed.
   5 Scots were awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest
    military honour, including Piper D. Laidlaw, who, unarmed,
    played his pipes to encourage the men of the King’s Own
    Scottish Borderers out of the trenches and continued playing
    even when wounded and lying in the mud.
   Sir Douglas Haig replaced Sir John French as Commander-
   The British had learned the importance of the creeping/rolling
    barrage and steady machine-gun fire.
   Scots troops who survived were more experienced and battle-
    hardened. Sir Henry Rawlinson said “As a fighter, there is
    none to beat a Scotsman….”After initial mockery, German
    troops nicknamed the kilted Scots the “Ladies from Hell” and
    “Devils in Skirts”, so fiercely did they fight.
C.H. Sorley and Piper Laidlaw
The Memorial to the Missing at Loos
 139 panels bear the names of 20,597 men
 killed in this area, many of them killed in the
 Battle of Loos, whose bodies were never
 found / identified. One-third were Scottish.

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