Presentation on theme: "Scots on the Western Front The Battle of Loos 1915."— Presentation transcript:
Scots on the Western Front The Battle of Loos 1915
Aims: Examine the reasons why the British army were concerned about carrying out an offensive at Loos. Identify the reasons why the attack failed. Examine the casualty figures for Scottish regiments.
Loos is a former coal mining town in Northern France. It was caught in the middle of the fighting on the Western Front during the war. Not a building or single tree was left intact due to heavy fighting in that area.
A Battle of Firsts……… First co-ordinated Anglo-French assault. The first major offensive by the British army. First use of gas by the British army. First attack to involve Kitchener’s volunteer army. First chance the Royal Artillery had to execute a prolonged artillery bombardment. First test of the army staff’s ability to plan, organise and co-ordinate a major offensive.
Background to the Attack The landscape around Loos like much of Northern France was incredibly flat. Some of Kitchener’s volunteer army would be involved in battle for the first time. In 1915 there was a Munitions scandal in Britain – British industry could not keep up with the demand for shells and some shells purchased from the USA failed to detonate and others were filled with sawdust.
Military Leadership Why do you think the Commander of the British army Field Marshall Sir John French was concerned about an attack at Loos?
Military Leadership Sir John French, informed General Joffre of the French army about his concerns. Joffre then put pressure on Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War to ensure the offensive went ahead. In August 1915, Kitchener told French that ‘the BEF would co-operate fully with his plans’
The Battle Plan The attack would be launched after a four day military bombardment. 100,000 soldiers led by General Haig would attack along a four mile front. To compensate for a lack of artillery guns – the British had 19 guns per mile compared to the French who had 40 guns per mile – chlorine gas would be used. General Haig wanted reserve troops to be ready for use on the first day of the attack. However General French refused as he believed they would not be needed until the next day.
The Attack Begins 21 st September the artillery bombardment began. 23-24th September the assaulting battalions moved into position. Shortly before the soldiers went over the top at daybreak they were issued with rum for ‘dutch courage’, however the Commanding Officer of the 7 th Cameronians who were part of the 15 th Scottish Division threw the rum on the ground and said ‘if my soldiers are to meet their maker then they’ll meet him sober’
The Attack Begins The chlorine gas began to drift back and soldier struggled to cope with their stifling gas hoods on. As the King’s Own Scottish Borderers of the 15 th Division prepared to advance they were held up by gas and shellfire. Piper Daniel Laidlaw famously ripped off his gas mask climbed onto the parapet to play his company forward. This helped the Battalion to regain their nerve and Laidlaw was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.
A Missed Opportunity By 9.30am Loos had been captured and a two mile hole punched in the German front line. It was time to sent in the reserves. General French finally gave the order at 10.30am – the three reserve divisions were 6 miles behind the front line and did not set off until 1.30pm. The British planned a final breakthrough the next day at 11am. However the Germans reinforced their lines with fresh machine guns and artillery. The British army was slaughtered and at one point the German stopped firing to let the British soldiers retreat and allow stretcher bearers to get the injured.
The Outcome The battle was really over within the first three days. However the fighting lasted three weeks until 18 th October. The British army suffered 50,000 casualties compared to 25,000 German casualties. 21,000 British soldiers died at Loos After the battle Sir John French was replaced by General Haig as the Commander in Chief of the British Army
The Scots 35,000 Scots took part in the attack. Of the 21,000 British soldiers who died – 7000 were from Scottish regiments. The 9 th and 15 th Scottish divisions suffered 13,000 casualties – these were Kitcheners’ volunteer army. Almost every town and village in Scotland was affected by the Battle of Loos.
There are various cemeteries around the Loos are which reflect the heavy fighting which took place during the war. Dud Corner Cemetery stands on the site of a German stronghold captured by the 15 th Scottish Division on the first day of the battle. Surrounding the cemetery on three sides is the Loos Memorial which bears the names of 20,000 men who died in this area during the war. 14,000 of those named on the memorial died in the Battle of Loos 1915. Of the 8,500 who died on the first day of battle, more than 6,500 have no known grave. The Loos Memorial